Changes in the Highway Code issue new instructions on how to behave on the road

The update of traffic rules makes drivers pay more attention to road signs

Summary

Changes to the Highway Code have been made with regard to the latest laws covering lane closures on the major roads of Great Britain.

The Code includes the main rules and information about drivers’ legal obligations and advice on safe and careful driving.

The latest updates were made on the basis of legislation covering the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (2016). This chapter is devoted to the explanation of why road signs appear on the road and with what goal it happens.

Smart motorways

New alterations to the Code explain to drivers how they should behave when they see the red X symbol. The last one can be met on central reservation signs as well as smart motorway overhead gantries with the purpose to warn about lane closure.

The Code has been extended with Rule 258 telling the following:

“Red flashing lights. If red lights flash on a signal and a red “X” is showing, you MUST NOT drive in the lane shown as closed beyond the signal. This applies until you pass another signal indicating that the lane is no longer closed, by displaying the word “End” or a speed limit sign and you are sure that it is safe to proceed.

"Red flashing lights. If red lights flash on a signal in the central reservation or on the side of the road and lane closed sign is showing, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in any lane.”

Punishment

It is possible to meet red X signs on the motorways covering the distance of 300 miles and having no hard shoulder (the last one can be transformed into an additional traffic lane too).

Authorized bodies can activate them from a certain distance to close the lane that was damaged or faced an accident. However, many drivers do not pay attention to them and have to undertake urgent actions to pass by the obstruction safely.

Since the Code uses ‘MUST NOT’ words, it means that drivers are obliged to follow these rules and can be punished for violating them.

The official fine to pay by drivers who ignored a red X symbol is estimated at £100.

Before these changes were made to the Code, it was necessary for the police to catch a driver in the act to be eligible for fining him or her, but the situation was changed on June, 10 when police were allowed to use footage from gantry cameras for identification of offenders and fine them immediately.

Controversy

The introduction of smart motorways has led to the appearance of a certain controversy. It has become possible to transform the hard shoulder into an additional regular lane temporarily or permanently. According to the supporters of these changes, the capacity of roads increases and its congestion eases with minimum investment.

According to Matt Pates, a manager of the East Midlands division of Highways England, the necessity of hard shoulders is not that important as it was earlier since modern vehicles feature greater reliability than old ones.

His viewpoint is that modern motorways are much safer if there are no hard shoulders since he calls the last ones “inhospitable” for car drivers, who have already got accustomed to warning others in case of breakdown.

At the same time, some critics state that the safety of drivers who have to stop in some emergency situations is put at stake without such a lane. Moreover, the absence of the hard shoulder on the motorways may lead to difficulties for emergency transportation to pass by the traffic in case of the accident.

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