Sign error on M42 motorway may mean speeding let-off

Thousands of motorway speeding convictions could be overturned because the font used to display the numbers on some variable speed limit signs may not have complied with traffic regulations.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the signs showed mph numbers taller and narrower than they should have been.
The signs are used to reduce congestion on busy stretches of motorway.
The CPS alerted Warwickshire Police last November to the irregularity of the signs on the M42 west of Coventry.
Some lawyers and traffic consultants now want any penalties that were handed out over the course of the six years the signs were in place to be quashed, arguing they are not legally enforceable.

The Highways Agency, which installed the signs, said it believed they were the right size and were clearly visible to motorists.
The signs were on two stretches of the M42, between junctions 3a and seven and junctions seven to nine.

Cases dropped

As a result, police took the decision to stop using the signs as a means of enforcement and dropped prosecutions they were intending to pursue on the stretches of road affected.
Continue reading the main story “We felt it was quite clear what these numbers were and how visible they were to the road user” Ginny Clarke Highways Agency

However, by then thousands of motorists had already received fines and convictions built up since the first of the signs went into operation in 2006.

At least 11,000 fixed penalties were issued to motorists breaking the variable speed limit between junctions seven and nine of the M42 last year.

Richard Bentley, a traffic management consultant and former police officer, thinks it is only fair that previous speeding fines, points and driving bans be reconsidered.

“There should be a situation where cases are opened in the magistrates court to have the cases reheard and the convictions quashed,” he said.

“If there are no traffic signs, the Act of Parliament prohibits the conviction – and these are definitely not traffic signs.”

The regulations governing variable speed limit signs are set out in a government document called Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.

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