Hard shoulder safety

Drivers must shoulder responsibility for Motorway misuse

Drivers must shoulder responsibility for Motorway misuse

Drivers must shoulder responsibility for Motorway misuse

With millions of drivers expected to hit the road over the Easter weekend, AA research shows that around a quarter of them have potentially endangered their lives unnecessarily by stopping on the hard shoulder in a non-emergency.

Since 2000, 836 people* on average in the UK have been killed or injured each year in incidents on hard shoulders and lay-bys.

An AA-Populus poll of 18,806 AA members** established why people make non-emergency stops on the motorway.

Excuses

Illness or toilet breaks (both 5%) were the most common excuses, followed by running out of fuel (4%), reading a map (2%) and making a non-emergency phone call (1%).

  • More than 800 people killed or injured each year on hard shoulders and lay-bys
  • 24% of drivers have risked their life unnecessarily by non-emergency use of hard shoulder
  • Illness, toilet breaks and running out of fuel most common excuses
  • Non-emergency use of hard shoulder incurs up to £100 fine and three points

Overall, 56 per cent (59% men; 48% women) of respondents have stopped on the motorway hard shoulder at some point, particularly those in North-west England (64%) ahead of South-east England (60%).

Just over a third (34%) had to pull over due to a mechanical breakdown and a further fifth (21%) due to a puncture or tyre damage.

What to do if you break down

Breakdown advice

Excuses for non-emergency/avoidable use of the hard shoulder

  • Driver or passenger had to go to the loo - 5%
  • Driver or passenger was ill e.g. travel sickness - 5%
  • Run out of fuel - 4%
  • Reading a map - 2%
  • Driver needed a rest - 1%
  • Non-emergency phone call - 1%
  • Problem with a pet or animal being carried in car/trailer - 1%
  • Other - 5%
  • Total - 24%

You should only stop if it is a genuine emergency and have no choice – it really is the last resort.

Mark Spowage, AA patrol of the year

Hard shoulder perils

Mark Spowage, AA patrol of the year, says: “The hard shoulder is a highly dangerous place with vehicles thundering past just feet away but some people don’t fully appreciate the risks involved in stopping on it.

“Most weeks we have incidents where a member’s car is struck while on the hard shoulder and it seems to be an increasing issue, which is a serious concern. Thankfully most people heed the safety advice and get out of the car and behind the barrier before calling for assistance.

“You should only stop if it is a genuine emergency and have no choice – it really is the last resort.

"It’s best to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway rather than stopping on the hard shoulder, even in the event of a breakdown. For example, if your car has an amber warning light, it’s fine to continue to the next exit; and, likewise, say you get a puncture or an alert from your car’s tyre pressure monitoring system, it’s better to risk having to shell out for a new tyre than be a sitting duck on the hard shoulder."

If you are forced to stop, safety is paramount, so exit the vehicle on the left, get far away from your vehicle and behind the barrier and then call for assistance

Mark Spowage, AA patrol of the year

Penalty

If you stop for any other reason, you could be fined up to £100 and receive three penalty points, as well as potentially putting your life at risk. No phone call or loo stop is worth it.”

Exit to the left

Mark Spowage continues: “If you are forced to stop, safety is paramount, so exit the vehicle on the left, get far away from your vehicle and behind the barrier (if one is present) and then call for assistance – it’s just not safe to remain in the vehicle. If you’re unsure where you are,  look for the blue location signs or the AA app can use your smartphone’s GPS to pinpoint your location, which can be sent to the AA’s operational centre.”

The AA app

In addition to being able to report and track a breakdown, the free AA app includes the AA route planner and traffic data, as well as vehicle reminders for MOT, tax, insurance and service dates. Enhanced features include a fuel price checker, parking-space finder and dashboard warning light information.

To mark the development of the app, members who download and sign in or update their existing version of The AA app before 30 April 2015 will be in with a chance of winning a new Volkswagen Golf GTI***.

The AA app is available for iPhone on the ‘App Store’ and for Android smartphones on ‘Google play’.

Highway Code

The Highway Code (rule 270) states that you must not stop on the carriageway, hard shoulder, slip road, central reservation or verge except in an emergency, or when told to do by the police, Highways Agency traffic officers in uniform, an emergency sign or by flashing red light signals.

Inappropriate use of the hard shoulder is an offence under motorway traffic regulations and incurs up to a £100 fine and three penalty points.

AA-Populus research

Reasons for stopping on a motorway hard shoulder:

  • Car broke down - 34%
  • Puncture or tyre damage - 21%
  • Driver or passenger had to go to the loo - 5%
  • Driver or passenger was ill e.g. travel sickness - 5%
  • Stopped to help someone - 5%
  • Run out of fuel - 4%
  • Emergency phone call - 2%
  • Reading a map - 2%
  • Caravan or trailer being towed failed - 1%
  • Driver needed a rest - 1%
  • Non-emergency phone call - 1%
  • Problem with a pet or animal being carried in car/trailer - 1%
  • Other - 5%
  • Never stopped on a motorway hard shoulder - 44%

(26 March 2015)

* Source: Department for Transport STATS19. Average total for motorways and other roads.

** 18,806 adults, aged 18+, responded to the AA-Populus online panel between 19-27 January 2015. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

*** Full terms and conditions available online