Change of law to make motorways safer
Reckless drivers that ignore lane closed signs on smart motorways can now be punished by an automated camera system thanks to legislation that came into force June 10th 2019, Highways England warned. Previously, this behaviour – that surveys suggest is common – had to be seen by police so numerous offenders got off scot-free.
How red X works
A smart motorway lane that is closed is clearly marked. Look for the red X above on a gantry. Alternatively, the X is on a large sign left of the carriageway. A lane can be closed for many reasons. Perhaps a car has broken down. Maybe cars have collided. Perhaps there are emergency response workers on the road.
The drivers that refuse to leave closed lanes, therefore, put innocent lives at risk. An AA survey quantified the scale of the problem. In September 2018, 5% of 20,569 respondents said they have ‘continued to drive’ in lanes closed to traffic. An RAC survey in March 2019 provided further insight. Of 2,093 respondents:
- 99% knew that a red X means the lane is closed
- 23% have driven in closed lanes
- 48% have seen other motorists use closed lanes
RAC Spokesman Rod Dennis, therefore, welcomed the automated enforcement. He explained: ‘Despite the role red X signs play in keeping motorway users safe, our research shows far too many drivers disobey.' He also argued that a lot of work has been done to explain why it is important to follow such rules – but many people refuse. ‘Enforcement seems the obvious next step’, he added.
How camera enforcement works
The automated camera system identifies perpetrators via their registration plates. They then receive a Fixed Penalty Notice through the post that includes a £100 fine. 3 penalty points further emphasise the severity of their actions. In the most extreme cases, drivers can be taken to court and penalised further.
Highways England is responsible for motorways and other major routes. It's Chief Highways Engineer, Mike Wilson, said: ‘Our motorways are among the safest in the world but this move (automated closed lane camera enforcement) will make them even safer. A red X over shut lanes protects drivers from danger ahead.’
He continued: ‘Most drivers comply with lane closures, but the minority of people who do not put themselves and other road users at real risk.’ He is therefore in favour of more widespread enforcement on smart motorways. ‘We welcome this auto-enforcement and the increase to driver safety it will bring', Mr Wilson stated.
Red X tips on how to stay safe and legal
- Never drive in a lane marked with a red X, as this indicates closure of the lane
- If there is a red X sign ahead for the lane you are driving in, move across to another lane as soon as it’s safe to do so
- The red X signs can be located on the verge of the carriageway as well as on gantry signs above each lane across the carriageway