The M5 is to remain closed for several more hours today following a serious crash in Devon.
A woman has been airlifted to hospital after the accident between a car and a lorry between junctions 28 and 29 southbound.
She was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. Several other people have been taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter – from the same car.
Police are currently investigating the cause of the accident and have sealed off the scene on the motorway.
It happened at 5.48am this morning, with Highways England warning that the road is likely to remain closed for several further hours.
Road closures can cause frustration and disruption for motorists, but police have revealed why closures take so long, and have asked drivers to be patient with them while they do their jobs.
Devon and Cornwall Police’s serious collision investigations unit have provided information for drivers so they are fully aware of all the work that needs to be carried out to ensure roads and the public are kept safe.
If you are stuck in long line of traffic because of a collision ahead, one serious enough to be investigated by this team, spare a thought for what is actually happening.
Q: How many collisions do the SCIT investigate every year in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset?
A: The SCIT will investigate any and all collisions in which people are killed or seriously injured (KSI)
In Dorset for 2016 this is 383 (16 fatal). In Devon and Cornwall this is 829 (60 fatal)
Q: Why do police call it a “collision” and not an “accident”?
A: The term ‘accident’ implies that there is no fault or criminal behaviour. We investigate a number of offences where death or injury is caused by criminal action. A ‘collision’ more appropriately links to the Road Traffic Act 1988 definition.
Q: What is the average length of the investigation activity carried out at the scene of the accident?
A: We aim to have roads re-opened within 6 hours, this can be earlier or later, depending on the complexity of the scene and/or the investigation, and could be impacted upon by the recovery of vehicles or the need to conduct urgent remedial work to the road or roadside furniture before the road can be safely re-opened. We are very conscious of the disruption caused, both in social and economic terms, when roads are closed for prolonged periods and balance this with the need to conduct an effective and thorough investigation and scene examination.
Q: Has the work of SCITs in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, and nationally, contributed to better safety on our roads?
A: The SCIT have helped some incredibly high risk road users face justice and long prison sentences. These people have also faced long disqualifications, limiting the harm they pose to others. There are countless families who cannot speak highly enough of the support they have received.
Q: What other agencies do the police work with during and after the investigation?
A: We work alongside the new Police Drones team to capture scene imagery which does not interfere with evidence and debris on the carriageway. A helicopter could not fly this low or close to a collision scene. We work alongside the Major Crime Investigation Team, where the investigation is complex or a vehicle has fled from the scene of a fatal collision and there are a number of complex, urgent tasks. CSIs (investigators) and Crime Scene Managers support the management of complex scenes, and we work with Body Recovery Teams (Disaster Victim Identification) teams where the recovery of those killed is complex or challenging. Highways England Traffic Officers support us on the A38, A30 and M5 in providing scene support and screens to provide privacy where required.
Q: Whose role is it to direct traffic around or away from the scene of a collision? What is the priority at the scene regarding traffic control?
A: The Police have the authority to close a road in the case of a collision or other emergency. It is the responsibility of the officer in charge of the scene to ensure the safety of those working within it. Responsibility for diversions rests with the relevant Highways Authority, although it must be borne in mind that it may take some time for the resources and signage to be available and in place.
Q: What is the main purpose of investigating a collision that had caused a fatality?
A: To establish the facts, and to provide answers to the courts, families and HM Coroner inquests, holding those criminally liable for their actions to account. To identify if a repeat collision can be avoided, and if lessons can be learned.