Highways England has rolled out a new winter safety campaign across the region warning drivers they could be putting their lives at risk if they use the hard shoulder to undertake gritters.
Gritter drivers have noticed a growing problem of drivers veering into the hard shoulder to avoid being struck by salt -risking a collision with a stationary vehicle and causing a hazard when gritters try to come off at junctions.
Statistics show that on average 16 people lose their lives every year as a result of collisions on hard shoulders or lay-bys across England with 45 suffering a serious injury.
Drivers are being asked not to take unnecessary risks this winter to help keep the regions motorways and A Roads moving and safe.
Simon Maxwell, 36, from Darlington, has been driving gritters for nine years and is based at the Highways England Depot in Bradbury.
He said: “It can be quite a hairy situation when wagons undertake you on the hard shoulder, speeding past at 50 or 60mph. I’d just like to encourage people to drive to the weather conditions and if we are spreading salt give us a wide berth as you would normally and just be conscious that we might have an extra bit on the front of our wagons with a plough,”
Nick Adshead, winter manager at Highways England, added: “The vast majority of people support our gritter drivers by keeping back a sensible distance and only passing when it’s safe to do so, but a few have been putting themselves and others at risk by using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters.”
More than 12,000 tonnes of salt is currently being stored at depots across the North East-enough to cover nearly 27,000 miles of motorway and major A Roads and equivalent to travelling more than once around the world. At Bradbury depot there is also one high volume pump and 500 gritters will operate across the country,
Bradbury depot at Ferryhill in County Durham, is one of the four Highways England bases gearing up for the winter months ahead by stocking up on grit supplies and preparing equipment,
Salt supplies will be topped up throughout the winter and a total of 21 gritters are also on standby in the North East spreading salt when temperatures are forecast to dip below freeing, with drivers able to treat every meter of motorway and major A Roads in the region every three hours.
Drivers are being asked to play their part by driving sensibly and making sure they have winter kit in their vehicles including ice scrapers and de-icer, warm clothes and blankets.
Mr Adshead is project manager for the procurement of the first high volume pump in the UK which will tackle flooding on the motorways and A Roads across the country.
He said: “It will allow Highways England to react to major flooding on the highway.”
“We are prepared if it is pouring down with rain with out new high volume pup at our disposal at Bradbury which was used for the first time last month where we pumped 2.5 million litres off the A1 at Catterick. We have specially trained staff trained to work in deep water and the pump is on standby 24/7 at Bradbury but serves the whole of the UK. We are prepared for every eventuality.”
More information on staying safe this winter is available online. Visit: www.metoffice.gov.uk/winterhighways