Press release

Red X safety initiative launched in West Yorkshire

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A new safety initiative warning drivers that they could be putting themselves and others at risk if they drive under a red X sign on a motorway is being launched in West Yorkshire.

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A red X response vehicle carrying automatic number plate recognition cameras, is being used as part of the joint initiative between Highways England and West Yorkshire Police to raise awareness and improve compliance and safety.

The initiative is part of Highways England’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness about smart motorways. CCTV footage has also been released showing an incident on the M1 near Wakefield where a van narrowly avoided striking a worker and a stationary vehicle when it travelled in a closed lane with a red X above.

You can watch the video on our YouTube channel

A red X is used on all smart motorways to close a lane when there has been a breakdown or accident. The closure is in place for the safety of drivers and also Highways England’s traffic officers and emergency services that may be working in the lanes ahead.

The red X response vehicle being used in West Yorkshire will attend incidents on the M1 between junctions 39 (Wakefield) and 42 (Leeds), and on the M62 between junctions 25 (Brighouse) to 30 (Rothwell) capturing images of vehicles driving in a closed lane.

Letters will then be sent from West Yorkshire Police to drivers who did not comply with the red X to advise them about the risks to safety. A similar awareness event was carried out on the M25 back in 2013/14. More than 700 letters were issued and only 4% of those identified were spotted travelling under a red X again.

Highways England’s operations manager Rob Beckitt said:

A red X above a lane indicates it is closed because of a breakdown or accident. It is used to keep drivers, our traffic officers and the emergency services safe.

By ignoring these signs and continuing to drive in the lanes, you are putting yourself and everybody else at risk of danger. Hopefully our initiative will raise awareness of the red X sign, and protect people driving and working on our motorways.

Sergeant Gary Roper of West Yorkshire Police said:

West Yorkshire Police is committed to working with our partner agencies to improve road safety.

The increasing number of vehicles on the roads combined with the new smart motorways that have recently opened in our region mean that compliance with Red X signals is an important part of road safety.

This initiative provides the opportunity to educate those drivers who contravene the Red X signals, however it should be noted that prosecution remains an option for those drivers who continue to ignore the Red X sign.

A 7 mile stretch of smart motorway on the M1 between junctions 39 and 42 near Wakefield went live back in February. The hard shoulder has been permanently converted to an extra lane and variable speed limits are used to keep traffic moving.

A recent study also found that the smart motorway on the M62 between junctions 25 and 30 is saving commuters an average of 30 minutes a week since it opened back in 2013.

Drivers are being encouraged to find out more about driving on a smart motorway. Highways England’s top tips are:

  • never drive in a lane closed by a Red “X” – the sign is there to protect road users or road workers in the lane ahead; you will put them at risk of danger if you drive in the lane
  • all speed limits displayed in red rings are legally enforceable
  • a solid white line indicates the hard shoulder - don’t drive in it unless directed
  • a broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • if you have a problem with your vehicle, eg a warning light comes on, exit the smart motorway as soon as possible, at the next slip road or at a service area
  • use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • if you break down put your hazard lights on, use your mobile to call the police on 999 and tell the operator you’re on the motorway
  • if you stop in the nearside lane, leave your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door if it is safe to do so and wait behind the safety barrier, if there is one; if you are unable to move over to the nearside lane, remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on
  • if you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone provided in all emergency refuge areas; if it is not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, then you should stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on and dial ‘999’ if you have access to a working mobile phone

General enquiries

Members of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.

Media enquiries

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

Published 13 September 2016