THE Highways Agency is warning motorway drivers they are putting road workers’ lives at risk by ignoring safety signs and illegally using the hard shoulder to avoid congestion caused by accidents.
The Agency is supporting Greater Manchester Police and Cheshire Police in a number of prosecutions resulting from incidents earlier this month where drivers have ignored ‘red X’ lane closure signs or used the hard shoulder to get past congestion resulting from accidents.
Both Cheshire Police and Greater Manchester Police have reported several drivers for offences. The drivers now risk fines and potentially losing their licences under the penalty points system.
The warning comes after incidents along the M56 and M6 earlier this month when Highways Agency traffic officers were working with the police to manage traffic at serious collisions.
The incidents involved drivers using the hard shoulder to get past the incident scene or ignoring ‘red X’ signs designed to stop drivers from entering lanes with hazards ahead.
Although Highways Agency traffic officers do not have enforcement powers, the Agency is reminding drivers that it is an offence to ignore the instructions of traffic officers – including electronic signs they set – and to use the hard shoulder without good reason.
Control room traffic officers at the Highways Agency’s regional control centre at Newton-le-Willows monitor traffic and incidents from hundreds of CCTV cameras across the region – and today the Highways Agency revealed it has handed CCTV footage from recent incidents to support prosecutions of drivers.
John McTaggart, the Highways Agency’s Head of On Road Services, said: “Our traffic officers are getting very frustrated that their lives and the lives of emergency workers and other road workers are being put at risk by the thoughtlessness of a minority of motorway users.
“We and the emergency services have enough to do during serious incidents without worrying whether a stray vehicle is heading towards us in the hard shoulder or after driving under a red X. This is not only dangerous but can also impede any emergency services or recovery vehicles needing to use the hard shoulder to get to an incident and help clear it as soon as possible.
“We urge drivers to re-read the Highway Code, be reminded that it is an offence to drive under a red X sign or to use the hard shoulder except in a genuine emergency – and be assured that where possible we will support the police in prosecutions of drivers who flout the law.”
The Highways Agency is reminding drivers that the deployment of ‘red X’ signs is increasing as part of the smart motorways programme currently being delivered along key sections of the motorway network across England.
With full or part-time use of the hard shoulder in smart motorway sections ‘red X’ signs are used to close a lane when it is not needed or there is a break down, accident or other incident in the lane. Drivers should never drive under a ‘red X’ sign and should switch to an available lane.