Ignoring A Red X – Smart Motorway Offences Earn Drivers A Hefty Fine And Licence Points
The motorway and its traffic might be a frequent sight for many drivers, however, motorway users could now face a hefty £100 fine and three points on their licence if they ignore overhead gantries featuring a red X that indicates a closure.
Smart motorways involve opening up the hard shoulder to drivers in order alleviate traffic, but a red X displayed over the lane is a sign that it is closed, usually as a result of an accident or an obstruction. Smart motorways, the first section of which began operating in 2006 between junctions 4 and 7 on the M42, are designed using controlled lanes and includes sections of the hard shoulder that are open to drivers during peak times.
Do you know what to do?
Many drivers are, however, unsure of the regulations where a red X is concerned; the Highway Agency’s 2014 National Road User Survey reported that just under a third of drivers do not know what to do when they see the symbol displayed on the overhead signs on the motorway.
Jamie Hassall, Highways Agency national enforcement co-ordinator, said: “It is pretty simple – if you see a red X, don’t drive in that lane”.
According to the government website, “A smart motorway uses technology to actively manage the flow of traffic… Smart motorways increase the capacity of the road, by either temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic”.
Pay attention at all times
Sections of the motorway network throughout England such as the M1, M5 and M6 have already been adapted to include smart motorway features, and whilst there are no different driving rules here, it is important that drivers are cautious and pay attention to changes in lane conditions and are aware of variable speed limits.
Whilst smart motorways do contribute to better driving conditions by easing congestion, ignoring a red X is extremely dangerous and could very well lead to a driver colliding with road workers, emergency services, a broken-down vehicle or traffic officers just to name a few.
Complying with the rules means that these workers can open up the lane safer and quicker, and with less difficulty.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are experiencing difficulties or damage on a smart motorway, the best thing to do is to stop in a safe area.
This can be difficult without a hard shoulder; therefore, you should use the nearest emergency refuge area, switch on your hazard lights and exit the car on the left-hand side until recovery help arrives.
What are the consequences?
Around 80,000 warning letters were issued in 2016, a third of which were in relation to drivers using closed lanes, according to the RAC. However, now, the government is clamping down on drivers who ignore red X signs, whether accidentally or intentionally.
Committing a smart motorway offence by ignoring a red X, could mean that you will receive a fixed penalty notice with three driving licence points and a fine of £100.
These penalties, which came into enforcement this spring, are said to be a step towards making our motorways safer from drivers who, according to a spokesman for the RAC, are a “danger to themselves and others so it is right that offenders are punished with a substantial fine”.