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Courcelles-Chaussy english summary

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publié le 25 août 2014

On 19 October 2008 a serious pile-up occurred at around 08:50 on the A4 motorway near the town of Courcelles-Chaussy (Moselle) in the Paris-Strasbourg direction.
This accident occurred in very poor visibility due to a localised cloud of thick smoke on the motorway. The accident involved 143 people, 22 cars and 2 public transport vehicles, resulting in the following casualties : 1 dead, 3 seriously injured (hospitalised for more than 24 hours), 29 with minor injuries (hospitalised for less than 24 hours), 110 unharmed, 10 of whom were travelling in vehicles with no passengers and 85 passengers of the 2 public transport vehicles.

The direct causes of the pile-up were :
- the presence on the motorway of an area of very low visibility linked to the presence of fog and smoke (the latter from an extensive area of bales of burning silage close-by following a fire in a barn the previous evening) ;
- failure of some drivers to follow the rules on speed adjustments in the event of reduced visibility.

Two other factors might have limited the amount of information and warning given to drivers :
- lack of precision in the messages broadcast by the variable message signs which meant drivers could not locate the affected areas easily or appreciate the extent of the phenomenon and consequently adjust their driving ;
- the absence of a warning vehicle in position before the pile-up.

BEA-TT made three recommendations ; one concerns the monitoring of fires on the edges of motorways or dual carriageways and the other two concern the warning systems on the motorway (variable message signs, flashing lights on emergency telephones and patrols) in the event of fog or smoke on the motorway.
BEA-TT also reiterated the importance of informing and training drivers about driving in foggy conditions.