Press release

Red X means don’t drive in that lane

Almost a third of road users do not know what to do when they see a Red X sign displayed, the Highways Agency’s 2014 National Road User Survey shows. Around one in twelve said they would stop if they saw a Red X.

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Almost a third of road users do not know what to do when they see a Red X sign displayed, the Highways Agency’s 2014 National Road User Survey shows. Around one in twelve said they would stop if they saw a Red X.

Ignoring or reacting inappropriately to a Red X is dangerous. It puts lives at risk and motorists could also find themselves being prosecuted by the police for breaking the law. This month (February), as part of the “Get smart, know your motorway” campaign, radio adverts are being aired across the country telling drivers what to do when they see a Red X.

radio adverts

Posters are also on display in motorway service areas, pointing people to the Highways Agency’s website to find out more about the Red X and its use on smart motorways.

A Red X sign is used to identify when a lane is closed and indicates that drivers should move into an open lane to continue their journeys. They are used on smart motorways and other major routes to help manage traffic and incidents effectively and efficiently.

Jamie Hassall, Highways Agency national enforcement co-ordinator, said:

It is pretty simple – if you see a Red X, don’t drive in that lane.

If you do, you could collide with a broken down vehicle, or with a traffic officer, emergency service crew or recovery operator working in that lane. Complying with the Red X, as most drivers do, means our traffic officers, road workers and emergency services can attend to incidents and reopen lanes more quickly. We urge all drivers to play their part in keeping our motorways flowing and safe by taking responsibility for their own safety and that of others.

In November last year, on the M25, a Red X sign was set over lane 1 for ten minutes to allow recovery of a broken down Light Goods Vehicle (LGV) - 145 vehicles were observed on CCTV failing to comply with the Red X and risking a collision with the stationary vehicle and the traffic officers recovering it.

Between January and November 2014, the Highways Agency asked 4,156 people (National Road User Survey) about the Red X sign; just over two-thirds (68 per cent) understood that a Red X means the lane beneath the sign is closed.

The survey also showed that a significant number of drivers do not understand the legal implications of driving through a Red X; with 39 per cent either not knowing it was against the law or thinking that it was not against the law. The Highways Agency is engaging with police services in England to promote the enforcement of Red X non-compliance through the use of mobile patrols. Hertfordshire Constabulary, Surrey Police and Kent Police are among those actively engaging in Red X enforcement.

An earlier AA-Populus poll of more than 19,000 AA members reinforces our message that there is a lack of understanding. The AA found that a third of drivers would continue in a Red X lane until they saw the reason for closure. Another third would move into an adjacent lane but then move back if the Red X lane appeared to be moving more quickly.

Edmund King, AA president, said:

When a vehicle is broken down in a live running lane the Red X is a potential life saver. Drivers who ignore the Red X are not only putting themselves and the lives of other motorists around them at risk but are also risking prosecution. While some motorists may feel a Red X is being incorrectly shown, this does not mean they can ignore them. A slight delay in their journey is nothing compared to the danger they are putting others in by ignoring these instructions which are critical to the safe operation of motorways.

This short animation highlights in shocking detail the potential consequences of ignoring a Red X:

short animation

Remember - never drive under a Red X, keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries, don’t drive on the hard shoulder unless directed otherwise, use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder, and always remember to put your hazard lights on if you break down.

Get smart, know your motorways.

Some of the roads where Red Xs are used:

  • M1 J10 to J13 (East of England)
  • M1 J6a to J10 (East of England)
  • M4 J19 to J20 and M5 J15 to J17 (South West)
  • M42 J3a to J7 (W Midlands)
  • M6 J5 to J8 (W Midlands)
  • M6 J8 to J10a (W Midlands)
  • M42 J7 to J9 (Midlands)
  • M6 J4 to J5 (Midlands)
  • M1 J25 to J28 (E Midlands)
  • M62 J25 to J30 (West Yorkshire)
  • M25 J23 to J27 (South East)
  • M25 J5 to J7 (South East)
  • M20 J4 to J7 (South East)
  • M25 J10 to J16 (South East)
  • M25 J16 to J23 (South East)
  • M25 J2 to J3 (South East)
  • M25 J27 to J30 (South East)
  • M25 J7 to J8 (South East)
  • M25 J8 to J10 (South East)
  • A3 Hindhead Tunnel (South East)

General enquiries

Members of the public should contact the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000.

Media enquiries

Journalists should contact the Highways Agency press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.

Published 12 February 2015