Drivers are being urged to take more care around breakdowns after a recovery technician and customer narrowly avoided death in a crash on the M4.
The RAC has taken the unusual step of releasing photographs of the aftermath after one of its patrol vehicles was hit while attending a breakdown.
The van, which had stopped on the hard shoulder, was flipped and pushed down the road after being struck from behind by another car.
The latest incident follows two motorway fatalities of roadside operators this year and has prompted the RAC to launch a campaign urging drivers to be more aware of recovery teams and other roadside workers.
- Slow down – take care when passing any vehicle and people on the side of the motorway, reduce your speed and reduce the risk
- Make space – widen the gap between your car and the broken-down vehicle and roadside workers. Use all of your lane by moving over to the right, only change lane if it is safe to do so
- Move on – get safely past the breakdown situation and avoid ‘rubber-necking’, or the temptation stare at someone’s else’s misfortune – it’s a unnecessary distraction from your focus on the road ahead
RAC health and safety consultant Steve Robinson said: “The RAC is calling on drivers to ‘slow down, make space and move on’ when passing motorway breakdowns leaving plenty of space between their car and any vehicles and people on the hard shoulder.
“With traffic volumes rising and several recent serious accidents involving roadside assistance patrols and breakdown contractors we need motorists to consider a new approach to how they drive past stricken vehicles, drivers and passengers, and those working in vulnerable locations.”
“By following this simple message we can significantly reduce the risk of a collision and, importantly, the fear factor for those standing or working at the side of the motorway.”
In the latest accident roadside technician Andrew Barrett was assisting a motorist whose car had suffered a puncture and was stopped on the hard shoulder near junction 15. He had positioned his patrol van correctly with lights and beacons flashing and was changing the wheel when another car travelling at speed collided with his patrol vehicle.
The collision was so hard that it rolled the three-tonne patrol vehicle, pushing it along the hard shoulder. The RAC member is believed to have struck his head and was knocked unconscious as he moved out of the way. Surprisingly, the driver of the car which struck the patrol van, although injured, was able to climb out of his vehicle.
Andrew said: “It was horrific. One minute I was changing the customer’s front wheel the next I heard an almighty crunch and looked up to see my van rolling over towards us and the car spinning into the live lane. It was not an experience I want to repeat and it certainly shows you can never be complacent when attending a motorway breakdown.”
Steve Robinson said: “This was a major accident. It is a wonder that nobody was killed. This incident serves to show how dangerous it can be for anyone who has to stop on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway.
“Our patrols attend hundreds of broken-down vehicles every week on motorways, dual carriageways and high speed roads where they may be working just a few feet from cars and lorries speeding past at 70mph-plus.
“Until you find yourself stood or working on the hard shoulder it’s impossible to comprehend just how frightening it can be and what it feels like when cars and lorries are passing you at high speeds.
“Anyone who has experienced it will understand how vulnerable it can feel and why it makes sense to slow down and move over when passing anyone –whether broken down or working at the side of a live lane.”