Half of motorists surveyed putting lives at risk by stopping on motorway to call or text

AA Ireland and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) are today Monday 28th November reminding all road-users not to stop or walk on a motorway, unless it is an emergency. This comes as results of a recent survey, conducted by AA Ireland* of 8,400 drivers, reveals that almost half (45%) of drivers have stopped on the hard shoulder of a motorway to make or receive a call.

In response to such a lack of awareness of the important safety considerations when driving on a motorway, the RSA is broadcasting a new 30 second radio advert on national and local radio from this week.

Conor Faughnan, Director of Policy, AA Ireland said: “A motorway hard shoulder is an extremely dangerous place to be and should only be used in an emergency, for example, if your car breaks down and you can’t restart it. It’s alarming the number of motorists willing to casually pull over and put themselves and their passengers in a dangerous situation, and all too often to respond to a text or answer a call.”

“If you experience car trouble, make your way to the nearest exit or designated rest area and find a safe place to pull in before calling for assistance. If this is not an option, pull in as far as you can and use your hazard lights to alert traffic behind you. To reduce the risk of breaking down on the motorway, please ensure you have plenty of fuel in your tank before you head off. AA Patrols are called to an average of 60 motorists per week on the motorway network, and four of those are for people who have completely run out of fuel.”

The number of people found to be walking on motorways is also of serious concern to the RSA  and AA Ireland. Noel Brett, CEO, RSA reminds road-users that “stopping or walking on a motorway is extremely dangerous and could lead to death or serious injury. Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users and when exposed to vehicles travelling at speeds of up to 120km/h, the risk of death or injury are greatly increased. Last year (2010), four pedestrians were killed on Irish motorways, representing 1 in 5 of all motorway deaths. 

During the AA poll 236 individual motorists admitted to the ludicrous practice of stopping to either collect or drop off a passenger on a motorway hard shoulder placing both themselves and the pedestrian in question even more so in highly dangerous position.  

Mr. Brett added, “The message is clear: never ever walk on a motorway. Pedestrians are at a massive risk on a motorway – you’re taking your life in your hands and putting other road users in danger too. Likewise, drivers who stop on a motorway can cause collisions involving their own car and potentially many others. It’s unsafe and it’s an offence.”

“Drivers should also ensure they leave enough room between their car and the vehicle in front to allow for a safe stop – you should make sure that you are at least four seconds behind and double this in wet conditions.” Concluded Mr. Brett.

According to the AA survey, 1 in 5 drivers have stopped on a motorway hard shoulder to take a nap. While a responsible approach to driver fatigue is actively encouraged, both the RSA and AA Ireland are appealing to motorists to use their common sense and not to pull in for a nap or to switch drivers on a motorway.  Motorists are advised to choose a safe location off the motorway, i.e. a designated rest area, serviced area or by taking the next exit to make the swop or to get a cup of coffee and take a 15-20 minute nap.

15% of those polled indicated they had stopped within the last two years to investigate a dashboard warning light, something which is important to have looked at the earliest possible convenience but which does not merit an emergency stop on a motorway.  AA Ireland is advising motorists to have this looked at as soon as possible once they exit the motorway. Drivers are also advised not to attempt repairs on a motorway themselves.

Conor Faughnan, AA Ireland said: “Your car is important of course but your safety is a lot more important. We normally advise people not to ignore a warning light as to do so could mean a costly repair. But on a motorway you have to be aware of the danger of stopping. Drive the car to the nearest exit, leave the motorway and then stop to check your vehicle or call us out.” 

To promote safe motorway driving and address these serious safety issues the RSA has launched a new 30 second radio advert that focuses on Lane Discipline plus Overtaking and reminds the public never to walk on a motorway and never to stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway unless in an emergency.

Since 2005, almost 100 people have been killed or seriously injured as a result of collisions on Ireland’s motorway network. Of these, eight people died and 14 were seriously injured in 2010, which is the worst year since 2007 when 26 people were killed or seriously injured.

