When crawling slowly along a gridlocked motorway that has become the scene of an accident, it’s notably easy for drivers to glimpse across at the wreckage – which can often be disturbing.
That’s why Highways England invested £2.2m on producing thousands of incident screens to prevent motorists from peering at the unpleasant scenes.
Despite this significant investment, the screens have only been used 77 times across some of the UK’s busiest roads since 2013 – including just one appearance in Scotland on the M8 in Glasgow.
The 3,000 screens, which measure two metres in length and width, were bought by the agency with a goal to reduce the estimated £750m-worth of damage to the economy caused by secondary low-speed crashes.
A recent survey conducted by Confused.com found that more than a quarter of motorists quizzed believe the police should always use the screens to block the view of an accident. However, Freedom of Information data has revealed that the screens have only been used 18 times to deter rubberneckers on motorways, including the M1, M25 and M6.
On the other hand, the survey also found that nearly half of UK motorists think it’s only human to be curious when passing or witnessing a road traffic incident.
Peering over at the crash site can increase the risk of a secondary accident, because of a drop in driver concentration levels, but 15 per cent of drivers said they had witnessed other motorists taking photos at the scene of a crash.
According to The Independent, Gloucestershire Police said 20 drivers who were recently stopped for filming the scene of a serious accident on the A14 in Cambridgeshire could face charges of careless driving, which would result in a £5,000 fine and up to nine penalty points.
A spokesperson told the newspaper: “The screens play a crucial role in reducing congestion and associated collisions, provide extra sensitivity and discretion for people involved in incidents and can also be used to cordon off parts of the incident scene so recovery and repair work can happen in parallel.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of The Taxpayers’ Alliance, added: “Highways England are right to address this perpetual problem, but splashing out this much taxpayers’ money on new equipment and then not using it is simply unacceptable.”