Drivers are putting their lives at risk using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters, a new winter road safety campaign has warned.
Highways England’s gritter drivers have noticed a growing problem with road users veering into the hard shoulder of motorways and main A roads to avoid being struck by salt.
But the manoeuvre means motorists risk colliding with a stationary vehicle or causing a hazard when gritters try to exit the road at junctions.
Sujad Hussain, winter manager at Highways England, said: “Our gritter drivers will be out in all weathers again this winter and we’re encouraging road users to do their bit to help keep the region’s roads moving.
“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.”
Highways England’s latest figures show, on average, 16 people die every year as a result of collisions on hard shoulders or in lay-bys across England, and 45 suffer serious injuries.
Phil Rowe, 45, from Leeds, has been driving gritters for 15 years and is based at the company’s depot at Shillinghill near Pontefract. He said: “We do see a lot of drivers using the hard shoulder to undertake us when we are out gritting the region’s motorways because they think that the salt will damage the paintwork on their vehicles.
“The salt we are spreading will not cause any damage. My advice to drivers would be to proceed and pass with care. Going on the hard shoulder should not be an option.”
Drivers are asked to only pass a gritter when it is safe to do so, avoiding using the hard shoulder and checking ahead for hazards. Motorists are also encouraged to keep a winter kit – including an ice scraper, de-icer, warm clothes, blankets and sunglasses – in their vehicle and to drive sensibly in wintry conditions.
GRITTING: THE FACTS AND FIGURES
More than 21,000 tonnes of salt is currently being stored at 10 depots across Yorkshire, enough to cover more than 47,000 miles of motorway. They will be topped up throughout the winter.
Thirty-seven gritters are on standby in the county to spread salt when temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing. Gritter drivers can treat every motorway in the region every three hours.
Gritters usually travel at 40mph in the middle lane when spreading salt on a motorway, treating all three lanes.
More information on staying safe on the roads this winter is available at www.metoffice.gov.uk/winterhighways