Sheffield drivers could be fined £100 for ignoring M1 smart motorway lane closures

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Sheffield drivers who ignore lane closures on the M1 smart motorway could soon face a £100 fine and three penalty points.

The M1 in Sheffield, between junctions 32 and 35A, was officially converted into a 'smart' motorway in March last year, following months of engineering.

There is now an extra lane on the motorway with the hard shoulder being used for traffic.

There is also more technology in place to manage traffic, with electronic signs in place to close lanes or change speed limits when needed.

In a document seen by Press Association, Highways England said it has been testing new cameras to catch drivers who are using a closed motorway lane, signalled by a red warning X on the gantry.

The operator believes not following the signs on overhead gantries is “dangerous” and expects to be able to legally enforce the practice this spring.

Incidents could be treated like passing through a red traffic light, which carries a fixed penalty of £100 and three penalty points.

So far it has now sent out around 80,000 letters of warning to motorists who have broken smart motorway rules since December 2016. At least a third of these relate to driving in closed lanes.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, warned the extra capacity is “a welcome move, only so long as it can be delivered safely”.

“We need to see a redoubling of communications by Highways England to leave no doubt in motorists' minds as to what a red X sign means.”

A Highways England spokesman said: “Safety is at the heart of everything we do and our roads are among the safest in the world. We close lanes for a reason and drivers ignoring red Xs puts them and others at risk.

“Since we started issuing warning letters we have seen a decrease in the number of drivers ignoring lane closures.”

A Highways England spokesman said: “Safety is at the heart of everything we do and our roads are among the safest in the world.

“We close lanes for a reason and drivers ignoring the red Xs puts them and others at risk.

“Since we started issuing warning letters we have seen a decrease in the number of drivers ignoring lane closures.”