There's a problem, but we're fixing it

We're having problems with our phones at the moment, so unfortunately you won't be able to get through to us. Don't worry, if you need to make a claim you can still call us but for any other queries check out our FAQs or use our web chat service - it will pop up on your page. Don't forget, you can still get a quote online.

Our press releases

Quarter of drivers misuse hard shoulder

22 May 2013

  • More than 800 people killed or injured each year on hard shoulders and lay-bys
  • 26% of drivers have potentially risked their life by non-emergency use of hard shoulder
  • Illness, toilet breaks and running out of fuel most common excuses
  • 7% of drivers have knowingly driven on motorway in unreliable or faulty car
  • Misuse of hard shoulder incurs up to £60 fine and three points

With millions of drivers expected to hit the road this bank holiday weekend, research by the breakdown industry group SURVIVE shows that more than one in one in four drivers have potentially endangered their lives by stopping on the hard shoulder in a non-emergency.

Since 2000, 836 people* on average in the UK have been killed or injured each year in incidents on hard shoulders and lay-bys.

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%).

Excuses for non-emergency use of the hard shoulder

Ill passenger eg. travel sickness 6%
Driver or passenger needed a stop 6%
Run out of fuel 4%
Reading a map 2%
Non-emergency phone call 1%
Problem with pet or animal carried in car/trailer 1%
Other 6%

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%).

Hard shoulder perils

Allan Mowatt, chairman of SURVIVE, says: “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.”

Highway Code

The Highway Code (rule 270) states that you must not stop on the carriageway, hard shoulder, slip road, central reservation or verge except in an emergency, or when told to do by the police, Highways Agency traffic officers in uniform, an emergency sign or by flashing red light signals.

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

Media contacts for the SURVIVE Group:

Miranda Schunke, Green Flag, on 020 8266 3795 or

Sue Beeson, the AA, on 01256 492 874 or

Sarah Rice, RAC, on 01454 665 562 or

NOTE TO EDITORS: ISDN radio and TV interviews are available with SURVIVE representatives on hard shoulder safety; and more detailed survey results by television region, age and gender are available. Please call any of the numbers above.

Hard shoulder safety advice
Please see the link below for what to do if an emergency forces you to stop on the hard shoulder:


The SURVIVE (Safe Use of Roadside Verges in Vehicular Emergencies) Group is a public/private sector partnership that was formed in 1998 following the deaths of six breakdown operators on motorway hard shoulders. The group was initially established by representatives from the breakdown industry with the key purpose being to promote the safety of people stopping on or working on the motorway hard shoulder and high-speed dual-carriageways.

However the breakdown and recovery industry was not alone in wanting to ensure the safety of its workers and the general motoring public, so the group was expanded to include key organisations, including the Highways Agency, the Association of Chief Police Officers and representatives of the highway maintenance industry.

For more information on the SURVIVE Group, please visit the website at:

* Source: Department for Transport STATS 19. Average total for motorways and other roads.

** Populus interviewed 20,073 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 27 September and 4 October 2012. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.