More than a fifth of motorists are ‘putting lives at risk’ by ignoring ‘red X’ signs on smart motorways, a survey suggests.
First introduced in 2014, smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion.
The hard shoulder is turned into an ‘active lane’, with gantry signs displaying a red X indicating if a lane is closed – usually as a result of a vehicle breakdown or in the event of a collision.
A RAC survey, published on 8 March, reveals 23% of motorists have driven in a lane closed by a red X sign in the past year.
Nearly half (48%) of respondents said they ‘frequently’ see drivers disobeying red X signs – with an additional 36% claiming to see this taking place occasionally.
Simon Williams, RAC spokesperson, said: “Smart motorways are now very much part of the fabric of England’s motorway network and will become even more commonplace in years to come with more being opened all the time.
“Red X signs, which denote when lanes are closed, are paramount in safety terms as any stricken driver who has not managed to reach an SOS area is at tremendous risk of being involved in a collision with vehicles that ignore them.
“It is also extremely dangerous if road workers or emergency service staff are attending to incident in the road. Highway Code rule 258 is explicit: ‘if red lights on the overhead signals flash above your lane and a red X is showing, you must not go beyond the signal in that lane’.
In the survey of 2,093 motorists, 84% of respondents had seen a red X appear on the verge-mounted or overhead gantry electronic variable message signs – with 99% knowing that it signifies the lane is closed.
On seeing a red X, 87% of respondents said their first action is to move, when safe to do so, into another lane which is not closed – while 13% said they change lanes as soon as they possibly can, but admitted they might pass a red X sign before doing so.
The survey findings align with analysis of two sections of all-lane running (ALR) on the M25, published in August 2018, which suggested that up to 20% of drivers are ignoring ‘red X’ signs on smart motorways.