Smart motorway speed limits under review after thousands ‘unfairly’ fined

Majority of motorists caught in 2017 were driving slower than 70mph

Smart motorways
Speeding fines on smart motorways have risen tenfold in the last five years
(Image credit: 2011 AFP)

Britain’s smart motorway systems are to be reviewed after thousands of drivers were handed speeding fines in areas with variable speed limits last year.

The variable limits system is designed as a preemptive measure against congestion, using predictions about traffic levels. But an investigation by The Sunday Times found that the motorists who received fines on motorways with variable speed limits soared to 72,348 in 2017 - double the number fined the previous year and a “tenfold rise in five years”.

Almost seven in ten of those drivers were fined for travelling at 69mph or less in areas with a national speed limit of 70mph, the newspaper says. In some cases, speed limits were being reduced to as low as 40mph on smart motorways, which stretch a total of more than 236 miles in England alone.

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The Daily Telegraph says these lowered limits are causing “frustration” among drivers, many of whom claim they are being forced to “drive slowly along stretches of relatively deserted motorway”.

An AA spokesperson told Autocar that the system is creating “distrust” and that lowering limits when there are few signs of heavy traffic causes confusion, because some drivers are “unaware of how the system works”.

Following the backlash from drivers, Highways England has ordered a thorough review of how variable speed limits are set, in a bid to reduce the amount of people who are unfairly penalised.

The government-owned company, charged with operating and maintaining England’s motorways, claims that operators managing Britain’s 20 smart motorways have received “updated training” to remove “inappropriate” speed limits, the Daily Mail reports.

Drivers are to also to be giving “more warning” about limit changes, the newspaper says.

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