Smart motorway fines were originally introduced in 2019 and a lot has changed since then – not least, all plans for new smart motorways have been stopped indefinitely due to a lack of confidence felt by drivers as well as ongoing financial pressures in the country.
As things stand, the rules around driving and fines on Smart Motorways are as follows:
- Driving in a closed lane (marked with a red X) – the fine can be up to £100 as well as 3 penalty points on your licence. Repeat offenders may be subject to more severe penalties, which can also result in being summoned to court.
- Driving or stopping on the “hard shoulder” (which can also become a lane at any time) – you should only drive on what we’d normally call the hard shoulder when the lane is designated as open. Check the gantry signs for the red X or a blank screen. If either of these show, driving or stopping, even in an emergency, on the hard shoulder is prohibited. Fines for ignoring these rules are set at £100.
- Speeding – gantry signs show the speed limit above drivers’ heads on Smart Motorways, and these can change quickly to try and reduce accidents when there is congestion or incidents on the road. It’s very important that drivers’ keep an eye on these limits. Speeding fines will apply to anyone breaking the limit, which are currently set to £100 plus 3 points on your licence. Gov.uk have stated that there is a 60 second grace period for drivers when a speed limit changes on the gantry signs.
Many people continue to be concerned about the safety of smart motorways with variable speed limits and nowhere to stop in an emergency. 68% of people asked for the 2019 RAC Report on Motoring survey said they felt that safety was compromised with the removal of a hard shoulder, despite there being ‘Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs)’ positioned every 1.5 miles.
Original post written in 2019: The internet’s abuzz with the new Smart Motorway fines being introduced this month, but are they really the big problem that many seem to think they are?
Driving in Lanes marked with a Red X
New traffic cameras installed in the gantries overhead will now be able to monitor lanes that show closure signs (signified with a red X) and catch drivers using ANPR technology, removing the “if I’m not caught by a cop then I’ve got away with it” mentality for this offence. Whilst this was already an illegal act on the road, many would get away with it as they could only be fined if caught in the act by a traffic officer.
Research showed in March 2019 that almost a quarter of all drivers on the UK’s roads consistently ignore the road closure signs, which as a ballpark figure is at least 8.2 million drivers (working on the basis that 32.9 million people holding a full car driving licence in England alone, let alone foreign drivers). This may not seem like a large percentage, but when you look at the numbers and realise that could be 8.2 million drivers ignoring the fact a lane is closed, then that suddenly looks like more of a real problem.
So why do people ignore this signage?
This law has long frustrated drivers because of the speed with which the gantry markings change – so you could be driving in a lane marked as OK to use on one gantry, then on the next see a red X in your lane and have to move over quickly, which is not always safe to do. This can then cause further risk and accidents. Drivers now facing a certain fine for continuing in the lane marked closed may move over when it is not safe to avoid the penalty.
Many drivers also report that despite a closure sign being overhead, there is no clear indication why a lane is closed, and some signage remains live long after any incident in a lane has cleared. This is speculation however, and we would always recommend moving over as soon as it is safe to do so rather than banking on the signage being incorrect.
Ultimately, lane closures typically happen for a good reason – accidents, breakdowns and hazards in the road are top 3 of the top reasons. Preventing other drivers from driving headlong into such a situation is the goal, and if people ignore those warning signs and then become involved in a situation themselves, this causes not only problems for them but other road users too. By enforcing fines for all drivers, this should go a long way to reducing this risk and bringing subsequent road traffic issues down as well.
- When to use a hard shoulder
- Smart motorways – what are they and how do you use them?