WE found our graphic collection of car crash photos lurking unseen for many years in a forgotten corner of the Echo office. The photographs had been printed up for an exhibition, presumably for road safety purposes, and so didn’t have any captions attached to them.

We were suspicious of a picture of an empty coffin next to the smoking wreckage of a burned out car – we wondered if it might have been composed for a campaign.

Former Echo photographer Ian Wright, now in America, got in touch. “It was not staged,” he thundered. “Myself and another photographer, Charlie Westberg, attended the scene – I think it was on the A1 to the north of Darlington.

“Editor Harold Evans decided to put it on page one. His view, as bold and dramatic as ever, was that it showed the impact of drink-driving.”

It wasn’t until the 1967 Road Safety Act that the alcohol limit of 80 milligrammes per 100 mililitres of blood was introduced, and Transport Secretary Barbara Castle introduced the breathalyser.

“The next day there was outcry – the establishment was up in arms, especially the church.

“But at the end of the year, Durham police used the same picture for its anti-drink drive campaign in the run-up to Christmas.”

IT is amazing that every aspect of human life has a fascinating history attached to it, although those of a squeamish nature might prefer to skip this item. “Until the fairly recent advent of body bags, most funeral directors had an "accident coffin", which was used to collect bodies from both accident sites and normal home deaths,” writes David Knowles, who clearly has inside information on this subject. “These were often lead lined in case there was a need to pick up body bits after a bad accident.

“I think the body bag was developed for ease of use, particularly when collecting bodies from modern smaller houses where manoeuvring a solid box can be difficult.”

ALL of our photographs in Memories 397 featured very sad incidents. One extraordinary picture showed a Vauxhall Victor which had been cut in two in a collision with a furniture lorry. This accident was reported on the front page of the Echo in 1965. It happened on the “recently-improved coast road near Blackhall”. The first two cars to pass the scene contained a doctor and three nurses, but there was nothing they could do for the driver, who came from Wingate.