Kent Police offers dozens of drivers safety awareness course to avoid court over huge Sheppey Crossing crash
Detectives investigating the huge 150-vehicle crash on the Sheppey Crossing have concluded there is enough evidence to prosecute 32 drivers.
But after four months of work by specialist collision investigators, Kent Police have decided they should be offered a place on a safety awareness course instead of facing court.
Kent's biggest road smash involved 150 vehicles in thick fog on the Sittingbourne-bound section of the bridge on Thursday, September 5.
Crowds gather at the scene of the Sheppey Crossing. Picture: Chris Davey
About 100 vehicles were damaged, with eight people taken to hospital with serious injuries and another 200 treated at the scene by emergency services.
Police believe thick fog that descended on the bridge at about 7.15am was a fundamental reason for the collision and resulted in the crossing being closed in both directions for more than nine hours.
A spokesman said other evidence suggests several motorists were "not driving appropriately to the conditions" at speeds of up to 60mph while admitting they could not see beyond their bonnet.
Police said rather than go through the process of taking drivers to court, letters have been sent to the 32 motorists concerned offering a place on a safety awareness course.
Drivers who choose not to take up the offer of attending the course will automatically be summonsed to court.
An aerial image shows the scale of the Sheppey Crossing pile-up. Picture: Simon Burchett
As we revealed last month, officers believe there is enough evidence to prosecute the addressees for either driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.
But it says they believe it would be beneficial if they take part in a National Driver Alertness Course as an alternative as it will make them a safer motorist.
If they accept a place, they will have to fork out £165, which covers the costs of administration for participating.
The day-long course consists of "interactive classroom elements" as well as practical elements of driving under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
There is no pass or fail, but if the course is completed successfully it means the participant will not incur any penalty points or fines.
Ambulances leave the scene following the Sheppey Crossing crash. Picture: Chris Davey
Senior investigating officer Insp Martin Stevens, who heads up the Serious Collision Investigation Unit at Kent Police, said: "This has been a thorough investigation of what was the biggest collision in the county and certainly the largest our team has had to deal with.
"The emergency services and partner agencies worked together to support those involved in the collision.
"Attention then quickly turned to the recovery process and getting the crossing back up and running by the early evening, which was no mean feat.
"Clearly the thick fog that descended on the bridge that day made driving conditions incredibly challenging and was a contributory factor in the resulting collision which stretched from the approach right across the bridge.
"While a significant number of drivers did precisely the right thing by driving to the conditions, our investigation has provided overwhelming evidence that in some cases motorists were not driving with due care and attention and were travelling at speeds which prevented them being able to stop in the distances that they could see ahead.
"Rather than go through the process of taking these people to court, it was felt that offering an educational outcome would prove far more beneficial for the drivers involved.
"Driving at speed without clear visibility is without doubt extremely dangerous and the fact there was not a single fatality on the day is quite simply a miracle.
"By going on this one-day course, which is a self-funding course put on by Kent County Council, drivers will take part in an interactive classroom session followed by a chance to drive under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
"The aim is to help ensure they are better equipped with the skills necessary when driving in difficult and challenging conditions and to help prevent being involved in a collision again in the future."
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