Smart-MotorwayFrom picking flowers to shopping around for car insurance, the Highways Agency has revealed the top ten most inappropriate excuses people have given for stopping illegally on the hard shoulder.

According to data from the Agency, 2,062 drivers needlessly stopped on the hard shoulder in just two months between July and September last year.

The figures come as a way of reminding people not to drive on the hard shoulder or under a red ‘X’ sign is displayed over a lane, as more roads are being turned into smart motorways.

Highways Agency national enforcement co-ordinator, Jamie Hassall, said: “Every day, millions of people use our motorways. Most of them use the hard shoulder correctly and don’t ignore red X’s, but we are appealing to the few who put themselves, other road users, and those working on motorways at risk.

“Where the hard shoulder is used as an additional traffic lane at peak times, you can only drive on it if there is a speed limit over it. When a red X is displayed over any lane, it’s simple – don’t drive on it.”

Smart motorways control speed limits to limit congestion, and open hard shoulders as a live lane.

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Inspector Derek Roberts, Central Motorway Police Group, said: “Between September 2013 and April 2014 we sent over 700 letters to road users misusing the hard shoulder and we have had less than 20 repeat offences. We are extremely encouraged by the results so far, all the indications are that this joint work with the Highways Agency is having a significant impact on educating and changing driver behaviour.

“Education is a key element to tackling hard shoulder misuse and we will be further developing the warning letter campaign. However, we will not hesitate to take formal action against those who are clearly and deliberately flouting the law.”

The full top ten of most inappropriate excuses for stopping illegally on the hard shoulder include:

  1. One motorist pulled over because they saw the word “fire” on their dashboard display, thinking it was the car warning that there was an issue under the bonnet. It later turned out it was the name of the Adele track they were listening to.
  2. One motorist parked up and fell asleep on the M6. Why bother waiting for the services?
  3. People stopping to read a map or check their sat-navs. Well, it could be argued that it’s safer than reading the map on the move…
  4. Two cars were found on the hard shoulder – with their owners nearby negotiating a deal to sell one of them. We’re all for meeting a buyer halfway, but on the hard shoulder of the M6 might be taking it a little too literally.
  5. What happens if you realise your car insurance policy is up for renewal? Shop around for the best quote, of course – as driving without insurance could land you in deep trouble. However, one person was so concerned about driving without insurance, they stopped on the hard shoulder and phoned around for quotes.
  6. Out for a motorbike ride with your mates? It’s nice to stop for a chat and a cup of tea occasionally, as well as to check the route. Maybe not a good idea to do it on the hard shoulder of the M1 though, like one group of bikers did.
  7. There must be a lot of waiting around if you’re a taxi driver covering airport runs. However, someone should tell the group of taxi drivers stopped on the M25 near Heathrow, that there are better places to wait for customers…
  8. If you’re a mobile phone operator it’s important to carry out signal tests to provide the best customer service you can. However, stopping at regular intervals along the motorway in your private car isn’t the best way of doing it.
  9. Why visit a garden centre when there are lots of nice flowers on the side of our motorways? One driver stopped on the hard shoulder to pick flowers.
  10. Sunny day? Taking your new born grandchild for a spin in your convertible? Why not stop on the hard shoulder to take a photograph of this special moment..? One couple did.