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UK Report Finds Variable Speed Limits Dangerous
Survey finds UK variable speed limits generated up to $681 million in speed camera revenue by confusing drivers.

Variable speed limit UK
Variable speed limits on British highways are confusing and dangerous, according to a report released Tuesday by The automobile insurance provider commissioned One Poll to survey 2000 motorists about their experience with "smart motorways" where officials have the ability to lower the speed limit displayed on dot matrix signs, claiming the devices reduce congestion.

According to the new findings, many motorists believe UK officials have other motives when dropping the speed limit from 70 MPH to as low as 20 MPH, particularly when those limits are enforced by speed cameras.

"There seems to be a perception among drivers that variable speed cameras on smart motorways are there to catch people out, and it's no surprise with up to £526 million in fines issued last year alone," Confused's motoring editor, Amanda Stretton, said in a statement.

The insurer used a freedom of information request to calculate that 210,538 photo radar tickets have been issued in areas with variable speed limits since 2013.

Motorists are often confused by this arrangement. Of those surveyed, 19 percent did not know whether the temporary speed limit signs were mandatory or advisory (they are mandatory). Only 10 percent knew that the limits could drop as low as 20 MPH. Some 78 percent of those ticketed in a variable speed zone had no idea that the lowered limit was being enforced by a machine, and 28 percent found notice of speed limit changes to be insufficient.

A 40 percent of those responding to the survey believed the situation was dangerous, since speed cameras encourage sudden braking. One out of five said they had witnessed either an accident or near miss first-hand in these zones.

"We'd advise drivers to research their route before heading out to take note of any areas where there may be a dramatic drop in speed," Stretton added. "Keeping a considerable distance between your own car and the car in front can also help to avoid any sudden braking."

The UK results are consistent with a Missouri Department of Transportation study that found 79 percent of those surveyed believed the state's variable speed limit program did nothing to reduce congestion (read report).

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