Motorway hard shoulder safety

Motorists Caught Short on the Hard Shoulder

More than half of UK motorists (52%) are putting themselves at risk by using the motorway's hard shoulder for non-emergency reasons, according to new research by the AA.

With Department for Transport figures (2005) showing that around 170 deaths and serious injuries are caused each year by collisions with vehicles parked on the hard shoulder, the AA is reminding drivers that the hard shoulder should only be used in the event of a breakdown or emergency.

Common reasons for stopping

The AA's research highlighted the fact that nearly one-fifth of motorists (17%) are still unaware of the proper use of hard shoulders. The Top Six reasons cited for pulling onto the hard shoulder were:

  1. 'Taking a toilet break' (14%)
  2. Checking directions (13%)
  3. Using a mobile phone (11%)
  4. Attending to children (11%)
  5. Waiting for another car when travelling in convoy (11%)
  6. Retrieving something from the boot (7%)

Many will continue to take risks

The AA's research has also revealed that a major change in driver behaviour is needed as many respondents said they would continue to use the hard shoulder for non-emergency reasons – leaving them at risk of being hit by fast-moving oncoming traffic:

  • Half (50%) admitted they would pull over if a passenger was car sick.
  • Over one-third (34%) would stop on the hard shoulder to go to the toilet.
  • One-in-five (21%) would stop to use their phone.
  • 17% would stop if they were lost to check directions.

Nick Evers, AA Patrol, said: "You wouldn't believe some of the things we see regularly on motorway hard shoulders: I've lost count of the amount of people I've spotted who have stopped to use their phone or go to the toilet. We've even seen a couple with their camping table and chairs out, having lunch on the hard shoulder!"

AA advice for drivers

  • Always exit your vehicles from the left-hand door where possible.
  • If you do have to use the driver's side, be alert for oncoming traffic and only get out when the road is clear.
  • Wait for help well away from your vehicle. It is safest on the verge, behind a crash barrier, or on the embankment away from your car and the road.
  • Don't attempt any repairs on the hard shoulder.
  • For any other non-emergency reason, always try to drive on to the next service station.

If caught stopping on the hard shoulder, unless in an emergency, drivers will receive a £30 fine. If caught driving on the hard shoulder illegally, drivers will be fined £60 and three penalty points on their licence.

With the first May bank holiday on Monday 7 May, the warmer weather is expected to result in an extra 20% of cars on UK motorways this weekend as people plan trips to the coast and days out. Monday will be the busiest day as people will be returning home.


01 May 2007

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 650 motorists by telephone in April 2007. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.