A recent investigation uncovers a troubling reality as thousands of drivers annually make fundamental, and at times life-threatening, errors on the fastest-moving roads in the United Kingdom. Shocking new figures lay bare the alarming number of motorists committing offences that defy belief while driving on the nation's high-speed roadways.
Conducted by the motoring publication Auto Express, the investigation reveals that almost 18,000 motorway-specific rule infringements were documented from the beginning of 2016 to the end of May in the current year. These statistics are derived from data provided by police forces across the country.
The most prevalent offence identified was the unnecessary stop on the hard shoulder or in a refuge area, resulting in 6,821 penalties issued. However, the five-year period saw officers dealing with a range of far more serious errors in judgment.
Reversing Along a Motorway
During this time frame, there were a staggering 165 instances of motorists caught driving in the wrong direction on a motorway. Another 204 committed the same offence on a slip road. To compound matters, 270 drivers were reprimanded for reversing along a carriageway.
A rapid calculation reveals that, on average, a case of a car being driven against the flow of traffic on a motorway occurs once every three days in the UK. Furthermore, 948 motorists were found driving on a section "other than a motorway carriageway," including those attempting risky manoeuvres like crossing painted chevrons at junctions.
Other notable violations included 837 instances of parking on a central reservation or grass verge without valid reasons and 82 cases of attempting a U-turn on a motorway.
The penalties for these motorway-specific offences typically include three penalty points and a £100 fine, with the exception of illegally stopping on the hard shoulder or in a refuge area, which incurs a non-endorsable £30 penalty.
Police Force Data
A leading car magazine reached out to all 43 UK police forces as part of the investigation, with 28 responding, reporting a total of at least 17,775 tickets issued for dangerous motorway behaviours in the given period. Some forces were unable to provide statistics, either due to data collection issues or the absence of motorways in their patrolled areas.
In light of the increasing prevalence of "smart" motorways, certain police forces highlighted the substantial number of drivers disregarding specific rules for this type of route. Notably, Essex Police and Avon & Somerset Police reported issuing numerous penalties for "Red X" offences by drivers in closed motorway lanes.
Hugo Griffiths, Auto Express consumer editor, emphasized the significance of driver behaviour in road safety. He noted that while the focus often centres on smart motorways, improving driving behaviour is crucial. Edmund King, president of the AA, concurred, stating that the reported instances are likely just the tip of the iceberg, with underfunded traffic police unable to catch numerous offences.
Despite the ongoing debate surrounding smart motorways, the emphasis remains on improving driving behaviour. Highways England, responsible for motorways in England, emphasised collaboration with road safety partners to promote safe driving messages and affirmed that those engaging in high-risk behaviours will face enforcement action.