Figures sourced by the Daily Mail show that ‘253,000 Notices of Intended Prosecution (NPIs) were issued in the 12 months up to Autumn 2020 by 17 of the 20 police forces whose areas cover smart motorways in England and Wales.’
For the first time, these figures have highlighted the significant number of penalties (almost 10% of all speeding fines) are issued on motorways as a result of ‘stealth cameras’.
Deemed vital to the smooth-running of smart motorways, the amount of ‘stealth cameras’ in use has dramatically increased over the last few years, with the number of speed cameras in general having trebled over the last decade. This means that more and more drivers are regularly being caught out.
The RAC suggests that one reason as to why this might be the case is because ‘drivers do not realise cameras on smart motorways, that enforce variable speed limits, can still catch you travelling over the national speed limit when a variable limit isn’t in place.’
However, Highways England has frequently warned that ‘if no special speed limit is in place then the national speed limit applies.’ Speed cameras are in operation on smart motorways. If you don’t keep to the speed limit, you may receive a fine.’
With smart motorways already accounting for 416 miles of road in England and Wales, and with the expectation that this will double in length by 2025, many additional cameras are set to be installed.
Despite these warnings, smart motorways and ‘stealth cameras continue to be a cause of controversy, with these new speeding fine figures serving only to add fuel to the fire.
The problem with smart motorways
Via various traffic management methods, smart motorways are designed to improve traffic flow, increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy areas. However, a number of fatal accidents that saw cars break down in live lanes without the protection of a hard-shoulder brought their efficiency and safety into question. Now, campaigners claim that they are also responsible for the growing numbers of unfair speeding fines.
Motoring organisations claim that the rise in speeding fines is because the ‘stealth cameras’ are difficult to spot. They are small, mounted on the side of gantries at the edge of the motorway and, perhaps most concerningly, are often hidden by vegetation or signs. Despite pleas from Highways England for drivers to report obscured cameras, campaigners still claim that this issue is responsible for unfair speed fining.
‘Stealth cameras’, dubbed as such for their original grey colour, are now in operation on the M1, M25, M3, M4, M5, M6, M20, M42 and M62. There are 168 of these cameras in total.
In recent days, motoring groups have raised concerns about how these cameras are being used. Edmund King, AA president, said: ‘The majority of drivers support the use of cameras if used for safety reasons, but there are inconsistencies in their use which can catch drivers out.’
Mr King also suggested that signage could be adding to the issue, despite motorway display signs warning motorists of in-use cameras. He said: ‘signs should be displayed on all gantries that are in place as the objective should be to slow people down, not catch them out.’
Motoring groups are also concerned about when the cameras are being used, with some police forces using them at all times including when the 70mph limit applies, while others only switch them on when reduced speed limits are in place. These groups claim that this lack of clarity is the cause of many an unfair speeding fine.
Highways England, however, have defended the use of ‘stealth cameras’ with Jeremy Phillips, head of road safety at Highways England, reassuring motorists that ‘we’re not using cameras to catch drivers out or make more money out of fines. They’re there to encourage drivers to stick to speed limits, for the safety of everyone using the road, and to help traffic flow freely.’
He also reinforced the fact that the cameras are ‘bright yellow and clearly-signed; alerting drivers to the presence of cameras’ which ‘helps to encourage compliance and improves safety.’
Have you been caught out by motorway ‘stealth cameras’? Do they make our roads safer, or are they the cause of the increase in unfair speeding fines?
Let us know in the comments.
I was caught on the M62, 68mph in a 50, Fined £100 and three points. My first speeding fine since I was 19. I am now 78! I never did see the 50 sign until the one on the gantry that caught me. Feeling very disgruntled about it. Unfortunately it’s too far away to go back for another look at the signage to see if it is obscured or so faded it doesn’t show!
I was told by a police officer that they are not legal unless they are yellow as they have to be visible at all times, This article contradicts that
Agree – the only ones you need to worry about are the yellow ones by the hard shoulder
You have my sympathy, I was done doing 58 in a 70 @ 00.30 on Boxing day morning by a camera that should have been switched off because, according to Highways England all roadworks had been removed from the A1, but the local authority decided not to switch them off because, according to the local safety team “it’s too much trouble”.
Unfortunately, you’ll just have to suck it up.
The dice is loaded against most motorist, unless you’re a pro footballer, chief inspector etc. where money or position means you get get some barrister to find a loophole in legislation get you off, the rest of us have to pay through the nose to fund this, that or the other.
