A fifth of drivers ignore smart motorway red X signs

Research reveals 23 per cent of motorists admit to breaking the law by driving in a closed smart motorway lane

Around a fifth of drivers have ignored a red X sign on a smart motorway, according to new research.

Of the 2,093 members of the RAC Opinion Panel surveyed, 23 per cent admitted they have driven in a lane on a smart motorway that had been closed by a red X sign.

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Of these, 19 per cent said they have done this occasionally by accident and one per cent have done it often accidentally, while three per cent have done it occasionally on purpose.

This is in spite of there being virtually no lack of understanding as to what a red X sign means, with 99 per cent knowing it means a lane is closed and must not be driven in, and 84 per cent of those who have driven on a motorway in the last year having seen one.

When asked what the first thing they do when they see a red X sign is, 87 per cent said they move into another lane when it is safe to do so, while the other 13 per cent admitted they may go past one or two of the signs before doing the same thing.

This was called into question, though, as 48 per cent of respondents saying they frequently see other drivers ignoring red X signs and 36 saying they see it occasionally, while only seven per cent said they never see it at all.

Some 66 per cent of those surveyed said they were in favour of cameras being used to enforce red X signs, while 34 per cent were opposed to the idea.

Driving in a closed smart motorway lane has been an offence since March 2018, but Highways England, the government-owned company responsible for the countries motorways, admitted last summer it was waiting for Home Office approval for the cameras it intends to use to automatically enforce so-called ‘red X offences.

The company has, however, issued more than 160,000 warning letters in the last two years to drivers who had either used a section of hard shoulder when it was not designated as a running lane, or had ignored a red X sign.

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In addition, the public body is working with the Home Office to create legislation that will allow for stricter enforcement of smart motorway rules.

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said red X signs were of “paramount” safety importance, as drivers who ignore them risk crashing into a broken-down vehicle that could be stranded in the lane, which could result in fatal consequences for any motorists or road workers involved.

What do you think about the growth of smart motorway technology in the UK? Let us know in the comments…

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