NI 68 - Motorists who ignore 'Red X' lane closure signs on smart motorways to be issued with £100 fine and 3 penalty points

Post date: 12-Jun-2019 10:22:40

  • Drivers will receive automatic penalties if caught ignoring 'Red X' signs

  • Home Office law introduced from Monday 10 June to improve enforcement

  • Around a quarter of motorists have admitted to ignoring the signs in the last year

  • Police can now check ANPR cameras on smart motorways and issue a £100 fine and 3 penalty points to anyone using a closed lane with a red x

Drivers who ignore lane closure signs on smart motorways in England will be issued with automatic £100 fines and penalty points from today (Monday 10 June). A closed lane on smart motorway is indicated by a 'Red X' displayed on an electronic overhead gantry and instructs motorists to move to another lane that's running normally to avoid an incident ahead.

A recent survey suggests more than a fifth of drivers have been ignoring closed lane warnings until now, which is one of the reasons for the introduction of penalties confirmed by the Home Office.

car misusing smart motorway lane driving in it with a red x displayed

Hundreds of miles of England's motorways have been converted into 'smart' routes since 2006. As a result, these motorways can use the hard shoulder as either a permanent or part-time traffic lane, depending on which type of smart motorway format it is. With the potential of no hard shoulder being available for vehicles that have broken down or been involved in a collision, one or more lanes can be closed by operators to safeguard the stricken motorists.

Closed lanes are indicated by the red X sign on the overhead gantries, which also tell motorists if a variable speed limit is being enforced. While it is illegal for motorists to use a closed smart motorway lane, until now police have had to catch people in the act.

Highways England said thousands of motorists ignore the warnings despite the risk of prosecution, putting other drivers at real risk'.

This suggestion was backed up by a recent poll carried out by the RAC.

It found that 23 per cent of drivers have ignored a red X sign in the past year and continued to use a lane even when they were told it was closed.

Under new Home Office legislation introduced from this week, police have now been granted the power to penalise drivers captured by ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) traffic cameras ignoring the instruction to not use the closed lane. In addition to a fine, offenders will have three penalty points added to their licence.

Highways England said more than 180,000 warning letters had been sent out to drivers who had ignored red X signs since December 2016, which appear to have not helped to curb the number of motorists who continue to neglect the instructions.

Mike Wilson, chief highways engineer at the government agency said: 'Our motorways are already among the safest in the world but this move will make them even safer.

'Red X signs over closed lanes help protect drivers from dangers ahead. Most drivers comply with lane closures, but the minority of people who don’t are putting themselves and other road users at real risk.

'We welcome this auto-enforcement and the increase to driver safety it will bring.'

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis also welcomed the introduction of automatic penalties for drivers who ignore red X signs due to the lack of compliance.

'Despite the critical role red X signs play in keeping motorway users safe, our research shows far too many drivers are disobeying them and in turn risking lives,' he said.

'Twenty-three per cent admitted to ignoring red X signs, despite practically all drivers (99 per cent) being clear that the sign means the lane is closed, while nearly half (48 per cent) said they frequently see other drivers disobeying them.

'A lot of work has been done to educate drivers about the role red X signs increasingly plays 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.'

busy smart motorway lane use signs with a closed lane

Smart motorways - especially those with the All-Lane Running (ALR) format - have come under criticism due to the risk of having no hard shoulder. These routes have variable speed limits that can be adjusted at any time and a permanent fourth lane instead of a hard shoulder.

Replacing the hard shoulder are emergency refuge areas that are placed every 2.5km (1.55 miles) along the route, which some organisations say is not enough. England has more than 100 miles ALR smart motorways, with 225 miles more planned.

AA president Edmund King said: 'Improving capacity and easing congestion on our motorways is key for the economy, but not at the expense of safety.

'The gap between emergency refuge areas has been a major concern.'

As a result, Highways England said in January 2018 that it will reduce the maximum gap between emergency refuge lay-bys in future schemes.

This means newer smart motorways will have a refuge lay-by every mile 'where practicable', to provide 'greater reassurance to road users'.

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