National road workers report 300 dangerous or abusive incidents a week

09/05/2018
Dominic Browne

Highways England has revealed that there are nearly 300 incidents of incursions and abuse reported by road workers on the strategic road network every week. 

Of the almost 3,500 incidents recorded between July 2017 and September 2017, 150 were serious, leading to four road workers and two motorists being injured.

The national road operator is calling on road users to be patient if they are delayed by roadworks and to respect road workers doing a difficult job.

It sent out four key messages:

  • Respect our road workers – slow down near road works and obey speed limits and signs.
  • Just because workers aren’t visible, it doesn’t mean they are not present. This is especially true when operations take place at night, but also applies when visibility is restricted by works vehicles and equipment.
  • We plan maintenance and improvement projects to allow works to proceed in the safest and most cost-effective way, with minimum disruption to road users.
  • Think what it would be like if you had to contend with lorries and cars driving through your place of work.

The news comes as Highways England released videos giving a clear view of the dangers and appalling treatment road workers have to suffer.  

The first incident (immediately below) shows a lorry driving through coned off roadworks on the M1.

In a second video (below) an indication of the unacceptable behaviours that workers are faced with every day is recorded.

In it, a driver has been stopped at the site of road works on the A120 in Essex involving two barriers in place for drivers to be allowed through with an escort.

'The irresponsible driver had already driven around the initial closure point on the wrong side of the road, then drove at speed to attempt to avoid Essex Police who were supporting Highways England in enforcing the closure. His actions jeopardised the lives of all those road workers on this stretch of road between Braintree and the A12 at Marks Tey,' Highways England said.

Mike Wilson, chief highways engineer, executive director safety, engineering and standards at Highways England said: 'While we plan our maintenance and improvement works to minimise inconvenience to drivers, some road closures are necessary, and ultimately for the benefit of road users. 

'Drivers who selfishly and illegally ignore these traffic restrictions force their way through are putting both their lives and those of our road workers at risk – all to save a few minutes on their journey.'

Also since October 2014, some 341 incidents of either verbal or physical abuse towards workers were recorded across England.

Among the most common targets for verbal abuse are Highways England traffic officers, who patrol the trunk road network at all hours and deal with incidents as they happen, keeping people safe by implementing lane closures where required.

Adie Whiting, 33, a married father of three from Doncaster, has worked for Interserve on behalf of Highways England as a traffic control safety officer, deploying cones, signs, barriers and temporary traffic signals.

'I’ve been sworn at a lot, physically threatened on occasions and even had someone try to run me over once. You have to have a thick skin doing this job,' he said.

The reasons for incursions between July 2016 and September 2017 included:

  • 62% due to a breakdown
  • 20% to seek benefit (i.e. ignoring the road closure);
  • 9.4% confused (i.e. not following the signs);
  • 5.4% due to an accident;
  • 1.6% to seek information, and;
  • 1.6% did not stop and were followed in.

Recorded incidents of verbal and physical abuse nationwide since October 2014:

  • Physical violence – 10
  • Threatening behaviour – 17
  • Verbal abuse aimed at traffic officers – 314
  • Total – 341
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