A friend of mine had an accident recently, being part of a 10-car pile-up on the M1 one Saturday morning.
Impressively, given that all 10 cars were doing around 70mph when their panic-braking began, everybody walked away. No one was seriously hurt apart from the soreness of whiplash and some mild shock, although there was an awful lot of vehicle damage.
My friend’s was car number three in the train of destruction, which was triggered by somebody undertaking and surprising the lead car, which my mate reckons may have been slow to react.
But when its driver did brake it was hard enough to trigger his car’s emergency brake assist, prompting an older supermini without this feature to bury its nose beneath its tail, aided by the impact of my friend’s car hitting it too. My mate was hit by the car behind, and another seven cars followed that. Which was enough to close the motorway.
Unsurprisingly, there was not much hard-shoulder chat among the victims, but the guy behind my mate reckoned that the combination of the M1’s endless straight stretches, which make it hard to see much further than the car in front – modern motorways often curve gently to provide a clearer view of the traffic ahead – and the fact that my friend’s car had privacy glass may have contributed.
“You can’t look through it,” he said, “and see what’s ahead.” Which I reckon is an excellent point. Privacy glass is a fashionable and slightly absurd vanity, all the more so when you realise that it’s potentially dangerous.
And maybe emergency brake assist isn’t so clever either, thinks my friend, the car mindlessly performing an emergency stop regardless of the developing circumstances and with almost no chance of its strategy being over-ridden during the accident’s remaining milliseconds.
A final observation from this mildly painful and expensive few seconds – my friend’s car was 1200 miles and two months old, and leased from its maker. It was written off, triggering its crushing a few days later, with no parts salvaged. It’s part of their policy to ensure that no damaged secondhand parts – or the deranged car - make it onto the market. Very laudable, although it’s hard not to think of the waste.