Speeding fines are being dished out to more than 1000 drivers a week on Britain’s new smart motorways. Figures obtained by the BBC from police forces around the UK show that 52,516 fixed penalties were issued in 2015. That’s up from just 2023 speeding fines on the same stretches of road five years ago ‑ a 2595% increase. It’s resulted in a seven-fold hike in revenue to £1.1 million from these 240 miles of motorway.
What are smart motorways?
Smart motorways are stretches of carriageway in highly congested areas where the hard shoulder is used for ‘live’ traffic. They are covered by CCTV and many feature variable speed limits, policed by cameras. Stretches are now a feature on the M1, M25, M4, M42 and M6.
Why have speeding fines increased?
In the latest RAC Report on Motoring, 70% of drivers say they frequently or occasionally break the speed limit on motorways. Hardly surprising then that the speed cameras on the smart motorways are being kept so busy. However, the Department for Transport denied that the new stretches of motorway were being used for income: “Enforcement is a matter for the police and it is obvious that speeding costs lives. However, we have been clear for a number of years that speed cameras should not be used to generate revenue,” a spokesperson said.
How do smart motorways work?
Designed to create space where there is none, smart motorways employ gantries with signs that tell drivers which lanes are open. Some ‘dynamic’ smart motorways employ the hard shoulder as a traffic lane when conditions are at their most clogged. Others abolish the hard shoulder altogether, simply creating a new lane for what’s called ‘All-lane running’. All feature extensive CCTV coverage and variable speed limits that are policed by cameras.
On sections of all-lane running, the hard shoulder is no longer separated from the carriageway by a solid white line. Broken white lines show that it has now become lane one. There are signs at the side of the road that can be brought into action if the lane needs closing, perhaps because of a breakdown.
On dynamic roads, signs tell drivers when the hard shoulder is open by using arrows. They warn that lanes are closed to traffic by using red crosses. The hard shoulder is still separated from lane one using a solid white line on these.
What are the benefits of smart motorways?
They’ve been designed to reduce congestion without the expense, disruption and environmental impact of tacking new lanes onto existing motorways.
What about the disadvantages?
Chair of the Transport Select Committee Louise Ellman accused the government of taking a short cut at the expense of lives. She warned that smart motorways would lead to a 216% increase in the risk of a car stopping in a lane which had moving traffic. And Simon Wickenden, road safety engineering officer for London’s Metropolitan Police added: “The primary risk that has significantly increased… is that of a broken-down vehicle stopping in a live lane. That type of collision is more likely to result in serious or fatal injury than many of the collision types that are being reduced.” Emergency services are also concerned it will take them longer to attend accidents if they can’t use the hard shoulder because it is full of traffic. The AA wants to see the refuge areas that have replaced hard shoulders brought closer together and made longer.
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Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.