The airbag is being trialled in the Midlands in a bid to reduce the number of motorists that mistakenly drive into work areas.
It is less about providing an impact buffer and more to do with raising visibility of the hazard. The airbag is large, bright and very visible – and can inflated within 10 minutes. It is a warning sign, not a safety cushion.
Highways England’s Midlands innovation manager Lisa Maric said: “On average, our road workers report approximately 240 incidents of vehicle incursions each month. It is a far too frequent hazard for our workforce going about their daily job – and the consequences could be fatal.
“We are committed to keeping our workforce safe and doing all we can to ensure no-one is harmed when travelling or working on our network. We are also committed to investing in new innovations to help improve safety for road workers and users.
“We hope these airbags will go some way to protecting our workers but also help change drivers' behaviours. We ask drivers to respect our road workers, to slow down near works and obey speed limits and signs.”
The air bag is initially being used on roadworks at the A45/A46 Stivichall interchange in Coventry but it is anticipated that the airbag will be tested at various types of temporary traffic management site over the coming months.
Kier Highways senior project manager Mark Sheppard said: “The vehicle incursion airbag project will give us a great opportunity to trial something a little bit different, to supplement the standard approach to road worker protection measures.
“Traffic management incursions are all too common, so the chance to take a different tack to help influence the decisions made by some road users is worth exploring. Hopefully, it’ll help towards making the network a safer place for drivers and our workforce”.
The £95,700 cost of the airbags trial was met through the designated funds programme. Highways England had a £150m ring-fenced fund allocated to support innovation in its funding round for 2015 to 2020 (otherwise known as Road Investment Strategy One, or RIS1).
The vehicle incursion airbag that aims to stop motorists driving into work areas at roadworks