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M42 Motorway Speed Cameras and Registration Plate Cameras Driving near Birmingham

Speed Camera Sign
I wrote a blog entry on the day that they turned on the new Advanced Traffic Management (ATM) system on the M42.

I also said that I’d post some updates, so this is the first. I’ll also post another one when they’ve started using the hard shoulder as a running lane.

The variable speed limit does not appear to have made much difference to the flow of traffic on the motorway. When the variable speed limits come on, the traffic would not normally go much faster, although occasionally I do find a clear road in front of me, but the variable speed limit is still on. The variable speed limit does not appear to have removed any of the queues that are on the M42 on a daily basis. None of this is really a surprise, it’s opening the hard shoulder up to traffic that will make the difference, just changing the speed of the traffic makes very little difference.

The big thing for me is the fear that you are going to get caught on the speed cameras. Whilst I do not intentionally speed on the motorway, it’s very easy to follow the flow of the traffic and not realise that your speed has crept up slightly. This is not normally a problem as speed cameras normally have a sensible tolerance before they catch you. I’m not sure if the reports are true, but I’ve had emails and seen statements on the web that the cameras are only set to about 2 to 3 miles an hour above the variable speed limit. To ensure you are always within such a small tolerance means “clock watching”, where you have to constantly keep glancing at the speedometer, when you should really be watching the road. The alternative is to slow down to a speed that is quite a bit slower than the speed limit, but that means driving in the left hand lane, and you often end up with a lorry driving within inches of the back of your car.
You also need to be watching the gantries closely, as they can change speed without warning, and as you are so used to seeing the speed limit signs it’s easy to become complacent and then realise that the speed limit has reduced.

The speed cameras do not flash so you won’t know if you have caught until the NIP (Notice of Intent to Prosecute) comes through the post.

The speed cameras are only active when the variable speed limit is in force, although the highway agency has left itself the opportunity to turn the speed cameras on when the national speed limit is in force. See M42 Speed Camera (wording of when the cameras are to be used).

The cameras that read registration plates are to be used to catch those evading car tax, but also to monitor the use of the motorway. It’s possible that “big brother” is monitoring where you join and leave the motorway. This is to measure the use of the motorway, but has other potential uses. Nothing to worry about, or a breach of civil liberties, depending on your point of view.

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