Drive smarter – think about roadside technicians

Posted on December 4th, 2019 by Rob Marshall

Drive smarter - think about roadside technicians

The introduction of ‘Smart Motorways’ has provided an effective (and relatively inexpensive) means of government increasing road capacity, by using the hard shoulder as another lane. Naturally, the efficiency of this presumes that motorists practise proper lane discipline and that this is related not simply to ‘middle lane hoggers’.


Looking out for roadside technicians

While we have highlighted before not only the penalties of driving in a closed lane but have also called for a cessation of the Smart Motorway network, until a proper safety review has been completed, we need to raise awareness of how roadside breakdown operatives are risking their lives every day. While it is believed that an average of seven roadside technicians are killed on the Smart Motorway network annually, imagine the terror of trying to remove a road wheel from a car, inches away from vehicles passing you at unabated motorway speeds.

While the 6% of motorists that continue to drive on a closed Smart Motorway lane present an obvious danger to themselves and others, a lack of legislation is also a hindrance for technicians who are either trying to repair, or recover a stranded vehicle. Drivers need to be made aware of hazards ahead and quickly. It is pointless looking for red lights to warn you of upcoming danger, because recovery operators are permitted to use amber beacons only, unlike Highways England Traffic Officers, who can use red beacons.


What is being done?

The establishment of the Professional Recovery Operators Federation is an important step towards making the government aware that it is not safe for roadside repair and recovery technicians to work on UK roads. These include men and women to whom GEM is providing a recognised award winning breakdown service. This has led to the Campaign for Safer Roadside Rescue and Recovery. The lobbying of both the Government and Highways England has resulted in the issue of red lights being considered for breakdown operatives and a government review is in progress.


What can you do?

Should you encounter a closed Smart Motorway lane, obey the instructions on the overhead gantry. Adjust your speed accordingly and keep a safe distance. Consider also that the flashing amber beacons on a breakdown/recovery vehicle should be treated as a hazard, so be considerate of any people working on the carriageway.

If you are unfortunate to encounter a breakdown on the Smart Motorway network:

Pull into an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA)

Use your hazard warning lights

Leave the vehicle by the left-hand doors

Keep passengers well away from the carriageway, standing behind the crash barrier.

Wear a high-visibility jacket/vest

Use the emergency telephone to speak to the Regional Traffic Control Centre.


GEM’s latest Motorist’s Breakdown and Emergency Guide can be downloaded for free and contains more detailed information.