Pile-up prevention

Following the multi-vehicle accident in fog on the M6 last month, ITN screened an item dealing with various mechanical and electronic means of preventing such disasters. Some relied on the radar principle whilst others involved automatic speed control. The very thought of handing over one’s destiny on a motorway to a cluster of wires buried in the concrete fills us with horror, so we will ignore that suggestion in the hope that our legislators will treat it likewise. The apparatus shown had one thing in common; they were all comparatively expensive.

A Kentish electronics engineer, Mr. David Bodman, of 58, Acorn Grove, Dillon, near Maidstone, has taken patents on a device which, if adopted, would reduce motorway dangers in bad visibility whilst costing very little. We agree that human lives should not be measured in terms of money, but the fact remains that governments are essentially cost-conscious in such matters, and Mr. Bodman’s safety measure does have the advantage of being cheap.

The device is simple; it consists of a very small, fixed-frequency radio transmitter capable only of giving out a pulsating bleep, and an equally small receiver capable of picking up such signals. If a motorway is obstructed by stationary vehicles, for whatever reason, the drivers switch on their transmitters, the signal then being picked up by approaching vehicles long before the obstruction becomes visible to their drivers. Of course, the usefulness of the device depends on its being fitted to all vehicles, and on the receivers being turned on during bad visibility. It is cheap, easy to manufacture and install, and it does not turn drivers into cretins by taking complete command of their vehicles. Certainly it is something which Whitehall and the vehicle manufacturers should take a look at.—G. P.