A new airbag is being trialled in the Midlands in a bid to reduce the number of motorists that mistakenly drive into work areas putting the drivers and road workers at risk.
The trial, being carried out with partners Kier, will initially use the barrier on a slip road at the A45/A46 Stivichall interchange in Coventry during roadworks later this month. Vehicles are often driven into work sites on slip roads as drivers try to exit the motorway or A road but the inflatable barrier should act a deterrent. The airbag is inflated in under 10 minutes.
In the initial trial it will be installed as part of a weekend junction and slip road closure, but it is anticipated that the airbag will be tested within various types of temporary traffic management scenarios over the coming months.
The inflatable barrier is in addition to cones and signs, adding another layer to the traditional traffic management to influence drivers’ behaviour and prevent vehicle incursions. The £95,700 cost of the airbags trial was met through the Designated Funds programme. Highways England had a £150 million ring-fenced fund allocated to support innovation as support of the Road Investment Strategy for 2015-2020.
Highways England’s Midlands Innovation Manager, Lisa Maric, said: “On average, our road workers report nearly 300 incidents of vehicle incursions and abuse every week. It is a far too frequent hazard for our workforce going about their daily job – and the consequences could be fatal.
“We are committed to keeping our workforce safe and doing all we can to ensure no-one is harmed when travelling or working on our network. We are also committed to investing in new innovations to help improve safety for road workers and users. We hope these airbags will go some way to protecting our workers but also help change drivers’ behaviours. We ask drivers to respect our road workers, to slow down near works and obey speed limits and signs.”
Kier Highways Senior Project Manager, Mark Sheppard, said: “The Vehicle Incursion Airbag project will give us a great opportunity to trial something a little bit different, to supplement the standard approach to road worker protection measures.
“Traffic management incursions are all too common, so the chance to take a different tack to help influence the decisions made by some road users is worth exploring. Hopefully, it’ll help towards making the network a safer place for drivers and our workforce.”