The least the authorities should do is have consistency across the board and make the rules known and enforceable. I.E. When gantry temporary speed limits are in effect, then those apply, but the authorities ensure the limit is notified at least 1 mile before the 1st camera, then national speed limit + 10% + 3mph for the rest.
This not rocket science, but police and highways agencies operating different rules up & down the country is not acceptable.
But try and explain that to a magistrate and you’ll leave court with a bigger fine, the costs and the points.
In short ordinary Joe public are being shafted by the system! We are the unlimited cash cow!
…and, hypothetically, if the authorities made it clear that the advertised limit was the limit that they would prosecute at (ie 70mph means 70mph) with non of this +10%, would you be happy with that?
If you dont want a fine and points, keep to the speed limit. All the whining is ludicrous.
Speed limits are there for a number off reasons, including road safety and to improve traffic flow. Would everyone who complains about the method of enforcement be happy to less safe on the roads and late for appointments if the fines were removed?
Are you an ‘angel’ only on the road? Or is your life ruled by wanting to be able to preach to others about how to live their lives too?
It’s the term ‘unfair’ that grates. We all know the speed limit and if we exceed it and get caught we can expect to pay the penalty. That’s not unfair, it’s getting what we were promised. And no, I am not an angel, just lucky that on the occasions I do speed I haven’t been caught. If I am I’ll deserve the penalty and won’t whinge about it.
I wouldn’t really have a problem with the cameras operating all the time, IF the U.K. Government exercised a little common sense and got rid of the National speed limit of 70mph on Motorways. I’m not advocating a free for all, but just as the speed limits can be, and are frequently reduced, they could be increased when conditions allow, to 80mph.
We have some of the widest Motorways in Europe, and yet we have the lowest speed limits.
I agree wholeheartedly. In good weather conditions on a relatively quiet motorway 80 mph is not remotely dangerous. In fact pootling along at 70 or just below on a quiet motorway is probably more dangerous as the driver is just getting bored and is also driving for longer. Also modern cars handle and brake much better than the cars that were on the road when the 70 limit was brought in.
If the limit was 80 then drivers would push above that one. So the safest thing is to keep it at 70. Unfortunately safety is the last thing on the majority of drivers mind when driving, when it should be the first. A driving license is a privilege not a right as some people think.
I was caught doing in 66 in a 50 by an over head camera that had just put the new limit up ( literally seconds )and I questioned How and why .
It would be impossible to comply safely!!
The answer came back type approved .
When the variable speed limit changes on a Smart Motorway, the cameras don’t actually become “live” for 60 seconds in order for drivers to slow down.
The Police are now using cameras which can also catch you speeding away from their position. I was caught 100m from the de-restriction of 30mph to 60mph. Good use of the camera, not, but I was speeding. A lot of the time its a money making exercise.
The camera and the operator actually have to be within the speed limit zone they are monitoring . If you were in a 30 zone then the camera must be in the same zone. A police camera safety van told me.
Sitting on top of motorway bridges is not illegal, but very close to entrapment as they can see you a mile away before you see them.
Motorcycles exempt as they can’t turn the camera around fast enough. Wheelies irritate the hell out of them.
does this mean we can break other laws,what you are saying is we can break the law because we are poor and rob from the rich, drivers not paying attension are the biggest cause of accidents,so abibd by THE LAW
If you don’t break the speed limit you have nothing to worry about. You can’t moan about getting a fine if you speed.
I’ve often seen reduced speed limits, from 70 mph to 60 mph, on the M1 and M25 when there has been very low levels of traffic.
I have often seen speed limits reduced from 70 mph to 60 mph on the M1 and M25 when there have been very low levels of traffic.
How can a speeding fine be unfair? In order to receive a speeding fine you must be breaking the law. Do the crime, pay the fine.
If you know the speed limit, break it and get a fine, how can it possibly be unfair. Whether you can see the camera or not.
If you obey whatever speed limit is in force, then you will not be fined-simples.
Speed limits are imposed for a reason-not for fun-obey them!
I speek as retired professionql driver covering many miles in a year all over the South East, Midlands, North and South West, withoutgetting a speeding fine-so it can be done. Furthermore to scotch comments about being a slow driver I have been comfortable driving at 140mph in the right places.
My final commentis-drive safely and obey speed limits not just for your own sake but for everybody else.
If those cameras are so smart, why can’t they catch the numptys who sit in the middle lane doing 60mph, mile after mile after mile
technical term for these numpties is CLOD – Centre Lane Owner Driver
If you speed, expect to get fined. The speed limit is there for a reason – you have got no excuse. There should be more cameras about.
