Highways Agency to crack down on hard shoulder abuse
Launched yesterday as a joint initiative between the Agency and the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG), the scheme will initially monitor use of the hard shoulder on motorways around Birmingham.
This area has been highlighted as a particular hotspot for hard shoulder misuse as the normally out-of-bounds lane is open to traffic at peak times only.
Police will increase patrols on the affected stretches, with motorists found to have stopped illegally likely to receive a warning letter and educational leaflet in the first instance.
However in cases of dangerous use of the hard shoulder, drivers may be issued with fines and face points on their licences.
There were 8,655 cases of drivers stopping on hard shoulders in non-emergency situations in 2012, with a variety of reasons given to Highways Agency officers.
Aside from stopping to spend a penny, motorists also stopped to take photographs and to pick flowers from embankments.
Stopping to sleep and breast-feed infants were also excuses given by drivers oblivious to the danger they were causing.
Amazingly, one driver also parked on the hard shoulder after realising his car insurance was about to expire, so he could ring around for quotes to get covered before moving on.
Prof Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation said: "Around one in 10 motorway fatalities occurs on the hard shoulder and accidents here tend to be most severe because of the killer combination of stationary vehicles being hit by those travelling at very high speeds."
Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, hammered home the message, saying: "Hard shoulders are dangerous places and are for real emergencies. The fact that some drivers actually choose to stop on them for trivial reasons or lack of forward planning is foolhardy and puts them and others at risk."