VIDEO: Highways Agency launches campaign after finding high proportion of accidents in Northamptonshire M1 roadworks involve foreign drivers

Road safety posters are set to be displayed in ferry ports to combat foreign drivers causing accidents through the M1 roadworks in Northamptonshire.

The Chronicle and Echo made calls to improve safety between junction 19 and 16 of the motorway, after it emerged there had been well over 100 accidents and one death since central barrier improvement works started there in August.

M1 roadworks taken from the bridge at Watford Gap services. NNL-150127-171155009

M1 roadworks taken from the bridge at Watford Gap services. NNL-150127-171155009

It also emerged more than 3,000 people had been prosecuted for speeding in the 50 mph average speed trap in place there - with one culprit caught travelling at 104mph.

A fortnight ago the Highways Agency agreed to increase police patrols along the stretch, paint in more chevrons and install more cat’s eye reflective studs to improve safety.

Yesterday it unveiled plans to display safety posters at UK ports to warn foreign HGV drivers about the junction 16 to 19 roadworks - after it found non-UK drivers had been involved in a high proportion of collisions.

Average speed check schemes are not common in many parts of Europe and many professional drivers from the continent are understood to be travelling over the limit between cameras, wrongly believing they won’t be caught.

Brian Gash, group leader for the Smart Motorway program, said: “There have been a number of incidents within the roadworks, and we are quite conscious of that.

“That made us go back to the drawing board.

“We wanted to see what was making the incidents happen and found this was largely down to two things - speeding and trucks overtaking.

“We have reduced the size of the three lanes through the works, but a lot of the foreign drivers passing each other are not giving each other enough room.

“What happens is the person in the third lane feels totally squeezed into the barrier.”

The Highways Agency aims to display the posters, urging drivers not to overtake in the roadworks through Northamptonshire, to stay below 50mph, and to be aware of blind spots in rear-view mirrors.

The organisation will also begin handing out free ‘fresnel’ mirror panels at ports, which can be stuck onto wing mirrors to allow foreign drivers a greater field of vision.

“International HGV drivers have been recorded as being in a high number of incidents,” Mr Gash added. “What we wanted to do was to raise awarness with them try and catch them as they come into the country.

“These posters will be displayed in the drivers lounges of ferries entering the UK.”

The Highways Agency is also sending out the posters to 266 businesses around England who are likely to use that stretch of the motorway and are distributing copies of it to 20 key ‘stakeholders’ such as the Royal Mail, the AA and the RAC.

Mr Gash said: “People are speeding and putting other people’s lives in danger – we want to mitigate that.”

Along with the poster campaign the Highways Agency has already begun displaying more information on the overhead gantries above the motorway. Currently they are displaying signs such as ‘keep left unless overtaking’.

MP for Northampton North Michael Ellis previously told the Chron that large potholes formed in the left hand lane, formerly a hard shoulder, were causing people to swerve and cause accidents.

But the Highways Agency and contractors BmJV say they are acting on that now too.

Project manager for the scheme at BmJV, Adam Bunce, said: “the hard shoulder wasn’t designed for that amount of traffic , so we have carried out a lot of work to fix that.

“The holes are repaired constantly, but we have also had a series of full motorway closures, mostly on a Saturday night, so we can make wholesale repairs to the carriageway.”

The motorway is due to be closed this Saturday between junction 16 and 18 between 11pm and Sunday morning at 4am.