An information leaflet entitled ‘Motorway Driving’ plus a dedicated section on safe motorway use can be found on rsa.ie.

Drivers wishing to share their thoughts and observations on motorway safety are invited to post a comment on the AA Ireland Blog at www.blog.aaireland.ie/ or on the RSA’s Facebook or Twitter page.


For any enquiries or for verification contact:

Miriam O’ Neill, Press Officer, AA Ireland on 01 6179394 or 0857387443

Communications Department, Road Safety Authority on 09625008

*AA August Motoring Panel Poll of 8,400 drivers

Notes to the editor;

Fig. 1 Reasons poll respondents indicated they have stopped on a motorway hard shoulder within the last two years (Based on 8442 responses collected during August 2011)

To make/receive a mobile phone call 44.6%
To switch drivers 21.8%
To look at a map 18.3%
To send a text message/use a Smartphone 18.0%
To take a rest 17.9%
To allow a child to go to the toliet 16.6%
To go to the toliet 16.3%
Other 15.4%
To investigate a dashboard warning light 14.9%
To allow someone to throw up 11.6%
To reprogramme a GPS device 10.5%
To discipline a child 5.8%
To change an item of clothing 5.3%
To pick up/drop off a passenger 2.8%
To clean your car 0.7%

Top Tips for Safe Motorway Use

  • Never, ever walk on a motorway
  • Never, ever stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway
  • Left lane for normal driving
  • Keep lane discipline
  • Keep your distance
  • Do not drive in the hard shoulder
  • Always obey the rules of the road in respect of Motorway driving
  • Prepare for your journey
  • In the case of an emergency use the SOS phone and wait behind the barrier
  • Always be careful and pay attention when joining a motorway
  • Signal in good time before joining the motorway to let others know you intend to join the motorway
  • Check your mirrors and your blind spot while on the slip road approaching the motorway.
  • Give way to traffic already on the motorway
  • Change your speed to fit safely and legally into the traffic in the left hand lane.


  1. And why does all this happen?
    a) due to the Government’s ignorance and reluctance to change the driving laws – it is considered ‘unsafe’ and therefore forbidden for a learner driver to drive on a motorway even in company of an Approved Driving Instructor. However, the very minute this unskilled driver holds his full licence in his hands he is considered ‘competent’ to drive on the motorway – unaccompanied of course! Ludicrous!
    b) non-existing policing of motorways! At any given time you can see people walking on the motorway, stopping their cars illegally, tractors pulling trailors overloaded with any agricultural goods ‘waltzing’ on the hard shoulder of the motorway, travellers exercising their horses (NO! this is not a discriminatory remark, this is fact!). What you do NOT see is Garda patrols stopping such unlawful behaviour and removing these unsafe objects from the motorway! This does not happen in any developed country of the world I have ever travelled – and I have travelled a few…

  2. I have witnessed most of the instances mentioned by Jorg and have reported some to Traffic Watch to be asked by the person manning Traffic Watch to describe where such a place is. And I don’t mean the location the incident took place in, I refer here to what county it is and where is the nearest large town. Don’t they have maps in Traffic Watch? It is supposed to be manned by The Gardaí!

    The other offence mentioned in the December AA Blog is lane discipline. This is a joke. I would say that less than 5% of car motorway users know what the outside lane is actually for. As we all know, it is down to enforcement. All Irish road users will pay attention to the rules of the road if they are enforced, the bus lanes in Dublin are a good example of this.

    I have never ever seen the Gardaí nail anyone for a lane discipline offence. It has got to the stage that motorists don’t even realise that they are breaking the law by driving in the right hand lane. I pointed this out to an acquantance recently and he thought I was codding him until he looked up and realised that I was correct. He has been driving on motorways in Ireland for years!

