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Picking flowersA recent report from the Highways Agency has highlighted some truly ridiculous reasons for stopping on the hard shoulder – which is illegal if not for an emergency – including stopping to pick flowers.

Agency data shows that between July and September last year, 334 drivers in the East region stopped on the hard shoulder when there was no emergency.

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. We recently reported on the £208 million Highways Agency motorway scheme in Manchester that will be switching to the smart motorway system.

Bedfordshire Police has warned drivers could face a fine and points on their licence, as driving on the hard shoulder is illegal and unsafe.

Inspector Simon Hood, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit, said: “There are many reasons as to why a red X would appear above a lane but when people drive in the lane they should consider that they may well be putting themselves or others in danger and could well be slowing our response to an incident. Driving in a ‘closed’ lane also carries a maximum financial penalty of £1000 and drivers can be disqualified from driving.”

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

  • 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 halfway 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.
  • A group of motorcyclists parked on the hard shoulder on the M1 to review their route and have a drink.
  • Taxi drivers were 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 was carrying out signal tests on the hard shoulder.
  • A driver who stopped to pick flowers.
  • When asked: “Have you broken down Sir?” The reply was: “No, we are taking pictures of our new born grandchild as it is a lovely day.”

For more information on safe summer driving and smart motorways visit

The Highways Agency have also released this video about the dangers of driving under a red X sign, which is displayed when the lane ahead is closed – also illegal.