Motorists 'misusing' M6 and M42 hard shoulders could be fined

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Motorists could be fined for misusing the hard shoulder, the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) has said.

The lanes are open to traffic at peak times on sections of the M6 and M42 as a way of easing congestion.

But dozens of drivers have been seen illegally using the hard shoulders by driving along them at times when it is for emergency use only, CMPG said.

Lanes will be monitored on junctions four, five, eight and 10a on the M6, and 3a to seven on the M42.

'Real emergency'

Motorists will firstly be sent a warning letter if they have wrongly used the lane, with repeat offenders fined £60 and issued penalty points, CPMG said.

Taking photos and picking flowers have been used as excuses for stopping, the spokesman added.

A traffic management programme from junctions eight to 10a on the M6 near Birmingham was introduced in 2011, five years after a pilot on the M42.

When the lanes can be used, the Highways Agency displays overhead signs informing drivers that the lane is active and what the speed limit is. A red X indicates it is out of use.

The pilot will apply to drivers making avoidable stops, including fuel breakdowns, or using the hard shoulder when the lane is not in use.

The Highways Agency said the number of fuel breakdowns in the West Midlands was the highest in England.

In the three months from April 2013, 414 vehicles ran out of fuel in the region compared to 188 in the East Midlands and 288 in the North West.

'Not safe'

But Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, emphasised the danger of incorrectly using hard shoulders.

"Driving on it when it's not open to traffic could lead to collisions with vehicles which have stopped in a real emergency," he said.

Since 2000, more than 800 people a year have been killed or seriously injured on hard shoulders and lay-bys, according to figures from the Department of Transport.

No phone call or toilet stop is worth the risk, said Allan Mowatt, chairman of road safety group SURVIVE.

He said: "The hard shoulder can be a highly dangerous place with vehicles thundering past just yards away.

"It's just not safe to remain in the vehicle."

The Highway Code states 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.

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