Council leaders are calling on an end to abuse of highways workers in the county after hundreds of incidents were reported.
Staffordshire County Council along with highways partner Amey have revealed how last year in the county there were 764 incidents involving abuse of workers being reported. These included incidents where drivers either entered roadwork safety zones through cones, threw objects, spat at or verbally abused highways operatives.
Now the local authority has branded the abuse as ‘unacceptable’ and reminded drivers how engineers are working to keep the roads safe.
One recent incident being used to highlight the issue involved gully operatives who were cleaning the drainage gullies at the time. With the tanker stationary, whilst the operatives worked to clear the gully, the driver of the vehicle immediately behind pressed the car horn continuously. After one of the operatives signalled to the driver behind that the works would only take a minute, the driver got out of the car and approached him, becoming very abusive and threatening, which resulted in the operative being shoved and his mobile phone dropping to the ground while he attempted to call the Police.
David Williams, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport at Staffordshire County Council said: “Our highways crews have an important job to do in maintaining our 6,000km plus of roads and making sure they are safe for people to use.
Crews work in all weathers and often in difficult and challenging conditions, whether it be carrying out repairs on running roads or helping to keep roads clear of snow and ice during the winter.
“The abuse of our crews, whether it’s verbal or physical is totally unacceptable and whilst it’s only a small number of people who choose to behave this way, we want to let people know we won’t stand for it.”
Richard Harris, Amey Account Director for Staffordshire, said: “Abuse towards our highways operatives is experienced unfortunately by many, who wrongly now accept it as an occupational hazard. Many of the instances that have been reported are caused by drivers who are frustrated or angry by delayed roadworks who go on to spit at, verbally abuse and deliberately breach traffic management safety zones, putting the lives of our operatives at risk.
“We appreciate that there are frustrations when people’s journeys are impacted by road works, but it is not acceptable that our workers are abused for doing their job. With the support of Staffordshire County Council, we are hoping to raise the awareness of these issues and promote the Stamp it Out campaign, whilst also encouraging members of the public that encounter our workforce to treat them with respect.”
Commenting on incidents on the county’s roads, Chief Inspector Mat Derrick, of Staffordshire Police, said: “When works are being carried out on our roads, motorists must adhere to the controls and measures put in place for the safety of workers and themselves. Ignoring a traffic regulation order is an offence and depending on the circumstances of the incident, the driver could face prosecution for dangerous driving or driving without due care.
“It is unacceptable to drive into safety zones and to furthermore verbally abuse people who are working on our road network. We will investigate such incidents and take the necessary enforcement action to send out a clear message that such behaviour on Staffordshire’s roads will not be tolerated.”
A national campaign, ‘Stamp it Out’ to highlight and stop abuse of highways workers has also been launched by Safer Highways.