Review ordered of smart motorway speed limits after record fines are handed out
A comprehensive review of ‘smart motorways’ has been ordered after a ten fold increase in the number of motorists being fined while driving below 70mph.
There are currently more than 20 sections of smart motorways across the country, which are intended to ease congestion by monitoring the driving conditions and varying the speed limit where appropriate.
But many motorists have complained about being hit with fines for exceeding lower speed limits, even when the roads are relatively clear of traffic.
Highways England explained that lower speed limits were often set before the congestion built up in order to better manage the flow of traffic on some of the busiest roads.
But this has led to frustration among some drivers, who claim they are being forced to drive slowly along stretches of relatively deserted motorway.
Last year more than 70,000 drivers were fined on motorways with variable speed limits – a tenfold increase on five years ago, according to figures obtained by The Times.
The vast majority of the fines handed out were to motorists travelling below 70 mph.
A spokesman for the AA said the figures suggested that thousands of drivers could have been wrongly fined.
Now Highways England has ordered a comprehensive review of the way lower speed limits are set, in order to ensure motorists are not being unfairly penalised.
Edmund King, president of the AA said: “This begs the question of how many thousands of motorists have been caught out when they shouldn’t have been; when they were fined on roads with limits that were artificially set too low.
“This is an issue we’ve raised with Highways England because we have too many members saying they’re driving down an absolutely open road with 50 or 60 mph speed limits on the overhead gantries.”
He added: “The fact is that cameras are really being used to replace police. The problem is that cameras don’t catch drink drivers; they don’t catch the middle-lane hoggers, they don’t catch the dangerous tailgaters.”
A spokesman for Highways England said: “We want to ensure that what drivers see also feels relevant to the traffic conditions, so we’ve improved the way we set message signs and signals on smart motorways and have started a comprehensive review of how variable speed limits are set, including the amount of time they are visible to drivers.
“Our initial analysis of actual traffic flows and changing the algorithms has already reduced the amount of time variable speed limits are on by 200 hours per week across the network.”