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13/12/2015 - Manchester

Driving with fuel light on irresponsible says highways England chief

MOTORISTS who risk running out of petrol by driving with their fuel warning light on are “irresponsible” and should fill up before they travel on major routes, the man in charge of England’s motorways and trunk roads has said.

“On our motorway network, one in 12 vehicles that break down have run out of fuel,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, which manages major A-roads and motorways. “One in 10 that stop on the hard shoulder will be involved in an incident so it is verging on irresponsible to come onto the strategic road network with low fuel.”

The AA says that it attends around 300 cars a week that have run out of fuel, and warns that an increase in fuel duty, expected next April, could make the problem worse.

Speaking last week to the transport industry at the Highways UK conference in east London, O’Sullivan said that reducing the number of fuel breakdowns could help cut deaths and injuries.

“One in 10 cars that stop on the hard shoulder will be involved in an incident”

He told Driving that he hoped new signs displaying fuel prices that are being trialled on the M5 would prompt drivers to fill up more frequently.

However, the problem may worsen after statistics published as part of last week’s autumn statement indicated that fuel duty is likely to rise in line with inflation from April, after a five-year freeze.

“Logic suggests that when fuel prices are higher, it puts the squeeze on motorists, who are more likely to shop around,” said Gavin Hill-Smith of the AA. “Some people will drive well out of their way for cheaper fuel.”

The premium on the price of fuel at motorway services — often 10p a litre or more — may encourage motorists to wait until they leave the motorway before filling up, even if their fuel light is on, Hill-Smith said.

“On average you might expect to have around a gallon of fuel left when the light comes on, which might get you 30 miles or so, but the gauges aren’t accurate and cars vary. Basically, when the light comes on, you really need to refuel, as you don’t want to run the risk of coming to a halt at the roadside.”