MOVES to stop physical and verbal abuse of road workers are being backed by Somerset County Council.
It supports a petition to Parliament to make it a specific criminal offence to assault highway workers, giving them the same protection as emergency workers and leading to tougher sentences.
The petition is part of the Stamp it Out campaign, involving the council's maintenance contractor Skanska, project contractor Alun Griffiths and other partners. Workers in Somerset have experienced verbal abuse and dangerous driving at them over the last year. In one incident in Taunton in June, an angry driver approached a worker at a road closure and demanded to be allowed through, shouting and verbally abusing him.
The driver then pushed the worker out of the way, kicked the cones away and drove straight through. He then assaulted a BT worker at another closure.
A Skanska worker said: "We’re working extremely hard to maintain the county’s roads and we feel this kind of threatening behaviour and abuse is becoming more frequent. “We’d like motorists to be aware of the effect this can have on people’s mental health and wellbeing. We’ve all got families and loved ones we want to get home to at the end of our shift so please respect us and the job we do.”
Also in June, a motorist attempted to drive through a closure in Minehead and when he couldn’t, turned around and drove back through at speed, risking people’s lives. Cllr John Woodman, cabinet member for highways and transport at County Hall, said: "Somerset County Council absolutely supports the petition and we’d encourage as many people as possible to sign it.
"We will not accept our dedicated highways teams, who are working hard to maintain our roads and protect the safety of highway users, having to experience this shocking violence and abuse. "This is abhorrent behaviour - it won’t be tolerated, and we’ll be doing everything in our power to make sure the full force of the law falls on perpetrators." Skanska’s business director Jez Stemp said: "It simply isn’t acceptable that anyone is abused, verbally or physically, or even threatened, simply for doing their job. "Some of the actions that the team face have been extremely dangerous and pose a real threat to safety. No one should tolerate this."
You can sign the petition at