The Highways Agency has today claimed success for its Traffic Officer service after releasing figures showing how its officers have attended an incident on England's motorways on average every two minutes in the last 12 months.
Between 1 December 2007 and 30 November 2008 the uniformed service patrolled over 3,000km of motorways and selected trunk roads across England and attended over 281,000 incidents.
Even while people were tucking into their turkey on Christmas Day, unwrapping their presents and travelling to see friends and family, more than 550 Highways Agency Traffic Officers were patrolling the motorways and working in the regional control centres to ensure road users could get safely to their destinations, by informing drivers of any incidents ahead as well as taking calls direct from people using the orange emergency phones.
Throughout the year traffic officers deal with routine incidents on a daily basis, such as managing the traffic and clearing up after road traffic collisions, removing dangerous debris from the carriageway and checking the welfare of anyone who has broken down.
This year has also seen traffic officers deployed to some notable incidents.
When heavy snow fall severely affected roads in Cumbria and Durham in February Traffic Officers from the Cumbria North Outstation at Lowhurst were deployed on the A66, a route they do not routinely patrol, and used their high visibility four wheel drive vehicles to rescue 40 pensioners whose coach was stuck in snow.
In July traffic officers from the Coldharbour Outstation in Kent attended another coach incident where 70 school children and their teachers were forced to abandon their double-decker after it caught fire on the M20. Traffic Officers ensured everyone got safely behind the barrier and closed lane one, as the smoke was reducing visibility. Meanwhile, colleagues at the Regional Control Centre in Godstone alerted the fire service and set signs to alert approaching drivers about the incident.
New powers for our Traffic Officers to remove and dispose of vehicles from England's busiest roads came a step nearer in September when new regulations were laid before Parliament. The regulations, which will be rolled out during 2009 will give Traffic Officers similar powers to the police to authorise the removal of broken down or abandoned vehicles and vehicles causing an obstruction or danger to other road users.
Road safety has also been high up the agenda with Traffic Officers in the South West hosting a number of campaign events in Motorway Service Areas on themes such as driving in severe weather, checking fuel levels, motorcycle safety, and ensuring luggage in secured properly.
And in the East Midlands Traffic Officers reminded hauliers to secure their straps and help prevent incidents and congestion after collecting a mountain of lorry ratchet straps, from motorways in the region over a two month period.
On-road Traffic Officers from the Barton Outstation in the North East received a Police Commendation for their actions at the scene of a fatal road traffic collision at Great Fencote in North Yorkshire. Traffic Officers Thomas Hartley, Geoff Harland, Craig Beadle and Ian Curtis were praised for their teamwork and professionalism at the scene of the incident where four members of the same family died and an eight-year-old boy was seriously injured. The officers provided first aid and reassurance to the trapped passengers and also managed traffic around the scene.
Derek Turner, the Highways Agency's Director of Traffic Operations, said: "2008 has been a busy and successful year and I am delighted that the Traffic Officer Service rose to the challenge on each and every occasion to help and support road users and keep traffic moving. I look forward to building on this success in 2009, which promises to be an exciting year when the service will take on the responsibility of new powers, to remove and dispose of broken down and abandoned vehicles on our network."