New legislation will give police authority to automatically fine drivers breaking smart motorway rules.
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It’s been a long time coming, but the Home Office is introducing new legislation in June that penalises drivers who ignore smart motorway lane closures.
Drivers breaking the rules should expect an automatic £100 fine and three points on their licence.
What are the current rules?
Automated cameras can open and close smart motorway lanes at any time – drivers see this in action when the hard shoulder opens up to ease congestion.
If the lane is closed, gantry signs above the smart motorway show a big red ‘X’. These signs also show variable speed limits.
Driving in a closed motorway or dual carriageway lane is illegal. But as a smart motorway lane can open and close at any time, some drivers ignore (or don’t notice) that it’s shut.
Highways England has issued 180,000 warning letters to drivers ignoring smart motorway lane closures since the beginning of 2017.
And throughout 2018 there was speculation about when the government would introduce updated legislation and technology to tackle the problem.
At the moment, the law only allows the police to catch drivers and issue a fine at the time of the offence.
But from 10 June, the law will change so that police can use cameras to automatically catch drivers breaking the rules – hitting them with a £100 fine and three penalty points.
However, Highways England says that the new cameras won’t be operational until later in the summer.
Do red ‘X’ signs improve safety on motorways?
A March RAC survey revealed that over eight in 10 drivers (84 per cent) have seen a red ‘X’ sign on the motorway – and 99 per cent of those know that it means the lane is closed.
But 23 per cent of drivers admitted to disregarding the rule – either “occasionally accidentally” (19 per cent), “often accidentally” (one per cent) or “occasionally on purpose” (three per cent).
The RAC went on to say that red ‘X’ signs “are paramount in safety terms as any stricken 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.”
With the rule change coming into effect, drivers should take extra care and move to an open lane when a red ‘X’ sign is showing, keeping to the speed limits on the gantries and signs.
Do you think the rule change will make drivers take extra care on motorways? Let us know in the comments below.