Secret camera motorway crackdown

How fast do you drive when you’re on the motorway? We all know the UK motorway speed limit is 70mph, but the truth is that many of us allow our speed to creep above that level on a fairly regular basis.
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Indeed, a recent poll by Autocar magazine indicated that a massive 94.6% of motorists drive at more than 70mph on the motorway. It’s the case that the police tend to turn a blind eye and only prosecute drivers seen to be travelling at least 10% above the speed limit. It could be time to start slowing down a bit, though, due to plans to install hidden speed cameras on motorways for the first time. The Highways Agency is planning to put speed cameras, which could well be a discreet grey rather than an eye-catching yellow, on so-called ‘smart’ stretches of motorway, including parts of the M1, the M6 and the M25. Smart motorways are sections of road where the flow of traffic is carefully controlled using measures such as gantry lights and specialist lanes.

Go with the flow

The Highways Agency says the introduction of its new digital enforcement camera system will help prevent jams and allow better traffic flow on these busy stretches. This is because it will be used to catch motorists who ignore or miss the electronic red ‘X’ signs indicating that a lane is closed, as well as those who break the speed limit. "These new cameras are introducing powerful technology to help smooth traffic flow and improve journey times on smart motorways,” said a Highways Agency spokesman. It is therefore looking at installing cameras of this kind along more than 100 miles of motorway within the next two years, with an eventual aim of covering some 400 miles of road.

Camera shy

Brake, the road safety charity, has spoken out in support of Highways Agency proposals to roll out speed cameras on stretches of ‘smart' motorways, to target drivers exceeding the 70mph limit. Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: "Speed cameras are an extremely well evidenced, cost-effective way to improve safety and reduce deaths and injuries on roads where they are placed, preventing families going through the trauma of a sudden bereavement or life-changing injury. Put simply: speed cameras reduce speeding, which helps to prevent deadly crashes. Breaking the speed limit is risky and illegal, so only drivers who break the law will face fines." However, some motoring groups are not so convinced and have criticised the plan to introduce “stealth cameras” as being more about generating income through fining drivers than improving safety on busy motorway sections. The Alliance of British Drivers, which points out that less-visible cameras have no impact on actually slowing drivers down, said: “We are opposed to speed cameras in general. The evidence of their success in promoting safety is not good.” Motorists who speed on UK motorways at the moment can be caught and fined by cameras situated on stretches of the route undergoing roadworks, as well as those located in vans that are parked on bridges over the thoroughfare. But this is the first time the Highways Agency has considered the widespread introduction of cameras to target drivers exceeding the maximum allowed speed of 70mph.

Hidden agenda?

It rejects the claim that the cameras will be hidden and are designed to boost its income rather than save lives. The spokesman added: “The cameras will be more visible than current overhead enforcement systems we use. Motorists will see the familiar road signs — a black image of a camera on a white background — that tell them they are in an area where speed enforcement cameras can operate. “Drivers should always abide by the speed limit whether cameras are there or not.” What do you think of measures to impose the 70mph motorway speed limit? Do you think we should revisit the suggestion that the limit should actually go up to 80mph? Let us know in the box below!

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