Shock message to French drivers over motorway security lanes

Hard shoulder safety campaign asks: ‘When are you going to run someone over?’ ahead of busy holiday period

Vinci Autoroutes’ shock campaign is seeking to raise awareness of the risk that their workers take on when working on the roads
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A motorway company has launched a shock campaign to raise awareness of safe driving on the hard shoulder, in a bid to protect their workers and emergency vehicles from being hit.

The campaign, from Vinci Autoroutes, asks the stark question: ‘Quand allez-vous percuter?’, which translates as ‘When are you going to crash / run someone over?’.

It comes as holidaymakers are set to begin longer journeys for the July holiday season (or ‘juillettistes’, as they are known in France).

The chilling campaign ad sees a phone ringing inside a vehicle, and we can hear a happy message from a partner, as the camera slowly zooms out to show that the phone is inside a wrecked emergency response van on the side of a motorway, with no sign of the worker.

The video ends with the message: “Every week on average, an intervention vehicle is hit on the Vinci Autoroute network. Respect the safety corridor. When approaching an emergency vehicle, slow down, and change lanes.”

Hard shoulder ‘safety corridor’ rule

The company is seeking to raise awareness of the risk that their workers take on when working on the roads, and how vulnerable they can be to careless drivers. It believes that one of the major causes of accidents is drivers’ failure to respect the ‘safety corridor’ of the hard shoulder.

This rule has been in the highway code in France since 2018.

Figures from Vinci Autoroutes Foundation's studies show that 67% of motorists do not systematically apply this safety rule, and 19% are completely unaware of it.

“It’s usually drivers of cars or HGVs who are not looking at the road, who are inattentive due to distraction or drowsiness, who do not respect the safety corridor rule,” said Bernadette Moreau, managing director of the Vinci Autoroutes Foundation, to BFMTV.

Read also: Motorway driving in France: new safety alert for security lanes 
Read also: Should France's 130km/h motorway speed limit be lowered? 

Workers and working vehicles

In March last year, a worker was killed while working on a Vinci motorway in Alpes-Maritimes, and workers in response vehicles are also very often in danger when working on the hard shoulder.

The company has also lined up 20 of its fluorescent emergency response vehicles at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines péage as part of the campaign, as every one of them has been involved in an accident while working on a Vinci Autoroutes motorway in recent months.

Vinci states that since January 1, 24 emergency vehicles have been hit. It has also estimated that the life expectancy of a pedestrian on the hard shoulder is just 20 minutes.

Read also: Driving in France: why are the roads more deadly than in the UK? 

Hard shoulder etiquette

Ms Moreau sought to reiterate the importance of avoiding the hard shoulder and driving carefully whenever you see anything on it. 

"The rule of the safety corridor is: when you see a response van or a stopped vehicle, you slow down, of course, and move as far as possible into the lane next to it,” said Ms Moreau. “This is the best way of preserving a safety zone for all those involved in rescuing another vehicle.”

Seven safety patrollers have died while working on the roads in the past two years, across all companies.

New AI safety tools 

Some workers are now using new AI-equipped tools in a bid to improve safety.

A new system, called PatrolCare, has been developed by, an AI specialist branch of the motorway company Vinci Autoroutes. It is now slowly being deployed across all patrol vehicles.

Read also: Motorway driving in France: new safety alert for security lanes

It uses artificial intelligence to learn on the job, and alerts patrol workers to dangerous driving and the risk of an accident, so they can avoid a potential collision.

It uses a camera installed on the back of the patrol vehicle to analyse data and road status in real-time, and can identify danger within a radius of 200m.

If a vehicle enters this area, the system sets off a loud, piercing alarm. This is designed to alert the patroller, but also the errant driver, in a bid to warn them of the impending obstacle and make them move.

Already, 40 patrol vehicles are equipped with this new system.