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Motorists driving in ‘red X’ lanes face new penalties on smart motorways


Motorists who ignore ‘red X’ signs on smart motorways could now face tougher penalties and police action, under new Home Office legislation coming into force next month. The smart motorway signs feature cameras, which have been in use for years, and now have the technology and legislation for law enforcement.

Smart motorways were introduced in 2014 and were developed to help manage traffic, set variable speed limits and ease congestion. However, the opening of the hard shoulder and the ‘red X’ caused some confusion for many motorists around the country.

In simple terms, the hard shoulder on smart motorways is used as an active lane unless it displays the ‘red X’ symbol which signals that the lane should not be used. This is usually the case if there has been an accident, a breakdown where a driver has not managed to reach an emergency layby, or if the lane needs to be closed for regular maintenance work.

If you drive in a lane marked with a ‘red X’ you could face a £100 fine and three penalty points. This is likely to increase with the new law and the severity of individual cases.

A spokesman for the RAC, Simon Williams said; “Red X signs are paramount in safety terms, as any driver who has not managed to reach an SOS area is at tremendous risk of being involved in a collision with vehicles that ignore them.”

Highways England, the operator of England’s major A-roads and motorways, started to seriously monitor the ‘red X’ lanes in 2017, and since the start of that year over 180,000 letters have been sent to motorists driving in these lanes.

The following year, in August 2018, they conducted a survey into whether motorists were fully aware of the meaning of the ‘red X’ signs and the future of smart motorways. They found that up to 20 per cent of drivers either ignored, didn’t understand or didn’t notice the ‘red X’ warning. RAC also discovered that 3 per cent intend to use the lane even after seeing the warning signs.

The new Home Office legislation comes into effect on the 10th June 2019, and fines are due to stay the same, but they could be increased if the police deem the motorist to have been partaking in an ‘act of careless or dangerous driving’.

As of next month, all motorists will need to take extra care when driving on smart motorways and ensure they are vigilant when driving in, or near, the hard shoulder.