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Service Stations Profiteering From Safety Campaigns?

By raccars Published

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Everyone knows by now: tiredness kills when you're at the wheel. If you're on a long journey you should make a point of stopping regularly and, if you are tired, stop for a nap to refresh yourself before carrying on.

Legally, you get two hours of free parking at motorway service stations to help with this. However, if you exceed your two hour limit, you will be charged about £10 for a car and £21 for an HGV. However, there is logic behind this charging scheme, which is partly so that people don't use service stations as a car park for their vehicles while car sharing. Similar restrictions are used by supermarket car parks.

These days automatic number plate recognition cameras mean there's no way to escape a service station parking fee and if you fail to pay, a £90 fine is applied. This is starting to provoke accusations of profiteering and raising deeper questions about the part service stations play in our roads network.

Arguably, they are there to provide fuel but also sustenance and facilities for travellers to rest for a while. Unfortunately, most service stations are known for sky high prices for everything from petrol to a basic cup of coffee. It makes a bit of a mockery of the regularly posted 'Tiredness Kills' placards, if people are priced out of a quick snack even before the price of a restorative nap comes into it.

In theory, two hours should be plenty of time for a safety nap. EU recommendations are that drivers should rest for a minimum of 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours of driving. However, HGV drivers are in a rather different situation. High operating costs have seen the industry squeezed to the point where drivers are claiming to have only £10 to survive for a five day trip. This leaves many pushing on down the motorway at all hours of night and day for very little pay. As a result, tachograph regulations are regularly broken and service station prices are out of the question for drivers who desperately need to eat and sleep.

With tiredness accounting for 20% of motorway crashes and the majority of coach and HGV accidents statistically, fatigue is as dangerous as drink driving. Think! Road Safety conducted a survey in 2008 that saw 37% of drivers admit to continuing to driving despite knowing they were too tired to do so safely.

Perhaps it's time for the government to pay some attention to the service station industry, so that paring charges and excessive food and drink costs don't conflict with basic safety guidelines.

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