RAC Research Finds Motorists Ignore Closed Motorway Lanes

Research by the RAC has found that nearly a quarter (23%) of drivers admitted to driving in a motorway lane closed by a red X in the past year.

In doing so, drivers are not only breaking the law but are placing their own lives and the lives of others in danger.

Lanes may be closed due to a broken-down vehicle, accident, or work in the road, all of which may mean that there are people in the lane at risk.

For example, a stricken driver may not reach an SOS area in time, or emergency service staff or road workers may be attending an incident in the road. They are therefore at high risk of being involved in a collision if another driver ignores the red X signs.


Breaking the law

The 23% comprised of 19% who said that they had occasionally accidentally driven in a closed lane, while 1% said they had done so often accidentally, and 3% occasionally on purpose.

It is likely that this figure is actually higher, but drivers don’t want to admit to breaking the law. Some 48% of those surveyed said they frequently see people ignoring the signs, while 36% said they saw this occasionally, suggesting there are plenty of drivers who are failing to change lanes when they see a red X.

This is despite 99% of those surveyed knowing the red X signifies that the lane is closed.

The Highway Code states ‘‘if red lights on the overhead signals flash above your lane and a red X is showing, you must not go beyond the signal in that lane’

It is an offence to drive in a closed smart motorway lane. The Road Traffic Offenders Act was amended in 2017 to allow the use of a remote or automated device which would capture people driving through a red X. But this technology cannot currently be used in enforcement as legislation still needs to be completed.

Since 2016, Highways England has issued more than 160,000 warning letters to drivers who have failed to comply with a red X or who have used sections of hard shoulder as a running lane in an effort to improve compliance on smart motorways.

Of those surveyed by the RAC, 66% were in favour of cameras being used to catch people driving under red Xs, while only a third were against.

RAC response

Spokesman for the RAC Simon Williams said: “Our research found drivers understand very clearly what red Xs mean, yet worryingly far too many appear to have driven under one, dramatically putting themselves at risk of encountering a stationary vehicle or a worker in their path, and all the horrific consequences that could have.

“Highways England has been working hard to get the message across to drivers that they should not drive in lanes closed by red Xs, but there is still some way to go to ensure near total compliance.

“Regarding enforcement, we know Highways England is working with the Home Office to get the required legislation to allow cameras to catch those who break the rules of smart motorway driving in this way.”


Further information

Ignoring a red X on a motorway can lead to accidents.

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident, contact First4Lawyers today and let our expert solicitors help you get compensation for your injuries. Request a call back from one of our team for more information.


Fill in our simple form and
get a call back at a time to suit you.

Or talk to our team on :

0808 256 2340

By submitting an enquiry to First4Lawyers you agree to the terms and conditions of service as outlined in our Privacy Policy.

Get in touch today - we can help with your claim 08005677866

It seems you are using an outdated browser.

This will impair your browsing experience around the web. Please visit one of the links below to update to a modern browser then re-open the site with the new browser.

Thank you


Can't find what you are looking for?

We are open as normal during the Coronavirus lockdown and are able to help with all your legal needs.

Call us free of charge

0800 567 7866

Request a Callback

Continue browsing