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Automatic points and fines for drivers who ignore motorway red X lane closures

Published 16 May 2019

Drivers in England who ignore smart motorway lane red X closures could soon be punished with automatic points and fines, under new laws. 

Drivers who ignore red X signs will face £100 fines and three penalty points as part of new rules to automatically enforce motorway lane closures. 

It is already illegal to ignore a lane closure on the motorway, but the police can only act against drivers caught in the act. From late-summer, thousands of overhead cameras that are installed on hundreds of miles of smart motorway across England will be used to catch drivers who ignore the rules.

The law change follows a type approval from the Home Office for camera upgrades and a period of testing. Highways England says that red Xs are used to signify closed lanes on motorways, to protect drivers in difficulty, or when road workers and emergency services need a safe space to work.

"We welcome this auto-enforcement and the increase to driver safety it will bring," said Highways England spokesperson Mike Wilson. 

“Most drivers comply with lane closures, but the minority of people who don’t are putting themselves and other road users at real risk. We welcome this auto-enforcement and the increase to driver safety it will bring.”

Speaking to ITV, AA president Edmund King, said the law change was a "welcome measure to improve safety".

He added: “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."

Comments

Engineer Andy    on 17 May 2019

About time, as long as the sign are kept up-to-date: quite often the matrix signs aren't.

gavsmit    on 17 May 2019

Sounds good in theory, but will no doubt earn extra revenue from good drivers that are just a victim of circumstance and yet another naïve and poorly thought out road penalty system.

Reasons:
1) I've witnessed the variable speed limits shown on these signs sometimes reduce suddenly from national to 40mph despite no traffic congestion or signs of a problem - then go back to national on the next bank of signs for no reason, sometimes almost causing accidents themselves as people slow down dramatically for the signs in fear of being fined. Maybe human error, maybe a technical problem, but will this happen with the red crosses too, thus issue fines for no reason?
2) I was travelling along the M25 a few weeks ago when all but the inside lane began to become congested. As I was leaving the M25 at the next junction, and the nearside lane is a filter lane for that junction, I continued at a safe speed in that lane whilst the others ground to a halt. Signs passed overhead not showing any problems or red crosses. Then a red cross appeared on the sign approaching in the distance, not far before my junction. Of course no-one was going to let me join one of the congested lanes to my right, and with an impatient motorist right up my backside as he didn't like the safe speed I was travelling at, I would've been in an accident trying to get out of that lane to join the congested ones anyway. Also my junction was in sight now anyway, with no obvious reasons or obstructions as to why the red cross was in place for that lane leading off the motorway. So I suppose I'd be fined for that now these are being switched on, but all I did was apply common sense and avoided an accident that could've happened due to poor management of road signs and other, bad, drivers.

Palcouk    on 17 May 2019

My experience of matrix signs, prior to my retirement, when I was driveing +30k/year was that they showed problems when none existed. Or had not been updated/turned off when the problem had been resolved.
And if a Transport spokesmen states that they are automaticaly trigered and turned off I simply dont believe them, or that their IT systems are so badly designed that they are not fit for purpose.
I think the latter is probably more correct judging by my experiences with HMRC on-line services.

TQ    on 17 May 2019

Motorway overhead signs are often out of sync with conditions on the road. I often see lane closures for no apparent reason. I also notice that motorway patrol with amber lights flashing on their 4X4 cars cause delays for no reason other than just being there !

On the issue of fines: Cars are a pain and I support every measure to help make motoring more expensive and thereby reduce the numbers. I drive but more often than not walk or cycle.

BEARS8    on 20 May 2019

Re your comment - that's all very well if you are young enough and fit enough to walk or cycle!

conman    on 18 May 2019

The M60 around Manchester is a prime example of badly trained operators. Many times I have used the motorway and signs are posted for 60mph, 50mph, 40mph for no apparent reason. Pedestrians in carriage way is another message, best yet was a speed limit shown for 40mph on the motorway reason breakdown on the slip road.. The slip road has a hard shoulder and on passing no sign of any vehicle. It has now reached a stage where most drivers ignore the signs. Not me of course.

sixcylinder    on 20 May 2019

I got a warning letter recently saying that I was travelling illegally on the M6 in the nearside lane, which was true.
It was true because two signs before there was a red cross so I didn't go into the lane, the next gantry signs showed nothing so I moved into the nearside lane and just around the next corner the was a red cross over the nearside lane so I moved out of it.
The letter said that I wouldn't be prosecuted this time and asked if I would like to make any comments, I said to avoid all confusion when the lane is closed it should have a positive indication showing that it was closed then there would be a clear indication to all drivers that the lane is closed, just don't leave it open to error.
I am waiting for feed-back, might be dead before that happens.

