Shot at with air rifles, pelted with missiles, sworn and shouted at. It seems to be all in a day's work for the men and women who maintain South Scotland's motorways and trunk roads. 81 per cent have been abused by motorists and a third of this aggression has resulted in our operatives facing further aggression including physical abuse.
To address this, Amey has launched a new campaign to make motorists think twice.
Working with the RAC Foundation, fellow operating company BEAR Scotland and client Transport Scotland, Amey is asking drivers to recognise that a motorway is a roadworker’s office and to consider how they deal with vehicles rushing past their ‘office desks’ at speeds of up to 70mph and more.
Companies like Amey are charged with keeping the road network in optimum condition now and for future use which means roadworkers in high-visibility clothing are a necessary presence.
In a survey amongst Amey operatives in Scotland, 81 per cent reported being abused either physically or verbally by motorists with almost 40 per cent happening either daily or weekly.
Take the example of Allan Morton, one of Amey’s many operatives based at Westway Depot in Renfrewshire, Scotland.
Allan’s daily tasks include setting up and monitoring the systems of cones and contra-flows that Amey use across the network. Allan plays a real part in keeping traffic moving safely through roadworks while protecting his colleagues carrying out their daily tasks on site.
But drivers often take their frustrations out on Allan who comments:“We get verbal abuse on a regular, probably weekly, basis – particularly at short term works and at morning and evening rush hours. Some people don’t understand why we ask them to slow down, they just see the hold-ups and don’t stop to think it may be for safety reasons.”
Allan can recount many incidents of verbal abuse and he recalls other times where drivers have thrown missiles at workers from their vehicles as they pass.
He adds “In one instance two guys got out of a van, threatening us because they said we were holding up the traffic. They just didn’t appreciate we are ultimately there to help make the roads better for them.”
“We just want drivers to understand that we are only doing their job. We want you to get where you are going and get there safely. Imagine trying to do your job with cars and HGVs flying past at 70mph. Yet all you have to protect you is a plastic cone, a hard-hat and high-vis clothing?”
Allan explains that drivers could avoid much frustration through better journey planning, listening to travel reports and with just a little added patience.
Roadworker safety is a serious issue. Across the UK, 5 roadworkers were killed in 2005, including an Amey colleague on the M8 near Glasgow. Roadworkers are particularly vulnerable at short term and overnight road works sites.
The highway maintenance industry pro-actively makes roadworks sites as safe as possible. But the one element the industry is least able to control is driver behaviour.