Drivers on smart motorways across the country will be subject to new rules which could see them face new fines and penalty points.
Traveling in closed lanes on smart motorways will see motorists automatically handed a £100 fine and three penalty points which started on Monday 10th June.
It comes as a result of a survey which discovered that motorists are widely ignoring the red X signs on smart motorways across the UK. 80% of drivers polled in the survey said that they had seen other motorists disobeying the signs, which are used to close a lane to traffic.
Last year, new rules were brought in to make it illegal for drivers to travel in a line that was closed with a red X, with a fixed penalty of up to £100 and three points.
Currently, motorists who drive in closed lanes are only fined if they are caught by an officer at the time of the offence. Motorists can also face harsher penalties or be taken to court in more serious cases.
But now police will be given the power to punish drivers caught on traffic cameras ignoring red X signs, under new Home Office legislation, the Birmingham Mail reports.
AA president Edmund King said: “Our research shows that one in 20 drivers continue to drive in red X lanes even when they’ve seen it, and so far Highways England have written warning letters to over 180,000 drivers about their actions.
“Red Xs are put up to warn of an obstruction, so drivers must get out of the lane when they see them.
“We have had several incidents recently where AA members’ cars have been hit in a live lane on smart motorways.”
A total of 83% of drivers said they have seen other motorists disobeying the signs. Nearly half say they see it happening frequently and a further 36% claim to have witnessed it ‘occasionally’.
Highways England statistics show that around one in 10 drivers do not take notice when red Xs are used to close lanes, with many waiting until they reach an incident before changing lanes.
The agency released this video showing how a driver who ignored a red X sign on the M60 near Manchester had to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting a patrol car.
Traffic officer Ben Cookson, who witnessed the incident, said: “Red Xs are always displayed for a reason so it’s just not worth the risk of ignoring them.”
Red Xs can be displayed on overhead signs to close lanes to alert motorists to a number of hazards, including an accident or breakdown, debris in the carriageway, or because of a person or animal on the road.
The RAC survey of over 2,000 drivers found that 23% of drivers admit they have personally broken this new rule of the road. Most of them say they have done it accidentally but a small number admit they have done it deliberately.
The Red X signs were introduced in 2016 on parts of the road network which have been made into ‘smart motorways’. The signs can also be used to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder at peak times.
Highways England has issued more than 160,000 warning letters to drivers who had either used sections of hard shoulder when not designated as a running lane or had failed to comply with a red X.
The agency is lobbying the Home Office for new legislation which will enable offenders who ignore a red X lane to be prosecuted using camera evidence.
RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Our research found drivers understand very clearly what red Xs mean, yet worryingly far too many appear to have driven under one, dramatically putting themselves at risk of encountering a stationary vehicle or a worker in their path, and all the horrific consequences that could have.”