Family caught cooking a meal on hard shoulder of M25

Published 31 May 2018

Cooking, sleeping, taking a walk and sending text messages are among the reasons drivers give for illegally using the hard shoulder, according to a new report from Highways England.

The Government-owned company in charge of England's motorways and major A roads released the shocking revelations as part of its report on the obscure excuses drivers give when they are caught illegally on the hard shoulder.

In one case, officers from Dartford found a family congregated on the side of the M25 cooking a meal as they were hungry. Elsewhere, on the M4, a child was found walking alone next to the motorway near Bristol because the parents decided to give them a “time out” for misbehaving. On the M56 a driver was caught on the hard shoulder sending text messages. 

The report also revealed how a HGV was abandoned in a live lane of the M1 motorway because the driver decided he wanted to walk to the services for exercise rather than use the lorry park.

“Drivers often think the hard shoulder is a safe place to stop but over 100 people are killed or injured on the hard shoulder every year” 

Another HGV driver was found asleep on a verge of the M60, with his vehicle blocking an emergency access route near Cheadle.

“Drivers often think the hard shoulder is a safe place to stop but over 100 people are killed or injured on the hard shoulder every year,” warned Simon Jones of Highways England.

“We want everyone to get to their destinations safely. But some people put themselves at risk. The advice is simple: Be prepared. Check your vehicle before you set out to avoid unnecessary breakdowns; don’t stop except in an emergency; and if you have to stop, make sure you know what to do."

As well as using the hard shoulder for phone conversations and calls of nature, one patrol came across a stationary vehicle with no hazard lights on in foggy conditions on the M1 between Chesterfield and Mansfield. The driver was later found on the embankment trying to find a signal for his sat nav.

What to do if you have an emergency on the motorway

  • Always try to exit the motorway. If this isn’t possible, pull onto the hard shoulder or emergency stopping area (if using a smart motorway).

  • Switch on your hazard warning lights.

  • Exit your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door, and wait behind the safety barrier, if there is one and safe to do so.
  • If your car has a mechanical problem, call a recovery company or contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone provided in all emergency areas. They will send a traffic officer to help you.

  • If it is not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, stay inside with your seat belt on and dial ‘999’ if you have access to a mobile phone.


Lloyd Haye    on 7 June 2018

I think "Hard Shoulders" on U K motorways could be made much safer by having "Lay - Byes" as one sees on the continent - eg France.

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