It's only a few weeks since we had the worst pile-up in the history of Kent and one of the worst in the UK. It occurred on the "new" bridge across the River Swale estuary giving access to the Isle of Sheppey. One of the contributing factors? FOG. The miracle was that there were few injuries, and no fatalities considering that there were cars and trucks and even three bikes involved.
It's no surprise that in the UK, autumn (The Fall) is the season of foggy mornings as the warmer ground and colder air combine.
Another contributing factor was speed. Give a British driver the "national speed limit" sign and he will use that as a rough guide that he or she can do that speed. Never mind that it is raining, or in this case foggy. The problem is that the bridge is quite high. To allow shipping to pass under it, the arch is quite pronounced and the river under is cold and draws colder air upwards. Or so they said on the BBC!
When I left for my ride to work today, it was foggy on the Roughs above Hythe. By the time I got to the M20 the sun was out and in places it had burned off the fog, but in dips and hollows, the fog persisted. In the main drivers reacted well, but there are always a minority that have no idea, they drive with no lights on. The combination of a grey or silver car, no lights and fog makes the car almost invisible in a rear view mirror and difficult to see with the "life saver" over the shoulder look.
As we approached Maidstone, the overhead gantries showed the limit had changed to 40 mph. The M20 is four lanes wide on each side as it crosses the River Medway. As with the Swale the river cooled the air more than the surrounding area and the fog was at its densest. Hence the 40 limit?
I slowed to 40, cars on both sides ploughed on. Only the car tailgating me slowed for a while before he swerved around me into a gap in the third (of the four) lanes. Why was I in the second lane? The left most lane goes off at the bottom of the hill......
If you can imagine the Charge of the Light Brigade, then you can imagine the M20 in the morning's fog. Luckily no Russian cannons were involved but it is more by luck than driving skill that there were no accidents or even contact between all manner of four wheeled tin cans!!
What is the solution? Hopefully they turned on the speed cameras on the overhead gantry and the offenders will get a ticket or an invitation to the speed awareness course I took last week!!!
Has the Sheppey lesson been learned? Has it ****! Scary.
Is going to work really worth dying for?