Highways England has announced that drivers may face penalties for ignoring lane closures on smart motorways from as early as Spring this year.
The roads operator expects penalties similar to those for passing through a red light, a £100 fine and three penalty points, will be introduced from March 2018 as they deem those who do not adhere to red X signs on overheard gantries as ‘dangerous’.
Smart motorways operate variable speed limits and can use the hard shoulder for traffic to reduce congestion. Red ‘X’ signs indicate closure of the hard shoulder as a result of broken down vehicle or an accident for instance.
Approximately 80,000 warning letters have been issued to drivers who have broken smart motorway rules since December 2016, with at least a third of these relating to driving in closed lanes.
The Home Office are currently testing roadside cameras, which automatically detect lane violations. Highways England.
Sections of the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M42 have already been modified into smart motorways. A further 480 miles are being added to England’s motorway network.
Director of the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding, warned that while the extra capacity is a welcome addition, it is imperative that this is ‘delivered safely’. He added that Highways England would need to increase communications ‘to leave no doubt in motorists’ minds as to what a red X means’.
A spokesperson from Highways England has commented that ‘safety is at the heart of everything we do and our roads are among the safest in the world. We close lanes for a reason and drivers ignoring red X’s put them and others at risk.’