15 December 2016

Two firefighters in Northamptonshire have this week launched a project to help boost awareness of road safety for van drivers.

Firefighters Tim Burton and Henry Sleight attended vehicle rental company Longmarsh in Wellingborough to mark the official start of the scheme, which they hope will help reinforce road safety knowledge among drivers of vans.

Mr Burton and Mr Sleight have devised road safety leaflets and steering wheel tags to remind motorists about the important safety tips to remember when driving a van (under 7.5 tonnes).

The aim is for wheel tags to be attached to vans at rental companies and leaflets brought in to companies where vans are extensively used.

The scheme, which was also supported by the joint Safer Roads Team (Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police), was launched at Longmarsh but the aim is to roll it out to other rental and van companies throughout Northamptonshire.

Injury collisions

According to figures for 2015, there were 1323 recorded injury collisions in Northamptonshire and 158 (just under 12 per cent) of these involved at least one van.

Mr Burton said: “We became aware of the number of road traffic collisions which involved van drivers in some way so we wanted to put something in place to help raise awareness of the important points to remember when driving a van. For example, many people who don’t normally drive a van but who rent one do not realise that the dual carriageway speed limit is 60mph - less than for ordinary cars.”

The idea was based on an initiative previously run in New Zealand, which addressed the tourist industry and van drivers from a variety of countries.

Mr Burton said: “Due to their size and weight, vans have longer stopping distances and larger turning circles than smaller vehicles, so unfortunately there is plenty of scope for accidents to happen if someone is unfamiliar with these types of vehicle.

“We hope these simple leaflets and tags will be enough to remind drivers that vans handle differently to cars, need more space and require careful use of mirrors. The general message to drivers is to make sure they are fully aware of the safety concerns linked with driving a larger vehicle.”

Richard Eaton, Safer Roads Education Team Leader, said: “We were pleased to help support the delivery of this project, which really addresses an important target audience when it comes to road safety.

“Of course there are motorists who are very used to driving vans and are aware of the difference involved in controlling a vehicle of this size, but this isn’t true of everyone. If even one potential accident can be avoided by the use of one simple wheel tag reminder, then this project will have achieved a great deal and we hope it will be picked up by as many companies as possible.”

Any companies interested in introducing safety wheel tags and leaflets into their businesses can email the Safer Roads Team on spostle@northantsfire.org.uk