Cameras are being used to fine motorists who ignore red ‘X’ warning signs for the first time this week.
Previously, only a police officer catching drivers in the act could issue a fixed penalty notice (FPN), but the new Road Traffic Offenders (Prescribed Devices) Order 2019 was passed on May 13 and was introduced from Monday (June 10).
It now means that drivers who ignore lane closures on motorways marked with a red ‘X’ will face a £100 fine and three penalty points.
The enforcement will mirror motorway speeding offences in which the police force where the incident took place will issue the penalty.
Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, 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 a breakdown. That’s why using a motorway lane with a red ‘X’ is not only illegal but also very dangerous.”
Since the beginning of 2017, Highways England has issued more than 180,000 warning letters to drivers who have ignored the signs in an attempt to stamp out the behaviour.
Research from the RAC, published in March, showed that almost one quarter (23%) of drivers have driven in a lane on a smart motorway closed by the red ‘X’ sign in the previous 12 months.
With hundreds of miles of smart motorways across England now using the hard shoulder as either a permanent or part-time running lane, it is a dangerous trend that is potentially putting lives at risk.
The survey of 2,093 members of the RAC Opinion Panel revealed that more than eight in 10 drivers (84%) had seen a red ‘X’ appear on the verge-mounted or overhead gantry electronic variable message signs. Almost all of these (99%) said they understood it signified the lane was closed.
Nine in 10 (87%) said their first action is to move, when safe to do so, into another lane which is not closed, while the remainder (13%) say they change lanes as soon as possible, but admit they might pass one or two red ‘X’ signs before doing so.
However, the research also revealed that the sight of drivers disobeying red ‘X’ smart motorway signs is all too common, with nearly half (48%) of those questioned saying they frequently see this and more than a third (36%) claiming to see it occasionally. Only 7% said they do not see drivers ignoring red ‘X’ signs.