By making thousands of dangerous decisions on UK motorways each year, drivers are putting lives on the line, new data suggests.
It was revealed by a survey of 28 police forces in England and Wales that at least 17,775 tickets have been issued over the past five and a half years.
Offences range from making U-turns on motorways and driving the wrong way on slip roads, to stopping in live lanes and driving on hard shoulders.
The most common offence is making an unnecessary stop on a hard shoulder or emergency refuge area, with 6,821 tickets issued for this between 2016 and mid-2021, according to Auto Express.
According to Essex Police and Avon and Somerset Police, thousands of ‘Red X’ offences were logged, committed by drivers travelling in closed motorway lanes – an offence since 2019’s launch of new smart motorway rules.
The controversial smart motorways have previously been labelled ‘death traps’ by ome, following a string of fatal accidents.
In other areas, a total of 165 people have been caught driving the wrong way on a motorway since 2016, with 204 driving the wrong way on slip roads, and 82 ticketed for making U-turns on motorways.
Since 2018, learner drivers have been allowed on motorways with an approved driving instructor in a dual-control car. But 514 learners were stopped for breaching these rules prior to that, the motoring magazine reports.
“Much of the recent focus on motorways has been around smart motorways, but we rarely discuss the key factor that determines how safe our roads are: driver behaviour,” states Auto Express consumer editor, Hugo Griffiths.
“Almost every collision is caused by human error, and while this can never be eliminated, it is difficult to fathom the thought processes that cause people to make a U-turn on a motorway.
“Little will change until we can move away from heated debate around motorways, and realise it is only by improving driver behaviour, however that occurs, that safety will be improved.
“We can blame inanimate stretches of asphalt and concrete for collisions as much as we like, but the uncomfortable truth is that the real fault lies with our own behaviour.”
The data also revealed that 469 pedestrians have been caught walking along motorways since 2016, while three penalties have been issued by one force to drivers not controlling animals in cars on motorways.
The majority of the motorway-specific offences unearthed in the investigation are punishable by three penalty points and a £100 fine. However, illegally stopping on the hard shoulder and refuge area carries a non-endorsable £30 penalty.
28 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales who were contacted for the investigation shared data for the start of 2016 to May 2021.