Lost toy, overturned lorry - all in a day's work for south-east's highways officers

The south-east proved to be the busiest road network over the festive season for highways traffic officers with 1,094 incidents, including an overturned lorry and the rescue of a lost toy pet.

Statistics released by Highways England show that its officers dealt with 4,281 incidents between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day to provide help to drivers – an average of one every 3 minutes.

Incidents attended by traffic officers in the south-east included an overturned lorry carrying 30 pallets of cooking oil on the M20 in Kent on 30 December, the rescue of a lost toy pet on the M4 in Berkshire on Christmas Eve, and a collision on the M3 near Winchester on New Year’s Day.

Around 2 in every 5 incidents (1,721) were caused by vehicles breaking down and just over 1 in 10 (604) were caused by collisions. There were also 78 abandoned vehicles, 55 flooding issues and 21 fires.

Christmas Day was the quietest day with 278 incidents, followed by 392 on New Year’s Day. Wednesday 30 December was the busiest with 591 incidents, followed by 562 on Christmas Eve and 527 on Bank Holiday Monday.

Melanie Clarke, Director of Customer Operations at Highways England, said: “Our traffic officers do a fantastic job of keeping the motorways moving 24 hours a day and Christmas was no exception. We dealt with nearly 300 incidents on Christmas Day itself and an average of 1 incident every 3 minutes during the 9 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

“Around 40 per cent of the incidents we dealt with were caused by vehicles breaking down so it shows how important it is that people make sure their vehicles are in a good condition and have enough fuel before setting off.

“We’d also encourage drivers to check their journeys before heading out to find out about any ongoing incidents and plan an alternative route if they need to.”

Highways England’s traffic officers manage incidents by working with the emergency services, managing traffic to reduce congestion, clearing debris from the carriageways, and re-opening routes as soon as it is safe to do so.

Under the Traffic Management Act 2004, traffic officers have the power to stop and direct traffic, close lanes and carriageways and manage traffic. Failure to obey directions from a traffic officer is an offence and carries a fine of up to £1,000 along with a possible driving licence endorsement or disqualification.

To check real-time traffic information before setting off, drivers can visit www.trafficengland.com or download the Highways England app. Live traffic information is also available on Highways England’s Twitter feeds which are listed at www.highways.gov.uk/twitter.

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