Highways England issued safety advice to drivers today – to be prepared at the start of the busiest time of the year for breakdowns on England’s motorways.
New data from the company shows more than 48,500 motorway breakdowns happened over the summer holiday period, between the final week of June and the first weekend of September last year.
Highways England is expecting to respond to an extra 700 breakdowns a week for the next 10 weeks, taking the average number of motorway breakdowns each week to almost 5,000.
The first weekend in August was the busiest weekend for breakdowns on England’s motorways in 2018 shortly followed by the final weekend in July, with one breakdown reported every two minutes as drivers set off on day trips and holidays.
Highways England, which is responsible for running England’s motorways and major A road network, today launched a new safety campaign encouraging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving, including what to do if you break down.
Adverts on radio, billboards and online will remind drivers of simple driving rules to help keep everyone moving.
Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said:
“We want everyone to get to their destination safely and we can all play a part in that.
“Highways England has done a lot of work to ease congestion on our motorways and make them safer, and our traffic officers are there to help get things moving if there’s a problem. But you should also make sure you know what to do if your vehicle does break down.
“We’re expecting to see a big increase in breakdowns over the next few weeks as drivers set out on longer journeys during the summer. So, we’re urging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving, including carrying out simple vehicle checks before setting off, to help keep us all moving.”
Around a quarter of summer breakdowns are caused by punctures or other tyre issues. Vehicles running out of fuel and engines overheating are also other common reasons for breakdowns on motorways.
Highways England is advising drivers that regular car checks help avoid breakdowns:
More advice can be found online:
Highways England has also issued five basic safety tips to follow if your car does break down on a motorway:
RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous said:
“The summer is always a busy time for us and with more drivers using their vehicles for longer journeys and for extended periods, it is vital they carry out checks before they travel to reduce the chances of a breakdown.
“This includes checking oil levels, making sure tyres are properly inflated and have good tread, checking coolant, electrics and making sure they have enough fuel for their journeys.
“Safety should always be the priority for drivers – which means obeying road signs, red X signals on motorways, avoiding in-vehicle distractions and taking regular breaks to prevent fatigue on longer journeys.”
The new Highways England safety campaign is also encouraging drivers to keep left except when overtaking, to help keep traffic flowing more freely, and to ‘follow the signs’ to keep everyone moving – that includes red X signs, which are used to close lanes, and variable speed limit signs, which help improve the flow of traffic and tackle stop-start conditions.
Red Xs are displayed on overhead electronic signs to close lanes for several reasons, including an accident or breakdown, debris in the carriageway, or because of a person or animal on the road. Lanes are also closed to help emergency services get through or to provide a safe space for road workers.
Ignoring a red X has been an offence since 1988, with drivers facing a £100 fine and three points on their licence. A new law was introduced earlier this month which will enable enforcement by cameras after all the necessary testing and preparation has been completed.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said:
“Observation, anticipation and preparation are the key foundations of advanced driving and when it comes to motorway driving preparation is vital. Most major delays on holiday routes are caused by unpredictable incidents such as breakdowns and collisions.
“Preparing yourself, your passengers and your car can minimise the risk and help everyone get on with enjoying their break. Taking care of the simple things like ensuring you have enough fuel, your load is safe and your route and stops are planned will leave you relaxed and unstressed to enjoy the drive.
“This is where the other two skills of advanced driving take over on your journey with observation of signs and traffic helping you anticipate what is happening ahead and giving you plenty of time to react. Unique skills are required to safely navigate our busy motorway network with special signs such as the red X that must be complied with and understood.
“If your motorway driving skills are rusty than an IAM RoadSmart motorway module could give you the confidence boost you need to enjoy a safe and relaxed road trip.”
Tips for motorway driving:
For more information about driving on motorways, visit: www.highwaysengland.co.uk/motorways