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Road Rage At Road Works - RAC Foundation National Motorway Month

14 August 2007

Eighty per cent of roadworkers have been verbally or physically abused by motorists, according to a survey* for National Motorway Month released by the RAC Foundation today (13).

Forty per cent of workers are abused on either a daily or weekly basis. In the survey, almost 80% of ‘near misses’ recorded at roadworks in the last 12 months were due to poor driver behaviour.

Despite motorway and trunk road maintenance being a vital service for road users, the survey of roadworkers employed by Amey and BEAR Scotland, reported that 81 per cent of them were frequently abused by motorists, either physically or verbally. A third of this abuse was reported as involving acts of extreme aggression, including: food, bottles and other missiles being hurled at them from passing vehicles, and some workers said they had even been shot at with air rifles.

To tackle the serious issues of roadworker safety and roadworker abuse, motorway operating companies Amey and BEAR Scotland, are joining forces with the RAC Foundation during national motorway month. They are asking drivers to consider the dangers that roadworkers are up against with vehicles rushing past at speeds often topping 70mph.

National Motorway Month is an initiative jointly promoted by The Royal Automobile Club Foundation, Amey, BEAR Scotland, Transport Scotland, the Highways Agency, the Freight Transport Association, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the RAC, to encourage safer driving on our motorways.

Bruce Donaldson, Amey’s Unit Manger for southwest Scotland said:
“Can you imagine trying to do your job with cars flying past at 70mph in all weather yet all you have to protect you is a plastic cone, a hard-hat and high-vis clothing? Members of our team have been shot at with air rifles, had missiles hurled at them and endure daily verbal abuse which are all inexcusable! Short-term and overnight works are where they are often at their most vulnerable.”

John Murphy of Bear Scotland said:
“By raising the awareness of the traveling public to the dangers and hostile response that these guys often face in their everyday work, we would look to see a reduction in the abuse that they have to face in providing, what is after all, an essential service.”

Roadworker safety is a serious issue for the highway maintenance industry, as 3,000 to 4,000 roadworkers are employed on motorways and major roads at any one time. Last year in England alone, 2 roadworkers were killed and 19 seriously injured whilst at work. In the previous year, 5 roadworkers were killed nationwide. Particularly vulnerable scenarios for the workers are short term and overnight road works sites.

The highway maintenance industry across the UK is pro-active in analysing working practices and delivering training and initiatives to make roadworks sites as safe as possible for both workers and road users. However, the element that the industry is least able to control is driver behaviour.

Edmund King, Executive Director for the RAC Foundation said:
“In the summer, motorists can become especially irritated with delays on the roads, since they are eager to reach their holiday destination. There is no excuse for attacking roadworkers or driving recklessly through road works in an attempt to speed up the journey. Ironically- speeding through road works leads to accidents and hence further delays.

“The RAC Foundation would urge holidaymakers to plan ahead this summer, leaving ample time to get to their destination in order to account for delays caused both by road works and increased traffic flows. It is essential that ‘back-seat drivers’ do not put pressure on their driver to up the pace- when there is clearly no option to do so.”

Drivers approaching road works are advised to:

  • Keep within the speed limit - it is there for your safety.
  • Get into the correct lane in good time - don’t keep switching.
  • Concentrate on the road ahead, not the roadworks.
  • Be alert for works traffic leaving or entering roadworks.
  • Keep a safe distance - there could be queues in front.
  • Observe all signs - they are there to help you