The AA is supporting the RSA’s new Motorway safety with the message: respect the hard shoulder. The motoring organisation is asking its members and all drivers to pay close attention to the campaign and to inform themselves about how to use a motorway correctly.
“Motorways and the new high grade dual carriageways are extremely safe roads. Statistically, they are the safest roads that we have. But that does not mean there is no danger.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. The AA attends an average of 60 breakdowns on motorways every week – an increase of 63% in the last year. This means ever greater exposure to danger for drivers and their passengers.
“Ireland now has a motorway network, and our driving population has never been taught how to use one.” Says Faughnan. “The new roads are fantastic but Motorways have specific safety rules for very good reasons. Traffic moves at high speed and when collisions occur they can be catastrophic. The hard shoulder for example is an extremely dangerous place to be, yet some drivers use it almost casually. In darkness or in foggy conditions the danger is magnified, and drivers need to be aware of it.”
In August of 2010 AA Patrol John McGuinness was seriously injured in a collision on the hard shoulder of the N7 near Newbridge in Co. Kildare. John was attending an AA member’s car that was immobilised on the hard shoulder with a coolant leak. AA Patrols are very well trained in how to manage a breakdown scene safely, and while John was badly injured the safety protocols that he followed probably saved lives that day.
When John arrived at the scene he used his flashing beacons to warn oncoming traffic of the danger. The AA member’s teen-aged daughter was on the back seat but John insisted that all passengers should be seated in the cab of the AA vehicle for safety reasons. Moments later a car crossed the lanes and collided with the back of the member’s car at high speed. The impact smashed the rear of the car and broke the steel towing connection to the AA van. John suffered a broken leg, a broken kneecap and a fractured jaw along with multiple lacerations but thankfully no-one died that day.
John is continuing his recovery and has returned to work in the AA, although for now he is restricted to light duties in the offices at the AA Central Garage in Dublin. Click the following links to view footage of John speaking about his experience:
RTE, Six-One News 11/04/11: www.rte.ie/player/#v=1096065
“It is a dramatic demonstration of how dangerous a motorway can be and is exactly what we warn our members about.” Says John. “You should never attempt a repair yourself on the hard shoulder, even if you know what you are doing with the car. Leave it to trained professionals who have the proper equipment. Get off the road if you can, and if your car won’t move at all then stay as far to the left of the hard shoulder as possible and call us for help.”
Unfortunately, many Irish drivers are not aware of the dangers. Motorists will often stop on the hard shoulder to take a phone call, for example, thinking that they are doing the right thing but in fact putting their lives at risk. The AA has also been told of drivers using the hard shoulder to change drivers, to attend to a child in the back seat or to get items out of the boot.
“Just last week we had a member who called us from a Motorway.” Says John. “He had stopped his car because there was a red light showing on the dashboard and he thought he might do some damage if he drove on. In most circumstances he would be right but we advised him to drive slowly to the nearest exit and wait for us there. Don’t worry about the car – it is only mechanical and the AA can fix it – your safety is the absolute priority.”
The RSA campaign which encompasses TV and online adverts and dedicated literature addresses the prevailing lack of motorway savvy among Irish motorists. In particular the campaign hopes to stamp out poor etiquette on 3 lane motorways and the desperately unsafe practices of unnecessarily stopping on the hard shoulder and walking on motorways.
AA Ireland, the country’s major motor rescue and members’ benefits organisation, attended 3,050 motorway breakdowns during 2010, 670 of which occurred after dark. This considerable figure represents a 63% year on year increase, which follows the completion of the Irish motorway network.
“Motorways are relatively safe roads to drive on, but they are extremely dangerous places to break down.” Says Noel Brett, CEO of the Road Safety Authority. “High speeds mean that reaction times are reduced and the danger is much greater in darkness, or in wet weather or fog. Collisions when they do happen tend to be more serious.”
Finally – some motorway behaviour is inexcusable. Cork-based AA Patrol, Noel Nedham reports: “I recently attended one motorist who reversed back up the motorway on a punctured wheel in the pitch black to get to the nearest exit. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Not only did he commit an offence, he also posed a massive risk to himself and other drivers.”
The AA will be assisting the RSA to distribute their dedicated motorway safety literature via its Patrol network, and advises motorists to take the opportunity to refresh their knowledge on motorway etiquette and what to do in the event of a motorway break down. Click here to view a digital version of the RSA’s Motorway safety booklet.
AA provides Roadside Rescue Assistance, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in Ireland and the UK. AA Members also enjoy discounts on AA Motor Insurance, AA Home Insurance, AA Travel Insurance, AA Car Servicing, AA Vehicle Inspections plus savings on a wide range of accommodation, tourist attractions, restaurants and retail outlets.
Notes to the editor;
1. Images taken of the above mentioned crash site on the N7, taken by an AA Patrol Supervisor can be downloaded at: www.flickr.com/photos/aaireland/sets/72157626447145740. The images featured were taken shortly after the collision once all casualties were evacuated to hospital for treatment on the 16th of August.
2. Expanded account of the N7 collision involving AA Patrol John McGuiness:
AA Patrol John McGuinness tells the story of his near fatal collision, 16th August 2010
“As AA Patrols we are trained to follow strict procedures when attending motorway breakdowns and have the necessary equipment to swiftly tow vehicles to safer locations for repair.” Says John. “Behaving in the right manner can mean the difference between life and death. In my case, I was involved in a severe crash on the N7 while attending to an AA Member last August.
I was attending to a Member whose car was immobilised by a coolant leak on the hard shoulder. As with any motorway breakdown I immediately set about managing the scene to prioritize the safety of all concerned. I used the flashing beacons to warn of danger and following our standard procedures I insisted the driver and her passengers were seated in the cab of my van. I then began to set up for the tow.
Moments later another vehicle careened into the hard shoulder injuring both myself and the Member and completely demolishing her vehicle. Were it not for those safety procedures the outcome could have been far worse. It was a warm day and the lady’s 16 year old daughter had previously been lying on the back seat of the car with her feet draped out the window. Thankfully as she was seated in my van, she was unharmed.
What I really hope drivers take from this story is just how vulnerable they are on the hard shoulder and how important it is not to let their guard down. Drivers should never pull into the hard shoulder unless it’s an emergency and keep well back until professional help arrives.”
John Mac Guinness has now returned to work doing light duties in the AA Central garage and is on his way to a full recovery. The AA Member in question has also made an excellent recovery.
Fig. 1 Motorway breakdowns attended to by AA Patrols during 2010:
|Month||Sunrise||Sundown||Jobs during daylight hours*||Sunrise||Sundown||Jobs during the hours of darkness*|
*Please note the above times for sunrise and sundown were sourced via the following website: www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=78&month=12&year=2010&obj=sun&afl=-11&day=1. For the purposes of this exercise an approximation of daylight hours for each month has been calculated on the times indicated on the 15th of each month in Dublin.
Fig. 2 Number of motorway breakdowns attended to by AA Patrols
|Year||Motorway jobs as a result of the motorist running out of fuel||Total AA motorway jobs|