1 Aug 2019

Hard Shoulder; Easy to Remember Rules

After a story emerged showing a driver picking up his family on the hard shoulder of a motorway near an airport, the need to know your hard shoulder rules has never been greater.

For most of us, attempting to pick up your family on the side of the M56 airport slip road is not something we would put in the ‘good idea’ category.

However, an Audi S3 driver did just that, prior to being spotted by Greater Manchester Police, according to a story in the Mirror.

This is just one example, among many, surrounding the misuse of hard shoulders, which are designed as a place of refuge for broken down vehicles and a quick access route for the emergency services.

You must not stop on the carriageway, hard shoulder, slip road, central reservation or verge except in an emergency, or when told to do so by the police, traffic officers in uniform, an emergency sign or by flashing red light signals. Do not stop on the hard shoulder to either make or receive mobile phone calls.

Rule 270 of the Highway Code

A popular gripe focuses on drivers using the slip road to overtake queues during busy periods, which is illegal unless on a smart motorway which uses the hard shoulder to relieve traffic build-up, with suitable signage alerting motorists to when this lane is open and available for use.

But with the punishment for improper use of a hard shoulder standing at a penalty fine of up to £100 and three points on a licence, it is important to know when you can use it:

  • If your car breaks down. Make sure you turn the hazard lights on and leave the vehicle by the side closest to the grass verge.
  • If you’re on a smart motorway and the signage indicates the lane is open

Other reasons for stopping – going to the toilet, taking a rest or getting a bee or wasp out of the car – are not allowed and you must wait until an appropriate rest area or service station comes up.

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