With hundreds of miles of smart motorways across England now using the hard shoulder as either a permanent or part-time running lane, the RAC found more than a fifth of motorists have driven in a lane closed by the red X sign in the past year, potentially putting lives at risk.
Twenty-three per cent of drivers surveyed by the RAC admitted to having broken this new rule of the road by disregarding the red X, either occasionally accidentally (19%), often accidentally (1%) or occasionally on purpose (3%).
The survey of 2,093 members of the RAC Opinion Panel* who had driven on a motorway in the last year confirmed more than eight in 10 drivers (84%) had seen a red X appear on the verge-mounted or overhead gantry electronic variable message signs.
And among those, there is no doubt whatsoever as to the meaning of the red X with 99% saying that it signifies the lane is closed.
For 87% their first action is to move, when safe to do so, into another lane which is not closed while the remainder (13%) say they change lanes as soon as they possibly can but admit they might pass one or two red X signs before doing so.
But the research has worryingly revealed that the sight of drivers disobeying red X smart motorway signs is all too common with nearly half (48%) of those questioned saying they frequently see this and more than a third (36%) claiming to see it occasionally. Only 7% said they do not see drivers ignoring red X signs.