UK National Highways launches Red X awareness campaign


National Highways has launched a ‘Red X’ campaign in a bid to boost driver knowledge of smart motorway signs.

Its ‘Don’t ignore the Red X’ message is aimed at all motorists that use the strategic road network, in particular those that travel on motorways without hard shoulders. This comes ahead of a network-wide roll-out of cameras specially designed to detect those flouting the rules.

The government-owned company is determined to improve the concerning fact that only 60% of motorists are aware of red X camera auto-detection, as found in its spring 2020 motorways campaign evaluation.

Obeying the red X sign is key to maintaining safety on motorways. The technology warns of a closed lane, either to protect drivers in difficulty, or when road workers and emergency services need a space to work. Drivers must avoid closed red X lanes.

While most respect the red X signal with compliance at 98%, those who don’t put all road users in danger, with non-compliance still accounting for thousands of offences.

Some 97% of drivers recognize the correct behaviors, while only a few say they would wait to see what the problem is before moving out of a closed lane. A total of 75% agree it is illegal to drive in red X lanes, with a good base knowledge of fines, but a minority are still confused around the legal side.

It’s within drivers’ best interest to comply with red X rules for safety first and foremost, but also to avoid being penalized. National Highways is introducing technology across the motorway network that can automatically detect and record vehicles driving in lanes closed by red X signs, with network-wide enforcement by spring 2022.

This comes as part of the upgrade to the smart motorway traffic management system, and will enable police to enforce compliance remotely across the country.

In March, The Times discovered that around half of smart motorway safety cameras can’t enforce red X closed-lane signs.

National Highways has run eight Red X awareness campaigns since 2016, with the March 2020 campaign withdrawn prematurely due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone caught driving in a red X lane could face fines of up to £100 (US$133) and three points, and in some cases more severe penalties or a court appearance. To drive safely and obey the red X and all signals correctly, follow these steps issued by National Highways.

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Lauren is a regular contributor to Traffic Technology International (TTi) and a freelance technical journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum to two busy little girls. She is always in demand!