“Horrific” motorway incident prompts safety campaign to protect roadside technicians

Motorists told to "slow down and make space" as latest smash follows two fatalities of roadside operators in 2017

“Horrific” motorway incident prompts safety campaign to protect roadside technicians
The police, fire brigade and ambulance service arrived at the scene swiftly and the westbound M4 was closed for approximately an hour and a half.

The RAC has released photographs of an horrific accident to illustrate the dangers that roadside technicians face when attending breakdowns.

The latest incident, which occurred last month on the westbound hard shoulder of the M4 near Swindon, follows two tragic motorway fatalities of roadside operators this year – one on the M25 and one on the M69.

In the latest accident roadside technician Andrew Barrett, an RAC patrol for 14 years, was assisting a motorist whose car had suffered a puncture and was stopped on the hard shoulder near junction 15.


The RAC has released images to show the extent of the damage.

Andrew was changing the wheel on the off-side of the vehicle when another car travelling at speed collided with his patrol vehicle.

The collision was of such force 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.

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.”

‘Major accident’

RAC health and safety consultant, 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.

“We have released these shocking photographs of the RAC patrol van as they clearly demonstrate the need for a new way of thinking when drivers encounter stricken motorists and breakdown operators at the roadside.”

The RAC has launched a campaign to encourage drivers to reduce their speed and increase the gap between their car and any vehicle and people on the hard shoulder.

Steve Robinson added: “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.”

Have you or anyone you know experienced a close call while out on recovery? Share your concerns and experiences below or email [email protected].

Home Page Forums "Horrific" motorway incident prompts safety campaign to protect roadside technicians

This topic contains 11 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  simon 5 months ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #151073 Reply


    Again another near fatal, thank god the patrol used the van to protect himself. This is a problem for us all in the recovery industry and is not going away.

    #151074 Reply

    David Connellan

    Amazing, I was recently in the USA and if a vehicle is on the hard shoulder with flashing lights, it is law you have to slow down and move over!

    Why we cannot do this is beyond my comprehension.

    #151075 Reply

    Ken Ashton

    This helps making nonsense of the “don’t hog the centre lane idea”.The first lane should be slower moving traffic and the second lane for faster moving traffic with the third lane for overtaking only as it used to be . The traffic in the first lane would then be lighter and slower hopefully able to slow easier for hazards

    #151076 Reply

    Steph Savill

    This is another example of where regulation is needed to save lives. Why we don’t require traffic to move into the middle lane in hard shoulder/breakdown situations totally defeats me.

    #151077 Reply


    Frightening to think about what is going to happen when the new idea “Smart Motorways” take off! Many people don’t yet know this, but the new idea is this; when you use the new Smart Motorway and your vehicle develops a fault that causes your vehicle to loose power and stops running, you the driver is then expected to slow down to a stop in whichever lane you are in, you will not be required to try and move over to the hard shoulder, it will not be there anymore, you simply stop in whichever lane your vehicle breaks down in. According to information I have had, scanners/cameras are placed across and along the full length and width of every motorway lane and a radar picks you up as stopped in a motorway lane, the authorities are supposed to be on hand immediately to attend your broken down vehicle and move you off the motorway. You legally sit there in your broken down vehicle in whatever lane you are in and nobody is likely to run into the rear of your vehicle and kill you because of two reasons; (1), the motorway overhead warning sign on the bridge prior to your broken down vehicle will have a RED X in it telling drivers to get out of that lane, and all drivers will immediately move out of that lane to keep you safe, won’t they? (2) The authorities will know immediately you are broken down because of their computer networks, and they will immediately get out to their breakdown vehicles and move you to safety before the vehicle travelling at 90 MPH in that instantaneous moment it passed that bridge/gantry that put the RED X signal on will be fully aware that you are broke down in front of them without your hazard warning lamps on, because you are frustrated and panicking in that broken down vehicle, probably running out towards the centre of the motorway, when the 90 MPH vehicle collides into the rear of your broken down vehicle, which will explode on impact, because that driver is both speeding and the RED X sign was not quite illuminated when you stopped and the computer message was sent/received and acknowledged.

    #151078 Reply

    Nick Bas

    As a former recovery driver I always used to load the vehicle on the truck and take it to a safe location before attempting to carry out any jobs on motorways, especially changing wheels on the offside. Your life is not worth taking risks on motorways.

    #151079 Reply


    I have worked in the Breakdown Recovery Industry for a number of years now and the proposed “Slow Down, Move Over” law campaign has been running in the UK for many years, but the Government fail to recognize the need for it. Everyone working at the roadside deserves to get home to their loved ones, whether it be a Breakdown Operative, a BT Engineer or Refuse Collector. The flashing lights are there for a reason, to warn road users of a possible hazard ahead. The drivers fail to realize the possible implications of not slowing down, and this highlight one of many incidents and deaths that have occurred in the last 12 months. This law NEEDS to be passed to save lives

    #151080 Reply


    If a motorist is an idiot no amount of campaigning will change that, as a roadside tech I get near misses almost daily. Working with the blue light services i see these people not even paying attention to blue lights let alone Amber ones.

    #165812 Reply


    I am some enjoys driving on our roads and riding motorbikes + cycling .Also cycled in Thailand .the driving in the UK used to be a very high standard .so why has it become pour? I believe it is not all through speeding with in reason by that I mean at a motorway speed 70 mph and a little at 80 .But as a driver what to consider time and road conditions. what I believe makes a pour or dangers road user is concentration .And looking far enough a head and the proper use of the mirrors .I would like to know who are campaigning for making the environment safer when working on or near the hard shoulder .looking forward to reply .thank you

    #165904 Reply

    There’s some good news this week as the AA, RAC and Green Flag have all put their weight behind the ‘slow down, move over’ campaign. We’ve just published the full details here: http://garagewire.co.uk/news/aa-rac-and-green-flag-call-for-new-road-safety-rule-following-string-of-deaths

    Hopefully the above article should also answer your question Malcolm.

    #166034 Reply


    There are a number of issues with all ideas to do with motorway traffic. 1st there is lane discipline, 2nd speed and 3rd drivers who are more interested in looking at the damage. I have been around the recovery industry for over 10 years, just a small operation but then we did get our fair share of work and near misses so all the vehicles that go out on recovery are now fitted with rear facing cameras at my expense.

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