Are smart motorway speed cameras operating at all times and 70mph?

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Fake news: Social media posts claiming smart motorway cameras on the M1 and M25 are catching drivers 2mph over the national speed limit have been rubbished by transport groups


Can you be caught speeding by cameras on smart motorways when there are no variable limits in place?

Social media has been awash with rumour this week that cameras on smart motorway sections of the M1 and M25 are operating at all times, not just when a reduced limit is being signaled on overhead gantries.

A message doing the rounds on Whatsapp, text messages, Facebook and Twitter – claiming to have been sent to taxi drivers by Transport for London – warns that motorists could be penalised if they exceed the 70mph national speed limit by just 2mph.

Highways England states that all smart motorway cameras can be used to catch drivers exceeding the speed limit – even if no variable restriction is being enforced – but the motorways agency told This is Money that is was ‘unaware of any changes’ being made to the activeness of cameras on these particular routes.

Meanwhile, TfL confirmed to us it had not sent any such notification to black cab drivers. 

Fake news: Social media posts claiming smart motorway cameras on the M1 and M25 are catching drivers 2mph over the national speed limit have been rubbished by transport groups

Fake news: Social media posts claiming smart motorway cameras on the M1 and M25 are catching drivers 2mph over the national speed limit have been rubbished by transport groups

The alert, which some have claimed was sent by Transport for London to taxi firms, alleged: ‘All cameras on M1 and M25 go live at midnight tonight [January 7], set at 72mph.

‘Auto ticket generating system.

‘Watch your speed and tell everyone else.’

The notification has been shared across social media accounts this week, raising concern among drivers.

However, TfL rubbished the suggestion it had sent the alert out, telling This is Money that the notification had not been issued by the capital’s transport body.

We also contacted Highways England, the government agency responsible for all motorways and major trunk roads in the country, regarding the suggestion that the cameras on these roads were in continuous operation.

A spokesperson told us: ‘Speed enforcement is a matter for the police. However, we are not aware of any changes made on the M1 or the M25.’

Highways England had to take to Twitter to answer queries from concerned motorists regarding the rumours

Highways England had to take to Twitter to answer queries from concerned motorists regarding the rumours

Highways England had to take to Twitter to answer queries from concerned motorists regarding the rumours

AA president Edmund King also commented on the claims to diffuse the fears of motorists. 

He told This is Money: ‘It is amazing how quickly fake news or rumours spread. On Thursday night my 14 year old daughter asked me if it was true there was a new 72mph speed limit on the M25?

‘The AA has received loads of questions about supposed new speeding fines and “smart” cameras on M1, M6, M42 and M25 now active and set at 72mph to automatically ticket drivers with six penalty points and hefty fines.

‘The part that is true is that most variable speed cameras on the gantries over smart motorways are now active. 

‘The minimum fixed penalty for speeding is still a £100 fine and three penalty points added to your licence. 

‘You may be offered a speed awareness course instead of a fixed penalty or have to go to court if you drive way over the limit.’

Three types of smart motorway 

1. Controlled motorway

Multiple lanes, variable speed limits and a hard shoulder for emergencies only. 

2. Dynamic hard shoulder

Variable speed limits and a hard shoulder that can be turned into a fourth lane when needed. 

Drivers are told via electric overhead signs to use the hard shoulder during peak hours. 

3. All-lanes running

Variable speed limits and a permanent fourth lane instead of a hard shoulder. 

Emergency refuge areas can be found every 2.5km (1.55 miles). 

The rumours come just months after we revealed the national roads policing chief, chief constable Anthony Bangham, is strongly in favour of a tougher approach to speeding, which would see motorists fined for going 1mph over the limit.

Drivers could be punished for going just 1mph over the speed limit under propsals that have reportedly received the backing of Britain’s roads policing chief  Anthony Bangham

Drivers could be punished for going just 1mph over the speed limit under propsals that have reportedly received the backing of Britain’s roads policing chief  Anthony Bangham

Drivers could be punished for going just 1mph over the speed limit under propsals that have reportedly received the backing of Britain’s roads policing chief Anthony Bangham

Edmund King commented: ‘Despite the variable speed cameras being active on motorways such as the M1 and M25 there is likely to be more than a 2mph variance as speedometers and indeed cameras aren’t always 100 per cent accurate. 

‘With such low thresholds it could produce a dangerous situation with some drivers concentrating more on their speedometer than the road ahead. 

