Most motorists know that motorway hard shoulders are reserved for emergencies only, but Highways England has just published a list of the ridiculous reasons given by those who misuse them.

In one instance, a traffic officer came across a child walking alongside a vehicle on the M4 near Bristol. Unbelievably, the car occupants had given the child ‘time out’ for playing up, essentially treating the hard shoulder as a naughty step.

A motorway isn’t a picnic area either, but that didn’t stop a family from congregating on the hard shoulder to cook a meal because they “were hungry”.

Similarly, a driver stopped on the hard shoulder of the M6 with no hazard lights to eat a mince pie after missing the turnoff for Stafford South Motorway Services a couple of miles back.

Hard shoulders don’t seem like a particularly peaceful place for a bit of shut-eye, so you can imagine the surprise of traffic officers after they found an LGV driver fast asleep on a verge of the M60. As if that wasn’t enough, his vehicle was blocking an emergency access route.

Another time, traffic officers discovered an abandoned lorry in a live lane on the M1 near Northampton Motorway Services. Some 15 minutes later, the driver returned and explained he preferred to walk to the services rather than use the lorry park.

Other excuses for pulling into the hard shoulder include stopping to relieve their bladder on an exit slip road, waiting for a text and checking directions after becoming lost.

More than 100 people are killed or injured on the hard shoulder every year, revealed Simon Jones, Highways England’s regional director for the south east.

“We want everyone to get to their destinations safely, but some people put themselves at risk,” he commented.

Mr Jones advised motorists to be prepared, saying: “Check your vehicle before you set out to avoid unnecessary breakdowns; don’t stop except in an emergency and if you have to stop, make sure you know what to do.”

Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, added: “Some drivers clearly think the hard shoulder is a safe place to stop, but with so many vehicles travelling at such high speed, it is anything but.”

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