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Speed cameras to be deployed on motorways

The Highways Agency is set to roll out new speed cameras across the motorway network. The new ‘stealth cameras’ will be painted in hard to see grey instead of the usual bright yellow. Previous use of speed cameras on motorways has been broadly restricted to sections with roadworks, where they have been used to enforce the variable speed limits in those affected stretches but now they will be used simply to catch drivers doing more than the 70mph limit.

The Highways Agency is set to roll out new speed cameras across the motorway network. The new ‘stealth cameras’ will be painted in hard to see grey instead of the usual bright yellow. Previous use of speed cameras on motorways has been broadly restricted to sections with roadworks, where they have been used to enforce the variable speed limits in those affected stretches but now they will be used simply to catch drivers doing more than the 70mph limit. The cameras will be introduced initially on stretches of so-called ‘smart’ motorways, which control the flow of traffic using variable speed limits and other techniques.

The Highways Agency claims that these smart motorways prevent traffic jams by controlling speed limits and periodically opening the hard shoulder for use. Industry observers have slammed the move to introduce cameras, claiming that they are more concerned with revenue raising rather than road safety. Studies have shown that up to 95% of drivers admit to exceeding the 70mph limit on motorways and the authorities have responded to the huge number by allowing discretion when prosecuting drivers who speed at up to 86mph on a 70mph motorway. In such cases drivers are offered attendance at a speed awareness course as an alternative to penalty points.

Spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD), Roger Lawson, pointed out that the hard to see grey cameras would have little impact on deterring speeding. He added: “We are opposed to speed cameras in general. The evidence of their success in promoting safety is not good and in reality what is happening now is that the police are using speed cameras to fund their other activities through speed awareness courses. If these cameras are grey rather than yellow they are going to be harder to spot and so will have no impact in slowing traffic down. If there is a good reason for the traffic to be slowed down then the cameras need to be as visible as possible.”

The ABD has also called for motorway speed limits to be raised to 80mph. The Highways Agency plans to have the cameras in place across an initial 100 miles of motorway by 2016 and will roll them out over 400 miles of motorway after that. Previously the police have been reluctant to position speed cameras on motorways due to cost issues but new digital technology has made the cameras cheaper to install and manage. The Highways Agency denies that the cameras are revenue generators and insisted that they are to be used for traffic calming.

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