Drivers warned they could be prosecuted for stopping on a motorway hard shoulder in emergency – here’s how to avoid it | The Sun

DRIVERS are being warned that they could be prosecuted for stopping on a motorway hard shoulder in an emergency – here's how to avoid being slapped with a fine.

A hard shoulder may seem like the perfect place to pull over if you're busting to go toilet, someone in your car is feeling sick, or you're getting an urgent phone call.

But, it's not – there are only four reasons drivers are legally allowed to stop there.

According to the Highway Code, you must not use a hard shoulder "except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, traffic officers or a traffic sign".

On a ‘smart motorway’ – where the hard shoulder is sometimes used as an extra lane – the same applies for the emergency refuge areas you see positioned every 1.5 miles.

And Dominic Smith, the director of road traffic offence specialist firm Patterson Law, says rulebreakers could be fined up to £2,500.

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Mr Smith said the only "emergencies" drivers are allowed to stop for is when: "There is a breakdown or mechanical defect (or where run out of fuel, oil or water required for the vehicle); an accident, illness or emergency; to allow a person to move an object which has fallen on the motorway, or to allow a person to assist with any of those 3 situations."

He said the rules also say drivers must ensure their vehicle is off the road and not obstructing or a danger to other cars, and be moved on as quickly as possible after the emergency.

Mr Smith added: "Failure to follow these regulations could see you prosecuted for a few different offences, starting with unlawfully stopping on the hard shoulder could see you fined up to £2500 but no penalty points.

"In the most extreme case, if the police consider that the driving was careless or dangerous, they may prosecute for driving without due care and attention (3-9 points or a disqualification) or even dangerous driving (minimum 12-month ban, extended retest, possibly community orders or prison in serious cases).”

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He added: “There is no exact definition of ‘emergency’ – each case depends on its own facts and whether the emergency was serious enough to justify stopping."

Graham Conway, the managing director of Select Car Leasing, in now calling for clarification on what is classed as an emergency.

Mr Conway said: “We’re told not to pull onto the hard shoulder to either vomit or allow a passenger to be sick.

"But for lots of people, that will be seen as a medical emergency that necessitates a hard shoulder stop."

Mr Conway said there is also confusion about car warnings and flat tyres.

He said: “Should your oil light flash on the dash, I think a lot of people would be tempted to pull over.

"After all, if your car runs out of oil you’re looking at potentially catastrophic engine failure.

“However, the advice from experts suggests that if your car is still driving as it should, you shouldn’t stop on the hard shoulder the minute a warning light flashes – you should instead continue with caution to the next exit or service station.”

When it comes to changing a tyre, the Highway Code suggests you should "only change the tyre if you can do so without putting yourself or others at risk – otherwise, call a breakdown service".

Institutions like the AA, however, say you should never change a tyre on a motorway hard shoulder, or at the side of the road.

Mr Conway adds: “Department for Transport stats show there were 403 accidents on UK motorway hard shoulders between 2011 and 2016.

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“They’re incredibly dangerous places to get stranded, for whatever reason, and changing a flat tyre significantly increases the risk factor.

“It’s another area where Select Car Leasing would call for better clarity with the guidance.”

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