Smart Motorway safety scheme launches in West Yorkshire

Efforts to improve ‘red X’ compliance on Smart Motorways are being stepped up in Yorkshire with the launch of a new safety initiative by Highways England and West Yorkshire Police.

The initiative sees a red X response vehicle – equipped with automatic number plate recognition cameras – deployed in the event of an incident to capture images of vehicles driving in a closed lane. The vehicle will attend breakdowns and accidents on sections of Smart Motorway on the M1 between Wakefield and Leeds and on the M62 between Brighouse and Rothwell, where lane closures are indicated by a red X on electronic signs over the road. Letters will be sent from West Yorkshire Police to drivers caught in non-compliance with the red X. These will advise motorists about the safety risks of driving in a closed lane where traffic officers and emergency services may be working ahead. Highways England operations manager Rob Beckitt said: “A red X above a lane indicates it is closed because of a breakdown or accident. It is used to keep drivers, our traffic officers and the emergency services safe.

“Hopefully our initiative will raise awareness of the red X sign, and protect people driving and working on our motorways.”

Sergeant Gary Roper of West Yorkshire Police added: “The increasing number of vehicles on the roads combined with the new Smart Motorways that have recently opened in our region mean that compliance with Red X signals is an important part of road safety.

“This initiative provides the opportunity to educate those drivers who contravene the Red X signals, however it should be noted that prosecution remains an option for those drivers who continue to ignore the Red X sign.”

A similar awareness event was carried out on the M25 in 2013/14. More than 700 letters were issued and just 4% of those identified were spotted travelling under a red X again. The latest initiative in West Yorkshire comes following a report from the Transport Select Committee over the summer which expressed concern about the “worryingly high” levels of non-compliance with red X signals. “Levels of public awareness and confidence about using these motorway schemes are unacceptably low,” commented the committee chair Louse Ellman MP.