HUNDREDS of drivers ignore motorway lane closure signals during every traffic incident in Surrey – putting lives at risk, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.
Lisa Townsend, who last week visited officials at the Department for Transport after taking on a major national role for transport safety, hit out at motorists who continue to drive in lanes marked with a red cross.
Crosses are clearly marked on smart motorway gantries when part of the carriageway is closed. Such a closure might take place if a car has broken down or a crash has been reported.
If a driver sees a red cross illuminated, they must carefully move into another lane.
Variable speed limits are often also disregarded by some drivers. Different limits are imposed based on a variety of factors, including heavy traffic, roadworks or an upcoming obstruction.
Lisa, who is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner’s new lead for roads policing and transport, said: “Both the red cross sign and variable limits are absolutely essential when it comes to keeping drivers safe on motorways.
“Most drivers respect these signals, but there are some who choose to ignore them. By doing so, they put themselves and others at huge risk.
“Not only is it illegal to drive in this way, it’s very dangerous. If you’re caught speeding or driving in a closed lane by either our Roads Policing Unit or Vanguard Road Safety Team, or by an enforcement camera, the best you can expect is a fixed penalty notice of up to £100 and three points on your licence.
“The police also have the option to impose harsher penalties, and the driver could even be charged and taken to court.”
Dan Quin, lead for transportation at the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “Red cross signals are there to indicate when a lane is closed.
“When used in the event of emergencies, they provide invaluable access to the scene of an incident, preventing time lost in negotiating the build-up of traffic.
“Red cross signals also provide safety for workers while on the road, including emergency services and the public, by reducing the risk of further collisions.
“Ignoring Red cross signals is dangerous, it is an offence and all road users have a role to play in complying with them.”
All police forces have been able to use enforcement cameras to prosecute drivers who illegally pass under a red cross sign since September last year.
Surrey Police was one of the first forces to prosecute drivers caught by cameras, and has been doing so since November 2019.
Since then, it has issued more than 9,400 notices of intended prosecution, and almost 5,000 drivers have attended safety awareness courses. Others have paid a fine or appeared in court.