Drivers who ignore ‘red X’ signs on smart motorways can be automatically handed a £100 fine and three penalty points under new legislation which came into force earlier this week.
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.
Before the new legislation was introduced on 10 June, motorists who drive in closed lanes on smart motorways could only be fined if they were caught by an officer at the time.
However, police forces can now use traffic cameras to enforce the offence.
Enforcement ‘the obvious next step’
The new legislation has been welcomed by stakeholders, including the RAC, who says 23% of drivers admit to ignoring red X signs.
Rod Dennis, RAC spokesperson, said: “Despite the critical role red X signs play in keeping motorway users safe, far too many drivers are disobeying them and in turn risking lives.
“A lot of work has been done to educate drivers about the role red X signs increasingly play on our motorway network, but clearly more needs to be done and enforcement seems the obvious next step.
“A majority of drivers told us that they were in favour of cameras being used by the police to catch offenders, something which we very much hope will make our motorways safer.”
GEM Motoring Assist has warned that ignoring red X signs is not only illegal, but ‘very dangerous’.
Neil Worth, GEM road safety officer, said: “Red X signs are often displayed well ahead of motorway incident, as they help ensure that emergency vehicles can reach the incident.
“Someone might be stranded in that lane, or there may well be emergency or recovery workers assisting at a collision or breakdown.”
Statistics from Highways England show more than 180,000 warning letters have been issued to drivers who have ignored red X signs since the beginning of 2017.
Analysis of two sections of all-lane running on the M25 – published by Highways England in August 2018 – suggests that up to 20% of drivers are ignoring ‘red X’ signs on smart motorways.