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Quarter of drivers misuse hard shoulder

The SURVIVE Group is a partnership between the Highways Agency, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the breakdown/recovery industry and other service providers, and is dedicated to the promotion of driving safety.

SURVIVE polled 20,073 people to establish why people make non-emergency stops on the motorway. Illness or toilet breaks (both 6%) were the most common excuses, followed by running out of fuel (4%), reading a map (2%) and making a non-emergency phone call (1%).

Overall, 58 per cent (63% men; 49% women) of respondents have stopped on the hard shoulder at some point.  The research also reveals that 7 per cent of drivers admit to driving on a motorway in a car that they knew was unreliable or which had a fault that was likely to cause it to stop. The drivers most likely to have taken this gamble are young drivers (14% of 18-24yrs) and those in London and Northern Ireland (both 9%).

SURVIVE points out that since 2000, 836 people on average in the UK have been killed or injured each year in incidents on hard shoulders and lay-bys.

In addition, inappropriate use of the hard shoulder is an offence under motorway traffic regulations and incurs up to a £60 fine and three penalty points.

Allan Mowatt, chairman of SURVIVE, said: ‘The hard shoulder can be a highly dangerous place with vehicles thundering past just feet away but some people don't fully appreciate the risks involved in stopping on the hard shoulder.

‘The point is that, by law, the hard shoulder is for genuine emergencies only. If you stop for any other reason, you could be fined up to £60 and receive three penalty points, as well as potentially putting your life at risk. No phone call or loo stop is worth it.

‘If a genuine emergency forces you to stop, safety is paramount, so exit the vehicle on the left, get far away from your vehicle and behind the barrier (if one is present) and then call for assistance – it's just not safe to remain in the vehicle. Never attempt even the simplest of repairs to the vehicle or to place a warning triangle on the hard shoulder.’

Excuses for non-emergency use of the hard shoulder



Ill passenger eg travel sickness         


Driver or passenger needed a stop         


Run out of fuel    


Reading a map    


Non-emergency phone call          


Problem with pet or animal carried in car/trailer            






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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.