Roadside recovery vehicles to use red-warning lights

Roadside recovery vehicles to use red-warning lights in boost for smart motorway safety campaigners

The ‘simple’ law change for roadside recovery vehicles will ‘save lives’, say supporters By Christopher Hope, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT13 December 2020 • 6:00am

Breakdown vehicles will be allowed to display red flashing lights for the first time after police said they would not object in a major boost for smart motorway safety campaigners.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, is set to announce in coming weeks that roadside assistance vehicles will be able to use red lights rather than just orange when they stop to help a stranded vehicle, particularly on smart motorways where the hard shoulder has been removed.

Presently recovery operators are only permitted to fit their vehicles with and use amber warning beacons, but it’s believed motorists are more likely to slow down for red lights.

Mr Shapps said roadside recovery vehicles could soon start to use red lights rather than orange ones, particularly on so-called smart motorways which do not have a hard shoulder.

He told LBC radio: “You’re unable to use red lights on your vehicle. I’d like to see if that’s possible to bring in.

“There’s been a big call from the recovery industry to say why can’t we, if we’re actually in that location [on a busy road], why can’t we show red lights?”

He added that it “could help with safety because people stop when they see a red light”.

Ministers are set to press ahead with the plans after the change was backed by the National Police Chiefs Council which sets policy for the police forces in England and Wales.

In a statement sent on behalf of Anthony Bangham, the chief constable of West Mercia Police and the council’s lead for Roads Policing, the NPPC said: “The NPCC view is that improving the safety of those integral to roadside rescue and recovery activity on our roads, is in line with our national strategy and something we would support.

“Specifically [this means] we would welcome improved visual indications of recovery work in progress; we are not minded to state red flashing lights are the preserve of the police; [and] we would seek a common minimum standard and industry guidelines concerning use of such lights.”

Sir Mike Penning MP, a former Tory Government minister and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Roadside Rescue and Recovery, said: “Permitting the use of red lights for recovery operators is a long overdue reform. The men and women of the recovery industry are key workers.

“They put themselves in harms way to recover motorists across the country every day and night, come rain or shine. The protections that are in place at the moment are simply not good enough, and the impacts have been tragically felt by the families of those who have lost their loved ones as they work on the nation’s roadsides.”

Andy Lambert, chairman of trustees of the industry charity the Recovery Industry Support Charity added: “The need for this change has been obvious for decades. It’s our sad and heavy responsibility to support our people and their families when tragedy strikes.

“Even if this measure saves one life or one person from serious injury, it’s worth it.  But I’m sure it will save many more.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron added: “If you’ve ever been involved in a roadside breakdown, you know how vulnerable and at risk you can feel.  

“The evidence shows that everyone involved will be safer if we allow recovery vehicles to use red lights to ensure that passing motorists slow down.”

Tory MP Gareth Johnson added: “Allowing roadside recovery vehicles to use red-warning lights rather than amber ones is a no brainer to me.

“This simple measure can and will save lives. Roadside recovery is an incredibly dangerous task to carry out and so changing the law in this way to minimise that risk has to be worth doing.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “As part of the Smart Motorway Stocktake published in March the Secretary of State said that we have listened to the calls for recovery vehicles to use red flashing lights and will review this.”Related Topics

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