Wheeler-dealers trading cars, people picking flowers, and a driver who thought the “fire” notification on their dashboard display meant their car was ablaze – instead of the name of the Adele track they were listening to.

These are just some of the reasons Highways Agency Traffic Officers were given by drivers who had stopped illegally on the hard shoulder of motorways. [See below for 10 of the most inappropriate reasons.] It is illegal to stop on a hard shoulder if there is no emergency.

Agency data shows that between July and September last year 234 drivers in the South East stopped on the hard shoulder when there was no emergency. It is also illegal to drive under a red X sign which is displayed when the lane ahead is closed.

Today the Agency is urging drivers to drive within the law.

Jamie Hassall, Highways Agency national enforcement co-ordinator, said: “Every day, millions of people use our motorways. Most of them use the hard shoulder correctly and don’t ignore red X’s, but we are appealing to the few who put themselves, other road users, and those working on motorways at risk.

“Where the hard shoulder is used as an additional traffic lane at peak times, you can only drive on it if there is a speed limit over it. When a red X is displayed over any lane, it’s simple – don’t drive on it.”

The government is investing record amounts in roads, which includes making motorways ‘smarter’ by upgrading the most congested sections.

A smart motorway is a section of motorway with additional technology to actively manage traffic to improve journeys. Smart motorways tell drivers what speed to drive at, when the hard shoulder is open to traffic and when lanes are closed by showing a red X.

Acting Inspector David Vale, from Surrey Police’s Roads Policing Unit, said: “Safety on the roads is our priority – our units actively target and combat inappropriate behaviour on the motorways that puts the safety of road users at risk.

“Officers routinely stop and assist road users who are on the hard-shoulder, which is a dangerous and vulnerable location, for a variety of reasons – this includes people stopping on the hard shoulder for non-emergency situations. The penalty for which can range from drivers being given words of advice or being issued with a £30.00 fixed penalty ticket. Unless it’s an emergency situation drivers should not stop on the hard should but should continue their journey and take the next exit off the motorway if they wish to pull over.

“Similarly, I urge all road users to stay alert and take note of motorway signals  – they are used to warn you of a danger ahead. Take action if you see a red X – the lane underneath a flashing red X is closed and you must not proceed past the sign in that lane.

“Lanes may be closed to protect anyone on the road, such as the emergency services, highway workers as well as other road users. There also could be an incident up ahead or fog, a spillage or debris on the carriageway which you may not immediately be able to see.

“Failure to obey the sign is also a criminal offence. It can result in the driver receiving three points on their licence and a £100 fine.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), as part of this summer’s ‘Motorway Month’, echoes these calls and is encouraging drivers to be prepared before they head out this summer.

IAM’s top advanced driver, Peter Rodger, said: “Taking some steps to prepare yourself and your vehicle before setting off on your much-deserved summer break will mean you’ll have a far more enjoyable time getting there.”

Drivers can reduce the risk of their vehicle breaking down by keeping it well maintained and being prepared before they travel – knowing your route, having enough fuel and safe tyres. Some of the most common recorded reasons for breakdowns are tyre related, electrical or mechanical fault, fuel related, overheating and loss of power.

Ten of the most inappropriate reasons given to our traffic officers by drivers who have stopped on the hard shoulder in a non-emergency situation are:

  • One motorist pulled over because they saw fire” on their dashboard display, it later turned out it was the name of the Adele track they were listening to.
  • One motorist parked up and fell asleep on the M6.
  • People stopping to read a map or check their sat-navs.
  • Traffic officers stopped with two cars on the hard shoulder – the owners were half way through the selling and buying process for one of the cars.
  • One driver realised their car insurance policy was up for renewal – they were ringing around for quotes to renew.
  • Parents feeding children.
  • Taxi drivers waiting on the hard shoulder around Heathrow airport for their client’s flights to arrive.
  • A mobile phone operator, stopping at regular intervals in their private car carrying out signal tests on the hard shoulder.
  • A driver who stopped to pick flowers.
  • Have you broken down Sir? No, came the reply, we are taking pictures of our new born grandchild (in their open top sports car) as it is a lovely day.

For more information on safe summer driving and smart motorways visit www.highways.gov.uk/summer

Polly has almost 20 years in the media industry. As Editor of Andover and Villages, she strives to bring the latest and greatest news with a minutes notice. Polly can be contacted via editor@andoverandvillages.co.uk or alternatively called at