Wheeler-dealers trading cars, people picking flowers, and a driver who thought the “fire” notification on their dashboard display meant their car was ablaze - instead of the name of the Adele track they were listening to.
These are just some of the reasons Highways Agency Traffic Officers were given by drivers who had stopped illegally on the hard shoulder of motorways. It is illegal to stop on a hard shoulder if there is no emergency.
Agency data shows that between July and September last year 2,062 drivers stopped on the hard shoulder when there was no emergency. It is also illegal to drive under a red X sign which is displayed when the lane ahead is closed.
Jamie Hassall, Highways Agency national enforcement co-ordinator, said: “Every day, millions of people use our motorways. Most of them use the hard shoulder correctly and don’t ignore red X’s, but we are appealing to the few who put themselves, other road users, and those working on motorways at risk.
“Where the hard shoulder is used as an additional traffic lane at peak times, you can only drive on it if there is a speed limit over it. When a red X is displayed over any lane, it’s simple – don’t drive on it.”
A smart motorway is a section of motorway with additional technology to actively manage traffic to improve journeys. Smart motorways tell drivers what speed to drive at, when the hard shoulder is open to traffic and when lanes are closed by showing a red X.
The Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) has warned drivers could face a fine and points on their licence, as driving on the hard shoulder is illegal and unsafe.
Inspector Derek Roberts, Central Motorway Police Group, said: “Between September 2013 and April 2014 we sent over 700 letters to road users misusing the hard shoulder and we have had less than 20 repeat offences. We are extremely encouraged by the results so far, all the indications are that this joint work with the Highways Agency is having a significant impact on educating and changing driver behaviour.
“Education is a key element to tackling hard shoulder misuse and we will be further developing the warning letter campaign. However, we will not hesitate to take formal action against those who are clearly and deliberately flouting the law”.
Ten of the most inappropriate reasons given to traffic officers by drivers who have stopped on the hard shoulder in a non-emergency situation are:
- One motorist pulled over because they saw fire” on their dashboard display, it later turned out it was the name of the Adele track they were listening to.
- One motorist parked up and fell asleep on the M6.
- People stopping to read a map or check their sat-navs.
- Traffic officers stopped with two cars on the hard shoulder – the owners were half way through the selling and buying process for one of the cars.
- One driver realised their car insurance policy was up for renewal – they were ringing around for quotes to renew.
- A group of motorcyclists parked on the hard shoulder on the M1 to review their route and have a drink.
- Taxi drivers waiting on the hard shoulder around Heathrow airport for their client's flights to arrive.
- A mobile phone operator, stopping at regular intervals in their private car carrying out signal tests on the hard shoulder.
- A driver who stopped to pick flowers.
- Have you broken down Sir? No, came the reply, we are taking pictures of our new born grandchild (in their open top sports car) as it is a lovely day.