Everybody who uses the motorways regularly, knows the cameras are not there for safety, they are there just to make money. One of the most dangerous things is when the gantry signage puts a reduced speed up or reduces the speed already up. What happens is people suddenly break to get their speed down to the required gantry speed. I know people should leave enough gap, but is has the effect of the second , third ,forth cars ect to have to bake harder. So called safety, puts other drivers at risk, whoever has ultimate jurisdiction needs to sort this out before more people crash and possibly ‘DIE’
You’ll end up looking for cameras and crashing so they’re not really for safety if anything makes it more dangerous.
It would be interesting to know the accident statistics – have these changed or not. If these have not increased, surely there is an argument to say that these are entirely a money making exercise!
This is a money-making exercise, pure and simple. This sort of thing makes my blood boil. Any Chief Constable who buys into this deserves to be publicly flogged! No wonder the Police are held in such utter contempt. They are just glorified tax collectors from the public who is increasingly treated as a cash point to be milked. Look to Germany as a model of how to run its road system properly. People treat speed limits with respect as they know they are there for a reason, and there are de-restricted sections where no limit applies. Very logical, very Germanic, and it works very well.
@Mr Hamilton “People treat speed limits with respect as they know they are there for a reason” – are you suggesting that drivers in Britain don’t know that speed limits are there for a reason?
It doesn’t matter how many speed cameras are introduced under the pretence of safety, as long as the police and the law do nothing about middle lane cruisers, lane weavers and aggressive tailgaters, then the whole process is pointless. If we could stop middle lane cruising alone, it would probably release so much lane space, that all these ‘smart motorway’ changes that so many of us find absurd would be unnecessary.
And as for smug people who quote ‘if you don’t speed. you won’t get a fine’, you must be exceptional drivers to just stay under the limit 100% of the time, or you are kidding yourself that you never even accidentally exceed it, even for a few seconds.
Not smug just use the modern tools provided on cars to do so, cruise control works well on my two year old Ford Focus and ensures you don’t inadvertently speed and it goes all the way down to 20mph so can cope with the new town limits as well. Simple.
So your cruise control works that well? It does not allow a slightly increased speed of your car when going downhill above what you set. I know my does.
@Peter lanky – Or maybe the ‘smug people’ sensibly accept that if they’re caught breaking the rules they’ll receive a punishment.
What is the problem? What a load of moaning minnies drivers are becoming! The cameras are easily spotted unlike some European countries where they are hidden or disguised as rocks, etc. If you want speed, go to a race track! Speed cameras are to keep us safe from people who are selfish. I personally would like to see average speed cameras on all roads as they seem to work better at maintaining a reasonable pace according to the conditions at the time.
I was caught doing 46mph on the M5 traveling Northbound passed Worcester.
It was after 10pm at night so very light traffic and no roadworks.
It was the first gantry was on a downhill gradient and and I could see there was a limit so assumed it was 50. I took my foot off the accelerator and slowed but as I got closer I could see it was 40 so decelerate from 50 to 40 but just not quick enough.
Flashed at 46mph and had to do the motorway driving course.
Very frustrating and particularly as this was the only live gantry. Not a single other gantry before or after it had any restrictions. Not very clear if or when you can then accelerate back up to national speed limit and no idea why 40mph was selected on an open stretch of motorway.
Very likely some “bafoon” leaning on the controls whilst sleeping. Should one sign show 40 limit and there are no others, it brings the whole motorway to a crawl until one leaves it!
Exactly the same for me! I try to keep to the limit but this seemed like a trick… first speeding fine in 45yrs and the motorway awareness course was pathetic.
I just don’t understand the phrase ‘unfair speeding fines’. If you exceed the speed limt and get caught, how is this unfair?! People seem to think speed limits are optional – in fact they are the MAXIMUM speed allowed, so you should be driving BELOW these limits.
Also, the commenst above from Edmund King are absolutely shocking and indefensible from somebody in his position. The objective of speeding fines is EXACTLY to slow people down! If I know that I will be fined a big chunk of money for exceeding a speed limit, then, logically, I will not do it. This is whether I have had a speeding fine myself ro I know that other people receive them.
You can be fined for driving under the legal speed limit as well.
i knew somebody that got done twice in one day as the authority had reduced the speed limit from 40 to 30 mph . she occassionally drove on the road and the speed reduction had happened without warning and not all of the new signs had been placed . she would not have sped deliberately . What annoys me is when the speed limit drops from 60 to 30 without warning, always when going downhill. Yet where i live there is a 30mph limit and cars overtake me as though i am standing still! the police could have a field day if they wanted to.
Stupid comment, no speed limit ever changes without warning.