  3. I have two issues with regard to 3 lane driving:
    a) if you are driving in the inside lane, within the speed limit, you can come accross a driver in the second lane who is driving slower than you. If you can safely move into the second lane you have to overtake in the 3rd lane and reposition yourself in the 1st lane. This seems to give the impression that you are driving erratically, as I have often been in this situation where drivers have flashed their lights behind me and it wasn’t because they knew me.
    b) another frequent occurrence is the undertaking on the left in the first lane, of vehicles in this situation.
    I think vehicles should be driven in the first lane using the second lane for overtaking or to use in the event of a vehicle trying to join the carriageway from a slip road. I don’t think this is emphasised enough.
    Happy motoring.

  4. the last two lines of the list on joining the motorway, are also ignored. It seems those joining the motorway believe they have the right of way and those on the motorway should slow down/stop to let them in.

    This is probably why there are so many accidents at the junctions causing misery for those then stuck in the jam they caused

  5. As a former HGV driver and current car driver with many miles driven on motorways I would like to comment on the advice or requirement for passenger cars to always return to the left lane on motorways. I believe this is wrong and that it slows down traffic flow, and increases risk. In fact I cannot see any advantage except on a 2 lane motorway. Much of the traffic in the left lane is HGV, and they normally travel below the speed limit. In the main HGV are responsible and safe drivers. They drive at a safe distance from the vehicle in front, judging the distance in accordance with the load they are carrying and the stopping distance this requires. Passenger cars constantly pulling into the “space” between vehicles immediately reduces the distance between vehicles reduces the safe distance of any HGV now behind the car. The HGV driver should now slow but he knows that soon the car in front will pull out again to overtake. So the HGV driver might ease off on the accelerator does not slow down very much. Now the car is in the danger zone any sudden requirement for emergency braking increases the risk of being hit from behind. By allowing cars to travel in the second lane reduces risk, reduces driver fatigue, and increases traffic flow. Prior to the EU writing the rules the UK did not give this advice and it all worked !!! So if drivers did not get so tired maybe they would not have to take a nap on the hard shoulder.!!

  6. Hi Connor

    I can’t believe that the AA would advise drivers to ignore warning lights on the motorway and to drive on to the nearest exit. If an oil warning light comes on it may be that the sender unit has failed, most likely cause but it could also be loss of oil pressure due to leak or lost oil bung. With no oil pressure the engine will seize after three miles max, resulting in crankshaft needing regrinding and new set of shells. The pistons usually survive. Some conrods may be damaged due to shell turning prior to seizure. Other warning lights mays not be quite so critical but unless the driver is qualified to make a decision surely the the best advice would be to pull over on the hard shoulder a get out of the vehicle, up the bank away from the road and ring the AA.

    An oil warning light or an overheat light nor a generator light may well not allow driving to the next exit.

    In England I successfully represented a pensioner as her friend in small claims court, who had oil failure due to a missing engine bung after having had a car serviced at a main dealers garage. The customer stopped the car after the oil warning light came on and rang her garage. The garage sent out a driver to pick up the vehicle and he attempted to drive the vehicle back to te garage. He never even checked the oil level nor did a simple test of looking inside the oil filler orifice whilst running the engine to see if oil was flowing freely. (may be necessary to lift cam/rocker cover). The garage denied liability.

    The judge in summing up said that every joe public knows not to drive with an oil warning light up and awarded compensation to cover the cost of a new engine. My friend gave me the car the following day and I stripped and rebuilt the engine. (crankshaft regrind, and also a new set of pistons not strictly necessary)

    Other warning lights may appear less urgent but still lead to major failure. For example I know of a generator belt that failed (with resulting light) ignored whilst parking car, chewed through belt covers, broke timing belt and bent two valves.

    My advise is ignore warning lights at your own peril. Always follow manufacturers advice.

    If the AA advice is to tell drivers to ignore warning lights on motorways, then anyone following this advice may well try to seek compensation if it results in loss.

    As far as I know the Irish law is similar to the english sale of goods and services act, in that any one selling goods or services must do so in a professional and timely manner. Advice to ignore warning lights may fall foul of such laws. As I am paying for AA membership and if as a result of that membership I receive advice that caused substantial loss then I would be seeking compensation in such an eventuality. Have warned my wife never to follow advice such as this.

    Regards Rob

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