Record level of speeding fines suggests drivers don’t trust lowered speed limits

A record number of speeding fines accrued on sections of motorway with variable speed limits could suggest the limits are confusing motorists.

An investigation by The Times showed that more than 70,000 drivers were fined on motorways with variable speed limits last year. This tenfold increase compared with five years ago has led to suggestions that variable speed limits are unfairly operated.

Highways England, which operates the country’s motorway network, pre-emptively enforces lowered speed limits before congestion builds up. But a spokesman for the AA told Autocar that such a system is creating “distrust” and encourages speeding.

“It’s not surprising that drivers who see the ‘congestion ahead’ message but are the only car on the motorway don’t trust the lowered speed limit,” said the spokesman. “It’s because they’re unaware of how the system works. But, in their defence, how would they know?”

The UK’s smart motorway system uses radar technology so it can detect traffic levels on the road. If traffic builds up at a certain section, the system slows down approaching cars so that by the time they reach the point, it’s cleared or at least freer-moving.

Do we really want more smart motorways?

But the AA has asked Highways England to provide more information as to how quickly the system can react to changes because, as the spokesman explained, “there could be a delay that leaves lowered limits in place” even after congestion has cleared.

“Let’s have a review in the radar system,” the spokesman said. “Is there a time lag, has it been left on for an hour after that congestion has ended? We argue that if traffic is now free, let it flow.”

Variable speed limits are often enforced on smart motorways, where hard shoulder running is allowed during high traffic. But research obtained by the AA shows that many drivers are opting not to use the hard shoulder, which is labelled as Lane 1 on gantry signage, possibly because they are unsure if they can.

“Even Highways England has said that drivers aren’t using Lane 1 as much as they could be,” said the spokesman. “So if the smart motorway system is flawed, how does that tie in with Highways England’s ambition to introduce more of them?”

Ongoing upgrades to the M4 motorway have also brought safety into the spotlight, following Highways England’s decision not to increase the number of emergency rest areas, despite a recent agreement with parliament.

Highways England said the upgrade, which will cover 32 miles between junction 3 (Hayes) and 12 (Theale) in a five-year project costing up to £862 million and due to finish in 2022, is already under way and so can’t be changed in this way.

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Comments
16

30 April 2018

...normal motorways and 53% ignore the limit in town, it sems a bit naive to expect the variable ones to have better compliance - 200 fines a day countrywide seems fairly low.

30 April 2018

On the M5 in Worcestershire the speed cameras are sometimes active even when the variable speed limits are not. And the cameras appear to activate when you're not excessively speeding.

jer

30 April 2018

Side of the gantries that is causing me to freak out these operate when there is no enforced congestion limit. Who knows what they are set at and they are more or less through the whole of the M1 and large parts of the M25. I think a public information request should be made to obtain what they are set at. How did we get to the stage where we are filmed everywhere in case we transgresse by whatever degree. It makes George Orwells 1984 look like a childs game. At the moment when I follow people they accelerate and then break between the cameras which is at best stressful and worse dangerous. At the risk of souding like a red kneck southerner you cannot trust a government of quango to act in your best interest when they will be incentivised to raise money from you. Up the revolution!

30 April 2018

Could be the way to go?, no need to speed9 watch, when you join the Motorway your speed is automatically set till you leave......

Peter Cavellini.

30 April 2018

is assume the system is not friendly and operating to help traffic but pernicious and designed to reclaim, at a minimum, the increased operating costs.

The idea that free moving traffic is a benefit to the economy has obviously been abandoned by government, the supposed desire for increased safety is an ideal ruse to maximise the amount of fund raising that can be applied to a typical motorist. ;-)   

30 April 2018
I see it on the M62 around Leeds all the time. 60 for a couple of signs then 50, next one 60 after that 40 for an empty motorway. Guess witch one has the camera that on? When you go to the speed awareness course & ask why this is the answer was "it was to keep you concentrating". Really not money making, & they wonder why we don't trust them.

1 May 2018
smokescreen38 wrote:

I see it on the M62 around Leeds all the time. 60 for a couple of signs then 50, next one 60 after that 40 for an empty motorway. Guess witch one has the camera that on? When you go to the speed awareness course & ask why this is the answer was "it was to keep you concentrating". Really not money making, & they wonder why we don't trust them.

That's the most infuriating thing about smart motorways - when the limit goes up and down for no apparent reason. It's often the case when leaving London on the M1. It goes from 50 to 40 to 60 then back to 50. It doesn't keep drivers concentrating at all, it just makes cars slow down and speed up unnecessarily. A cynic would probably say it happens in the hope that drivers get caught out and fined.

30 April 2018

It’s not difficult really I use the M42 pretty much 6 days a week which is a smart motorway and has clear indications on the over head gantry as to what is happening on the motorway and signs that say average speed check, or congestion use hard shoulder.

The amount of times I see people speed past me above the limit given on the signs then slam on their brakes at the gantry without realising it’s AVERAGE not a static speed camera. 

So what if you are the only car and it’s displaying a lower limit why risk it? I’ve seen it displaying 60mph at 11pm, might be a reason why or they have forgot to adjust it. 

1 May 2018
Jimbbobw1977 wrote:

It’s not difficult really I use the M42 pretty much 6 days a week which is a smart motorway and has clear indications on the over head gantry as to what is happening on the motorway and signs that say average speed check, or congestion use hard shoulder.

The amount of times I see people speed past me above the limit given on the signs then slam on their brakes at the gantry without realising it’s AVERAGE not a static speed camera. 

So what if you are the only car and it’s displaying a lower limit why risk it? I’ve seen it displaying 60mph at 11pm, might be a reason why or they have forgot to adjust it. 

Wrong! There are no average speed cameras on the M42. There used to be Gatsos on many gantries. They were only active during times of active control.
Like everywhere, the Gatsos have been retired and the new side mounted cameras fitted to a very few gantries. They are not average but radar instant speed, they flash and are active all the time. The limit is not known but it seems to be based on usual guidlines at least of 10%+2mph, so 79mph true speed, an indicated 80 as all speedo's over-read appears to be fine. The side cameras are easily spotted in advance by a pole with a triple camera some distance before. It photos the gantry sign at the same time as a speeder at the gantry in case the driver tries the defence the gantry wasnt showing a restriction. This is being rolled out everywhere in prep. It will be easy to then ramp the national limit to 60mph or less permanently. In the name of polar bears or whatever. We are being played.. plebs off the road policy

1 May 2018

Not really smart. I hate driving on these motorways, they are an awful experience.

I’m surprised no one has rolled out the “it’s not a target, but a limit” and “just drive under the limit” arguments. Still there is time.

Thinking about it, we should campaign for a “follow the speed limit week” once a year where everyone does this. Would be an interesting week of jams, accidents, frayed nerves and no revenue. 

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