Not far from where I live there is a village in a hollow but all drivers I have seen slow down from 50mph to 30 mph. Might be something to do with the GATSO in the middle of the village.
I blame the Police! They have painted themselves into a corner over the years by allowing motorists to believe that unless you’re driving passed a well signposted speed camera, you can otherwise drive a whatever speed you like. There’s a speed limit of some kind on every bit of road whether there’s a speed camera there or not. They’ve been there for over 50 years. Get used to it. I’ve got two detectors in my car. They’re called eyeballs and they are specially trained to look out for speed limit signs. I recommend them.
It’s not the cameras responsible for the fines, it’s the speeding drivers!!!!
I’ve gone through the smart motorway cameras when the signs aren’t on over 70mph and never been flashed by them, I think they turn them off when there’s no lower speed shown but they won’t make that known as it probably slows the majority down to the maximum of 70.
Got caught out doing 53 in a 40… but argued the point as speed limit changed as I was less than 50 yards from gantry.. was told it was impossible for me to have not been speeding because cameras are supposed to be fitted with some sort of timing device to alow those close to gantries through…strange though…all those on my speed awareness course ( online) said more or less the same thing….
Simple – don’t break the speed limit then you won’t be fined. 1700+ people killed on UK roads in 2019 and almost 30,000 serious injuries. Speed is a major contributory factor in around one third of all road traffic accidents. Apart from physical injury and death, road accidents also have other significant economic and societal costs.
So is getting held up by idiots doing 50mph in the outside lane of the motorway, who then hog it and will not move over. How about the police dealing with these morons, which then leave people on a schedule that they are then going to be late!!!! Just to put your observations in place most accidents are cause by people who can’t drive, I have driven well over a million miles, I have been crashed into over 15 times and had 5 cars written off by morons who are not aware of their surroundings and cannot drive, and none of them were speeding.
Excellent. If you think the speed limit is too low; write to your MP. If you didn’t see the sign; perhaps you need to stay awake or surrender your licence. Great to see the exchequer bringing in cash like this – keeps my tax down and saves lives.
Smart motorways are dangerous, they do not appear to save lives. They were a government concept to widen motorways as cheaply as possible, no need to widen with the building of additional lanes. Years and years of government lack of infrastructure investment across all parties, they only plan or agree within there own times in office with no forward thinking that population and car use increases. Smart motorways were a quick fix for forward thinking and planning at government level. The cameras were part of that quick fix for safety reason, to shut lanes when an incident occurred. Obviously now the smart motorways are deemed dangerous, our illustrious authorities have discovered another way of again persecuting the motorist. This country is disgusting the way its treats its own people. Guilty till proved innocent, no redress, overbearing Dick Turpin authorities using motorists as cash cows. Before the yes men and the pink fluffy brigade start up, no I have not had I fine, or a parking ticket, I do attempt to drive with speed limits, obsessively, no time to look out for other traffic signs or issues, just look for speed signs. UK is now a big brother authoritarian state. Government have lead to this. Deplorable state, Yet you the people voted them in. Self survival. Think that every yard you drive, every traffic light, every junction, every place you park, there’s an authority camera spying on you, waiting to deprive you of your money, give you points, deprive you of your livelihood. Not surprising the country is in such a mess. If every one followed the rules we could deprive the authority funding through all there highway robbery fines. Think of all that money they wouldn’t have to squander on more stupid ideas, like only electric cars in 2030, a functional affordable public transport system. Sorry for the rambling, the last two points obviously a big joke.
It is funny that when I use the motorway, near where I live, the motorway changes from smart to normal and on the normal the traffic runs better. I hate smart motorways for one reason, no hard shoulder! Thats an accident waiting to happen.
These cameras used to really hack me off, until I got my own car (not company) last year; first time for 37 years).
When I got it (new) I decided I would really look after it (I looked after the others pretty well, but they weren’t mine), and signed a mileage contract below what I had been covering in previous years.
I changed my driving style and habits, and now stick within the speed limit wherever I am (most of the time), making sure I leave earlier than I used to and give myself plenty of time (my job takes me all over England and Wales).
The result, after 10 months, is less stress, no looking for cameras and good MPG.
However, for those of you wanting to go quicker download WAZE and keep alerts on – it’s driver led so usually gets mobile cameras too, or RADARBOT which is similar. Waze is also the BEST sat-nav system of the lot – I’ve lost 95% of my arguments with it. The Jaguar system is slow and unreliable.
I am a wheelchair user. The only way out of my car is via a ramp at the rear. I cannot walk. I cannot get over a barrier. Do I need to say more?