‘We believe the police are much more pragmatic when it comes to fair enforcement. 

‘So if drivers don’t want to get caught out by cameras or indeed fake news it is best to stick to the signed speed limits.’

Despite these comments, drivers need to remain aware that smart motorway cameras – like all other cameras on major roads – can catch drivers during periods when the national speed limit applies.

Misconceptions about smart motorways 

Smart motorways can notify drivers of reduced limits with electronic signs on overhead gantries.

The variable speed restrictions are enforced by smart cameras on the routes, which can catch anyone going over the reduced limits.

Many motorists are – wrongly – under the impression that these cameras can only catch them speeding only when one of these reduced limits is in force. 

Highways England states on its website that ‘If no special speed limit is displayed then the national speed limit applies’.

It adds: ‘A speed limit displayed inside a red circle is legally enforceable. If you don’t keep to this speed limit, you are breaking the law.

‘Speed cameras are in operation on smart motorways. If you don’t keep to the speed limit, you may receive a fine.’

Where are the smart motorways in the UK? 

Controlled motorway

M1 – J6a-J10 

M1 – J25-J28

M1 – J31-J32 

M4 – J24-J28 

M6 – J10a-J11a 

M20 – J4/J5-J7

M25 – J20-J3

M25 –  J6-J7 clockwise

M25 – J6-J7 anti-clockwise 

M25 – J7-J23 

M25 – J27-J30 

M42 – J7-J9 

M62 – J28-J29 

Dynamic hard shoulder

M1 – J10-J13

M4 –  J19-J20

M5 – J15-J17 

M6 – J4-J10a

M40 – J3a-J7

M42 – J3a-J7 

M62 – J26-J28 

M62 – J29-J30 east 

M90 – J1a-J3 

All-lanes running 

M1 – J16-J19

M1 – J28-J31 

M1 – J32-J35a 

M1 – J39-J42 

M3 – J2-J4a

M5 – J4a-J6

M6 – J11a-J13 

M25 – J5-J6 

M25 – J23-J27 

M62 – J18-J20

M62 – J25-J26

M62 – J29-J30 west 

There are three types of smart motorways - Controlled, Dynamic hard shoulder (pictured) and All-lane running

There are three types of smart motorways - Controlled, Dynamic hard shoulder (pictured) and All-lane running

There are three types of smart motorways – Controlled, Dynamic hard shoulder (pictured) and All-lane running

It is the local police force that determines speed enforcement on smart motorways, Highways England said

It is the local police force that determines speed enforcement on smart motorways, Highways England said

It is the local police force that determines speed enforcement on smart motorways, Highways England said

Some motorists also incorrectly assume that the same rules apply on smart motorways up and down the country.

In reality, speed enforcement on these roads is decided by the police in the area and not the Government – though all fines go directly to the Treasury. 

Police in Derbyshire confirmed last year that cameras overseeing smart sections of the M1 in the county were snapping speeding drivers when a 70mph limit was being enforced. 

An investigation by Derby Telegraph found that four cameras between Tibshelf services and junction 29A at Duckmanton had caught 8,382 drivers over the limit in 2017 – the fastest recorded at 128mph – making it the most profitable section of enforced motorway in the country at the time. 

It did not confirm at what speed over the 70mph national limit would trigger the cameras to go off. 

Cameras on smart motorways can operate at all times, catching motorists when no variable limit is in place. Though this isn't the case for all routes

Cameras on smart motorways can operate at all times, catching motorists when no variable limit is in place. Though this isn't the case for all routes

Cameras on smart motorways can operate at all times, catching motorists when no variable limit is in place. Though this isn’t the case for all routes

An All-running lanes section of smart motorway on the M1

An All-running lanes section of smart motorway on the M1

An All-running lanes section of smart motorway on the M1

Have you received a speeding fine for being 2mph over the national limit on a smart motorway?

Send an email to rob.hull@thisismoney.co.uk 

Darren Roberts, manager of the Casualty Reduction Enforcement Support Team for Derbyshire police told the Derby Telegraph: ‘The cameras are not there to generate money.

‘They are there to catch speeders, get reckless drivers off the roads and ultimately lead to a reduction in collisions.’

The M1 is just one of a number of routes that have had sections converted into smart motorways, and cameras along the M6, M25, M3, M20 and M5 could also be prepared at all times to catch drivers exceeding the national limit.

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