Bright orange, 26 tonnes, flashing lights – and motorists STILL run into them
The cold weather is well and truly on its way with council gritting machines set to get back out on to the roads – but despite being festooned with flashing beacons and being bright orange in council – it seems some motorists fail to see them and hit them.
In the East Midlands region alone, 11 gritters were involved in accidents last year as they were out spreading salt to keep the roads safe in icy weather, including two which were hit in the West Midlands.
This is despite the flashing amber beacons, the vehicles being 2.5 metres wide and bright orange, with 36 Highways England gritters driven into last year across the country.
Gritters weigh up to 26 tonnes and when they are spreading salt travel at 40mph. They often travel in the middle lane of a motorway to ensure the right amount of salt is spread to all lanes.
Highways England’s national winter and severe weather team leader, Paul Furlong, said: “Although the vast majority of people support our gritter drivers by leaving a sensible distance and only passing when it’s safe to do so, we do have occasions when people misjudge the situation and end up colliding with one of our vehicles.
“We have also noticed a growing problem with drivers using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters, risking a collision with stationary vehicles on the hard shoulder and causing a hazard to gritter drivers who need to exit at motorway junctions.
“During severe weather it’s really important that we keep traffic moving and our gritters are out on the network enabling us to do that.
“We are doing what we can to improve the visibility of our fleet and we are rolling out a number of new vehicles, which include a large rear chevron panel which will improve the visibility.”
The back of a gritter is the most vulnerable area as it is where the salt spreading equipment is located.
If it is struck it can mean the gritter has to be taken off the road to be repaired, which is costly and could affect critical services in extreme weather conditions, the Highways England added.
The advice from Highways England aligns with the newly-launched Stay Safe Stay Back tailgating campaign, which more information available at www.highwaysengland.co.uk/staysafestayback
The campaign spells out the dangers of following too close to the vehicle in front and urges drivers to obey the two-second rule, particularly important when driving in adverse winter weather conditions.
In the Midlands, there are more than 60 winter service vehicles on stand-by, all located at strategic depots across the region.
Highways England emergency planning officer Frank Bird said: “Safety is our top priority and those responsible for salting the network need to be afforded the time and space to do their job properly.
“We know how busy the Midlands motorway network can get and that’s why we operate strategic salting runs when temperatures drop to ensure that we can keep traffic moving.
“It’s vital that people leave plenty of space and avoid tailgating the gritters as they are doing an incredibly important job.”
Information on driving conditions can be found by visiting www.highways.gov.uk/traffic or calling the Highways England Information Line on 0300 123 5000.