Drivers are putting lives at risk by performing thousands of lethal motorway manoeuvres every year, a shocking new investigation has revealed.
Police forces revealed they had punished almost 18,000 dangerous driving offences on motorways in the past five and a half years, catching motorists making U-turns, driving the wrong way on slip roads, stopping in live lanes and using the driving in the hard shoulder.
The most common offence is making an unnecessary stop on a hard shoulder or emergency refuge area; officers issued 6,821 tickets for this between 2016 and mid 2021.
More worrying is that 165 people were caught driving in the wrong direction on a motorway and 270 reprimanded having been caught reversing against the flow of traffic.
Motorway madness: A new investigation has revealed that almost 18,000 offences have been recorded for motorway-specific rule infringements in the UK, including shocking errors such as driving the wrong way along carriageways and reversing on slip roads
The jaw-dropping number of cases of motorists making alarming decision on the nation’s network of fastest-moving roads has been uncovered by motoring title, Auto Express.
It contacted all 43 police for in the UK with 28 responding to say they had issued at least 17,775 tickets for dangerous motorway antics between 2016 and May 2021.
Some constabularies weren’t able to provide statistics because they either hadn’t collated all the data together or they had no motorways in the areas that they police.
The most common offence are for incorrect use of hard shoulders and refuge areas and stopping on grass verges and central reservations – usually for drivers pulling over for breaks, to answer phone calls or for themselves or passengers to relieve themselves.
With the inception of ‘smart’ motorways, which have been under the scope following a series of avoidable deaths, some forces reported a worrying number of drivers ignoring specific rules for these types of routes too.
Some 165 people were caught driving in the wrong direction on a motorway in the UK between 2016 and May 2021, Auto Express revealed
Essex Police and Avon and Somerset Police told Auto Express it had issued thousands of penalties for ‘Red X’ offences committed by drivers travelling in closed motorway lanes, which is an offence punishable by three points and a fine of £100 since 2019.
More lethal infractions occurred in smaller numbers, though numbers were far higher than you might expect.
Major offences recorded by police forces between 2016 and 2021
Drive wrong way on motorway: 165
Drive wrong way on slip road: 204
Reverse on motorway: 270
Make a U-turn on motorway: 82
Driver on hard shoulder/refuge area: 2,645
Stop in a live lane: 304
Illegal stop on hard shoulder/refuge area: 6,821
Drive/stop vehicle on motorway central reservation/verge: 837
Drive a vehicle other than on motorway carriageway: 948
Pedestrian on motorway: 469
Learner illegally on motorway*: 514
*Learners have been allowed to have lessons on motorways since June 2018, but must be accompanied by an approved instructor in a dual-control car
Source: Data supplied to Auto Express by 28 UK police forces
For instance, a total of 165 people were caught by police driving the wrong way on a motorway since 2016, while 204 motorists received tickets for driving the wrong way on slip roads and 82 were reprimanded for attempting to make U-turns.
And while learner drivers have been allowed on motorways with an approved driving instructor in a dual-control car since 2018, 514 learners were ticketed for either breaching these rules, or because they were on a motorway prior to 2018.
The figures show that it isn’t just drivers who are breaching motorway rules.
Police forces reported that 469 pedestrians in the last five and a half years have been caught walking along motorways, and three penalties were issued by one force to drivers not controlling animals in cars as they travelled on the 70mph routes.
Most of the motorway-specific offences are punishable by three penalty points and a £100 fine, but illegally stopping on the hard shoulder and refuge area carries a non-endorsable, £30 penalty, explains Hugo Griffiths, consumer editor at Auto Express.
Commenting on the investigation, he said: ‘Much of the recent focus on motorways has been around smart motorways, but we rarely discuss the key factor that determines how safe our roads are: driver behaviour.
‘Almost every collision is caused by human error, and while this can never be eliminated, it is difficult to fathom the thought processes that cause people to make a U-turn on a motorway.’
Griffiths adds that despite the growing concerns for the wider roll-out of smart motorways, motorists need to improve their driving behaviour on the fastest-moving roads in Britain.
‘We can blame inanimate stretches of asphalt and concrete for collisions as much as we like, but the uncomfortable truth is that the real fault lies with our own behaviour,’ he said.
This is Money has approached Highways England, the government department responsible for all motorways in the country, for comment.
Figures are based on stats supplied by 28 UK police forces. They said drivers stopping in hard shoulders and refuge areas for non-emergencies was the most common motorway-specific offence
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