Dragon 999    on 20 May 2019

With today's technology there is no reason signs should not be updated to the very minute, sadly far too often signs are not updated so drivers become impatient, I seen idiots going through red lights, traffic stop sign and at speed where they couldnt stop if they had to. Too many idiots issued with licences and too many bigger idiots with no licence tax or insurance, much as I dislike surveillance it's the only way to catch, stop and come down on the idiots that spoil it for everyone else. Good or bad, signs are there for a reason!

Kevin Greene    on 20 May 2019

I've always understood that these signs surrounded by a red ring are MANDATORY, so if you don't obey them, you deserve what you get. However, I have also seen these signs WITHOUT the red ring around them, and have understood this to be an ADVISORY warning only. Am I wrong about this?

Caution    on 20 May 2019

So who is going to determine under what circumstance a red X sign is to be enforced. Immediately on approach, or only when the actual hazard in encountered?
The RAC endorse so called zip merging, continuing in the open lane until the point where traffic is forced to merge, and then merging in turn.
In this case, one may well have driven under a number of closed lane signs before this point.
Traffic merging into Lane 1 prior to the hazard simply creates one line of slow moving traffic, while traffic merging at the hazard may cause less of a slow moving line.
Sec.134 of the Highway Code endorses merging only at low speed, but of course we know how infuriated the average British motorist becomes when they see traffic speeding by in the open lanes whilst they are stuck in the nearside lane!

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

"Traffic merging into Lane 1 prior to the hazard simply creates one line of slow moving traffic, while traffic merging at the hazard may cause less of a slow moving line."

Sometimes they need to come on miles BEFORE a hazard or accident to allow safe clear passage for emergency vehicles too. Idiot's who choose to ignore the signs just get in the way. Going forward, for those drivers that you can see speeding by in the lane marked closed, just sit back and smile thinking, " You're Nicked".

Philip John Stott    on 20 May 2019

It amazes me how many comments are trying to justify driving in a closed lane. Saying things like they are not up to date or there is no hazard. How selfish how can you know what the reason for the closure is or was. Irrespective of what you think was the reason for the closure your responsibility is to move over no ifs or buts. The reason is not your problem.

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

Totally Agree Philip. In some cases I think its is because drivers have there own perception of the reason the sign is on, for example, they can see the road ahead is clear so they think they can carry on until they see the blue flashing lights. Until the day the blue flashing lights are an emergency vehicle BEHIND them trying to get through to the accident to possibly save a life.

Edited by colin patterson on 21/05/2019 at 13:00

Stephen M J Bishop    on 20 May 2019

"Most drivers comply with lane closures, but the minority of people who don’t....."
I would suggest that this minority may not be discouraged from driving in closed lanes still. We have laws forbidding cars to be driven without insurance or MOT, for drivers to obey speed limits, to wear seatbelts and not to use mobile phones but how many times do we see somebody contravening these laws?

This is one of those situations where legislation is symbolic and probably won't stop irresponsible drivers from committing an offence and possibly causing injuries, maybe even fatal injuries, to other road users. These drivers could and should be taken off the road by the full force of the Due Care and Attention legislation that currently exists. However, I doubt even that will stop them.

What is certain is that it will raise more revenue and punish more drivers in scenarios where there is, serendipitously, no hazard to be avoided but who may have missed the gantry warning.

I am not sure what the solution is but I am not sure that this is it, either.

