Highways England is calling for road users to make sure they carry out simple safety checks on their vehicles and loads before any journey, particularly as roads fill with drivers for staycation getaways. While road networks return to high levels of traffic with vehicles such as caravans and camper vans reappearing, Highways England Head of Road Safety, Richard Leonard said: “We always want our roads to be as safe as possible and for everyone to enjoy summer safely – but drivers need to play their part to make that happen.”
“A brief ‘walk-around’ and carrying out a few simple safety checks before setting off on tyres, oil, water, lights and fuel could prevent a frustrating breakdown on the journey or something far more serious happening. With many vehicles not having been used for many weeks during lockdown or even over the winter, it is crucial that drivers are confident their vehicles are safe and loads secure.”
Figures recently released by Highways England have shown that more than 46,000 items were found on the nation’s motorways and major A roads over just 10 months with traffic officers having dealt with everything from a washing machine, sofa and king size mattress to a double-glazed door, garden sheds and a ship’s mast.
According to Highways England, apart from leaving the owners out of pocket and maybe without a tent for their camping trip, these items pose a big safety risk for other people on the road including the traffic officers who help clear them up.
Team Manager Mark Snell, based in Hampshire, said: “We found the whole contents of one family’s top box spread over three lanes as they travelled to a holiday in the West Country. On one occasion there was a double-glazed door and windows on the slip road at junction 6 of the M3 with cars swerving around them.”
Traffic officer Hannah Moffitt, based in the East Midlands, came across a metal shed on the M1 near Leicester. She said: “We never found the owner. That’s the scary thing, it had fallen off and they hadn’t noticed.”
Most items dropped on motorways are building or construction materials. Between June 2019 and April this year there were 9,576 incidents of building/construction items obstructing major roads, along with 5,174 vehicle parts and 3,383 household and garden items.
Most incidents occur on the M6 and M1, followed by the M5, M62 and M25.
Barry Proctor, a haulier for over 35 years, added his voice to the safety campaign by describing an incident which happened to one of his lorries on the M42. He explained: “A runaway wheel suddenly appeared on the carriageway and as a vehicle swerved to avoid it, the wheel crashed into the front of our vehicle causing damage in excess of £2,500.” Fortunately, Mr Proctor’s driver was not injured, but as he pointed out, if the wheel had collided with a car it could have resulted in a fatality.
As well as checking that loads are secure, drivers are urged to: