Punishment for ignoring red ‘X’ signs ‘to start in March’

Punishment for ignoring red ‘X’ signs ‘to start in March’
Motorists are likely to start picking up fines for ignoring lane closures on smart motorways from this spring, Highways England claims.

In a document seen by the Press Association, the roads operator reveals it is testing roadside cameras which detect when drivers flout the instructions given by red X signs on overhead gantries.

If rolled out in March, as now expected, it is thought drivers will face a similar penalty to that handed out for running a red light – £100 and three penalty points.

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The new document adds new clarity, and a timeframe, to news last reported in October, that fines and points for drivers who snub red ‘X’ signs look set to make the agenda.

Highways England believes not following the signs on overhead gantries is “dangerous” and expects to be able to legally enforce the practice within the next three months.

So far it has now sent out around 80,000 letters of warning to motorists who have broken smart motorway rules since December 2016. At least a third of these relate to driving in closed lanes.

Smart motorways involve using the hard shoulder for traffic unless a red X shows it is closed, usually due to an accident or broken down vehicle.

A further 480 miles of smart motorway are being added to England’s network, joining sections of the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M42 which have already been modified.

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Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, warned the extra capacity is “a welcome move, only so long as it can be delivered safely”.

“We need to see a redoubling of communications by Highways England to leave no doubt in motorists' minds as to what a red X sign means.”

A Highways England spokesman said: “Safety is at the heart of everything we do and our roads are among the safest in the world. We close lanes for a reason and drivers ignoring red Xs puts them and others at risk.

“Since we started issuing warning letters we have seen a decrease in the number of drivers ignoring lane closures.”

Copyright Press Association 2018. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.