Hard shoulder safety was the theme for week one (6th-12th August) of National Motorway Month- an initiative jointly promoted by The Royal Automobile Club Foundation, Amey, BEAR Scotland, Transport Scotland, the Highways Agency, the Freight Transport Association, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the RAC to encourage safer driving on our motorways this summer.
The RAC Foundation and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust conducted a poll of motorists to find out what people think is the safest way to act when forced to pull over onto the hard shoulder. The Highway Code and RAC recommend drivers park as far left on the hard shoulder as possible and get out of their car and wait on the left hand side away from the traffic.
However, the poll revealed that a quarter of motorists would wait in their car if it was raining- effectively putting vanity and comfort over their safety, since they will be putting themselves at a higher risk of being hit by other vehicles. One third of women asked said that “security” was the reason they would remain in their car.
This point about personal safety was focused on in the second part of the poll which asked motorists whether they would stop to offer assistance to someone who was broken down on the hard shoulder. Twenty-one per cent of men said they would stop to offer help, rising to 60% if the motorist was a woman with young children. This response, whilst well- intended, can lead to stranded motorists, especially women, feeling even more vulnerable since they become anxious when approached by a stranger.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust would urge motorists not to stop to offer assistance as this not only puts themselves at risk but often prompts the broken down motorist to get back into their car, thereby putting themselves in danger of being hit.
It is also important to note that stopping on the hard shoulder is illegal, except in an emergency i.e. if you have problems with your vehicle, if told to do so by the police, or if emergency signs or signals indicate.
Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said:
“Waiting on the hard shoulder can be made more bearable by planning ahead and packing an umbrella and a coat- especially given the weather conditions this summer. The safest journey is the one that doesn’t involve an unscheduled stop. Motorists can reduce the chances of a breakdown by having their car serviced before setting off.”