When you can and can’t use a motorway hard shoulder – and some common mistakes could land you with a £100 fine

DRIVING on the motorway can be intimidating, especially if your car breaks down and you're forced to pull over on the hard shoulder.

But common misconceptions about when you can use the emergency lane can put other motorists at risk and leave you with a hefty fine.

Hard shoulders are used as a refuge for broken-down vehicles so they don't interfere with the flow of traffic, as well as a lane for emergency vehicles to reach serious accidents.

Even when your car breaks down, you should always try and pull over off to a safer location such as a junction or nearby service station.

Using the hard shoulder for any other reason is illegal and can see you hit with a £100 fine and three points on your licence.

And if you cause an accident, you could be charged with careless driving which carries a £5,000 fine, up to nine penalty points and even a lengthy driving ban.

The do’s and don’ts for using the hard shoulder


  1. Pull over safely on the hard shoulder in an emergency, such as a breakdown or medical episode
  2. Turn on hazard warning lights and side lights to alert other drivers
  3. Use left-hand doors if you need to exit the vehicle
  4. Keep your children and pets inside the car
  5. Proceed with extreme caution if you need to use the emergency phone on the hard shoulder


  1. Don't use the hard shoulder to get ahead of traffic and skip queues
  2. Don't stop on the hard shoulder to go to the toilet or use your mobile
  3. Don't pull over if passengers have travel sickness or you need to rest

Even stopping on the hard shoulder to go to the toilet or to make a phone call, can you see in trouble with the police.

If you do breakdown and need to use the emergency phone on the hard shoulder, proceed with extreme caution and always walk towards oncoming traffic.

But be careful though as it is extremely dangerous and should only be done in critical emergencies.

And if you're travelling with your children or pets, keep them safely secured in the car at all times.

Many drivers will often use the hard shoulder to beat traffic and skip build ups in congestion, however this is illegal.

Brits can only drive in the lane if advised by emergency services or there is roadworks signs directing traffic onto the hard shoulder.

According to Highways England, over 100 people are killed or seriously injured on the hard shoulder every year.

Leo Nelson, marketing director at CarShop, said: "Motorway driving is proven to be one of the safest forms of driving and also one of the most common with many commuters and holidaymakers taking to motorways every day.

"Though frequently used, many motorists remain confused about what you can and can't do when it comes to the hard shoulder."

A driver was recently captured stopping on a busy M1 motorway so a child could go to the toilet.

Earlier this month, we revealed you can be fined £1,000 and even lose your licence for disobeying motorway traffic officers who aren't police.

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