25 percent of drivers drive through smart motorway red ‘X’ signs

Rex X smart motorways

New RAC statistics show that 25 percent of members have driven under red ‘X’ signs on smart motorways – and the figures for the rest of us could be even worse. This comes from a survey of 2,093 members of the RAC Opinion Panel.

If you didn’t know, that red ‘X’ is there to tell you that the lane is closed due to an obstruction in the road. Yes, that could be a dead car, lorry, a person, or anything, really. You should not drive in the lane.

Fortunately, one in four of us aren’t heinous criminals with a disregard for our own or the lives of others. As many as 19 percent of the 25 percent figure is made up of those who have done so accidentally on a rare occasion. Just one percent of people do it by accident regularly and three percent of us are those dissenting rebels that disregard the motorway signage deliberately, albeit only on occasion.

Ignorance is no excuse either, given that 99 percent of those who said they have driven through it, know exactly what it means.

Non-RAC member figures could be even worse…

Worryingly, as many as 48 percent of respondents said that they regularly see people driving in closed-off lanes. Though from the point of view of the observer, you can’t tell whether it’s unawareness or blatant disregard. As many as 36 percent of people said they see it occasionally, while just seven percent say they do not see drivers disregarding the red ‘X’.

Could the RAC figures be lower compared to the population at large? If so many are seeing other drivers doing it, perhaps the figure only reflects well on RAC members by comparison to the rest of us…

Rex X smart motorways

“Red X signs, which denote when lanes are closed, are paramount in safety terms as any stricken driver who has not managed to reach an SOS area is at tremendous risk of being involved in a collision with vehicles that ignore them,” said RAC spokesperson Simon Williams.

“It is also extremely dangerous if road workers or emergency service staff are attending to [an] incident in the road. Highway Code rule 258 is explicit: ‘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’.

“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.”

How do we stop it?

“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.”