The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has discovered that more than 40% of all motorway and major A road lane closures in England in 2014 were caused by vehicle breakdowns – and 122 unsupervised children caused them to be shut too.

The information came from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the IAM, the biggest independent road safety charity in the UK, which asked for the number of incidences of lane closures on roads managed by Highways England in 2014.

In total there were 443,590 lane closures on motorways and primary A roads in England last year for 44 defined reasons by Highways England.

Some of the major findings of the report were as follows:

  • 12,759 pedestrians walking on a motorway live lane or active A road caused lane closures (three per cent of all incidences) in addition to the 122 unsupervised children.
  • There were also 7,446 cases of a ‘non-legal’ use of the hard shoulder – some two per cent of recorded incidences.
  • Other causes listed were 3,990 animals loose on the network; 2,598 abandoned vehicles and 6,742 shed tyres.
  • 6,288 injury collisions and 29,656 non-injury collisions also caused lane closures.
  • 856 suicides or attempted suicides caused roads to be shut on England’s main routes.
  • There were also 152 cases of objects being thrown onto the roads, and 567 cases of a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road causing roads to be closed.

Almost half a million incidents took place in 2014 that led to a lane closure costing the economy an estimated £1 billion a year (based on existing government data – reference 1) in terms of lost man hours on motorways alone.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said:
“There are many worrying things that emerge from this information. Firstly, people are putting their own lives at risk and those of others by not maintaining their vehicles properly to the point they break down on our busiest roads.

“While we appreciate that a few breakdowns are unavoidable, such as a tyre blow out, the vast majority can be avoided or dealt with before taking a vehicle onto a key route.

“It also shows people do not treat our key economic arteries with the respect they deserve. Pedestrians, unsupervised children and objects thrown on the road should never be happening. It is clear an education and awareness campaign starting at school age is badly needed.”