Road workers face nearly 300 incidents of dangerous driving and abuse a week, according to new data from Highways England.
Unite health and safety rep for Highways England, Lee Hughes, said that life threatening incidents are so common that road workers “have gotten used to them”.
The research reveals a catalogue of serious incidents and near misses ranging from motorists driving into coned off areas where road workers are working to physical and verbal abuse where traffic is forced to slow down or stop.
Between July and September 2017 alone, there were 3,500 incidents – 150 of them serious – involving Highways England, with four road workers and two motorists being injured during the same period.
The road maintenance agency, which is now run as a private company, said thousands of road workers’ lives are being put at risk because of careless driving.
Hughes, who works out of the agency’s Preston Brooke depot in Cheshire, agreed.
He said, “There’s been numerous times when I’ve been putting traffic management equipment out and a vehicle’s driven right up to me. Your first thought is they’re going to hit you.
“When it happens the first time it puts the fear of god up you. But because it’s so common you get to used it. I don’t work on traffic management everyday but the lads who do could give a 101 examples of near misses. It happens all the time.”
Unite north west regional coordinating officer, Andy Fisher, said that while there is always room for improvement in terms of safety apparatus and planning to ensure road workers are kept safe, the biggest issue is with road users themselves.
He said, “People don’t fully understand why it is you need 2km of cones with a crew working in the middle of it. They think there should be just a few cones around the crew so they can slow down momentarily and drive past. Why closures look like they do and are as long as they are, needs to be driven home to road users.
“It’s the same with keeping to 50 mile an hour speed limits through road works. Even at night motorists are still going 70 or 80 miles an hour. Getting from A to B as quickly as possible may seem important at the time, but it isn’t worth killing someone over.”