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

Whatever system is in place, you will find the odd "innocent" driver being caught out by bad sign management. I can only suggest that the use of a dash cam could prove invaluable in challenging a fine / points. Many examples of bad sign management have been mentioned in the thread and I agree with them all. However, the point of these cameras and signs is obviously to reduce accidents and protect drivers but what I haven't seen mentioned is that the signs often come on closing a lane miles before the hazard to allow safe passage for emergency vehicles. Therefore simply following the rules but recording your journey should you be "caught out" will help.

Maybe GREEN "+" in place of the RED "X" when it is safe to move back into a lane would help thus eliminating the chances of a sign on a hazardous stretch being faulty as already mentioned. So even if the red X has gone out at the ext sign you meet, don't move over until the Green + appears. Or would that add to what seems to be a challenge for the sign operatives?

Now for the belligerent " I'm in a fast posh car, so can ignore the signs because I need to be somewhere faster than you " brigade. Ban the drivers that sail through multiple red X signs then slam on and cause havoc getting into the safe lanes. Let say a month to start with.. As for the rest, nothing will change them because you can't educate Spam.

Edited by colin patterson on 21/05/2019 at 12:59

Nick Clarke    on 20 May 2019

Removing the hard shoulder and adding a lane has made travel more dangerous for all of us and done nothing to ease congestion. Billions spent on upgrades that could have been channelled into making existing roads safer by repairing potholes, removing stupid speed bumps and enforcing the 'drive on the left and overtake on the right ' rule on motorways.

soldierboy 001    on 20 May 2019

If you had watched the BBC morning shows about the Motorway Patrols you would realise that it is not always visibly obvious what the warnings are for and even when it is how many impatient motorists blast their horns in disgust at being held up. I just hope the Motorway Patrols get held up on their way to helping you when you are trapped in your car after an accident. This for TQ further up the chat.

Edited by soldierboy 001 on 20/05/2019 at 14:52

Christopher Baglin    on 20 May 2019

Enough has been said about pointless-seeming lane closures (we've all witnessed them), but if a red X goes on suddenly without warning when you are about to go under it, would you be fined for carrying on whilst indicating for a safe entry into the non-restricted lanes (with the risk of nobody letting you in), or are you expected to jam on the anchors in order to avoid a £100 fine?

I'd expect if you did the latter and survived the pile-up, you'd probably get done for dangerous driving anyway...

And even if not causing an accident, it isn't a good idea to have stationary vehicles trying to join moving traffic...

Seems like yet another ill-thought-out rule. What ever happened to common sense?

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

I cant be sure that I would presume that they give a certain amount of time AFTER the sign changes to a RED X before the camera is recording transgressors. No one in their right mind would expect you to slam on and get into the open lane before the camera on the other side of the sign snap shots you. But I see your point, some drivers might think that's the way to avoid being caught. Maybe a flashing RED X before changing solid RED X could be used like the AMBER on traffic lights... Oh Hang on. That gets ignored too :)

GSh    on 20 May 2019

Recently travelling north on the A1 near Sawtry the signs were telling me that the inside 3 lanes were closed so I had to get into lane 4 and that there were workers in the road. I think the maximum speed was shown as 50mph. I duly obliged, but a large number of vehicles, lorries and cars undertook me. However after a short while we got the all clear sign and had seen no evidence of anyone working.

Another time travelling north up the M1 I picked up signs near Northampton telling me that M1 was closed at J24. However when I reached J24, not having exceeded the 70mph limit, the motorway was still open, not due to close for another 20 minutes.

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

There has to be a reasonable time to get cars diverted in preparation for a motorway closure. or when they do reach closure time there would be a huge queue to get off at the last junction..

aethelwulf    on 20 May 2019

I am sure the best round these confusing signs is to drive a foreign registered vehicle. I cannot believe the UK's benighted systems will ever catch up with these transgressors.
I have sen a few right hand drive cars with eastern European numbers recently. I am wondering if there is a market in the recycling of , say, old Bulgarian number plates?.

Jeff Turner    on 20 May 2019

It's a great idea if the signs could be trusted.
How long before speeding tickets are issued in the same way???
Big Brother is watching.
Jeff. a p***ed off motorist.

colin patterson    on 21 May 2019

They already are aren't they? .. When the Lane signs show a Red circled 40MPH for instance, one some M Ways you will be flashed and receive the fine in the post.

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