The number of speed cameras on freeways has tripled in a decade – and they are now responsible for more than one in ten police fines.
The “stealth cameras” have proliferated because they are seen as critical to controversial smart highways.
The figures received in the mail showed that in the twelve months ended this autumn, more than 253,000 Intented Law Enforcement (NIP) notices were issued by 17 of the 20 police forces whose areas cover smart highways in England and Wales.
The figures – excluding fines imposed by temporary cameras to check average speed – show for the first time the extent of speeding penalties imposed on motorways.
The number of speed cameras on freeways has tripled in a decade – and they are now responsible for more than one in ten police fines
It did so after England and Wales fines hit a record 2.3 million last year, driven by the growth of smart highway cameras.
Smart highways make up 416 miles of road and are projected to be nearly twice as long by 2025. Therefore, a large number of additional cameras should be installed.
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The technology is being tested on the M1 in Northamptonshire and could roll out nationwide later this year.
Highways England figures obtained from the Daily Mail show that the devices caught more than 26,000 drivers in two months – more than 400 a day.
Motorists caught with the tailgate driving too close to the vehicle in front risk a minimum fine of £ 100 and three penalty points, but those caught during the attempt will only receive warning letters.
Each year, more than 100 people are killed or seriously injured in accidents in which a vehicle is driven too close to the one in front.
They are designed to improve the flow of traffic by varying the speed limit, using the hard shoulder as a lane and asking drivers to stop in “shelters” if their car breaks down.
However, the system became controversial after a series of fatal accidents when cars broke down on an active lane. Now activists say they are also behind an unfair increase in fines.
Motorist organizations say the cameras are difficult to see. They are small and are usually mounted on the left side of portals on the edge of the highway. Sometimes they can be obscured by signs or vegetation.
At first the cameras were painted gray. Like conventional Gatso cameras, they only had to be painted yellow in 2017.
When first installed in 2014, the cameras of a model called HADECS3 (Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System) were referred to as “stealth cameras”. There were only 49 motorway speed cameras in England in 2010, but there are now 168 in service on the M1, M25, M3, M4, M5, M6, M20, M42 and M62. All but a handful are on smart highways.
Another ten cameras were installed on the M4 in South Wales. Scotland has only just started installing cameras on motorways so statistics are not available.
Individual figures show that two cameras on a traditional stretch of the M4 motorway, operated by the Metropolitan Police, recorded an additional 37,295 drivers in the first ten months of last year – that’s more than 120 a day.
Last night, car groups expressed concern about the way they are being used.
Edmund King, AA President, said, “The majority of drivers support the use of cameras when used for safety reasons, but there are inconsistencies in their use that drivers can catch.”
While smart highways have signs to warn drivers that cameras are in use, Mr King also called for better signage to show exactly where they are.
“If cameras are installed, signs should be placed on all portals as the goal should be to slow people down, not catch them,” he said.
The “stealth cameras” have proliferated because they are seen as critical to controversial smart highways
The figures received in the mail showed that in the twelve months ended this autumn, more than 253,000 Intented Law Enforcement (NIP) notices were issued by 17 of the 20 police forces whose areas cover smart highways in England and Wales
Car groups are also concerned about how the cameras are used.
Some police forces only turn them on when reduced speed limits are in operation, while others use them at all times, even when the standard 100 km / h limit applies.
However, Highways England, the government agency responsible for major roads, insists that speed cameras are required on smart highways to enforce reduced speed limits when lanes close due to traffic jams, breakdowns, collisions or road works. The drivers are made aware of them by frequent signs on the portals.
Jeremy Phillips, Head of Traffic Safety at Highways England said: “We don’t use cameras to catch drivers or to make money with fines.
“They are there to encourage drivers to observe speed limits, ensure the safety of all road users and promote free traffic.
“That is why they are light yellow and clearly signed. Warning drivers of the presence of cameras promotes regulatory compliance and thus improves safety. ‘
Highways England added that it is encouraging road users to report vegetation or other obstructions that cameras hide from view.