M42

When variable speed signs were brought to the greater Seattle area a few years ago, our roads were turned into what the WSDOT calls “Smarter Highways”. The signs reflect what is happening on the road ahead of you, and speeds fluctuate to adjust to changing traffic conditions. If your speed surpasses a posted variable speed limit, you can be ticketed, just as if you were travelling at a speed higher than a regular speed limit sign.

There are similar smart speed signs in the UK on the M42 highway in Warwickshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Around 11,000 drivers were ticketed for driving over the speed limit in 2012. But those drivers could find themselves being refunded their fines, because of a glitch with the signs: the font. Apparently, the font used on a sign in the area did not meet regulations, as it was too tall and narrow. Enough evidence has been found to take to court, and now, drivers are lawyering up to get their money back. Even people who were given tickets up to six years ago are seeking a refund. Police in the area are saying while the sign’s font may not have met standards, the speed limit was clear and lit.

Think about our signs. If the font was a little bit narrower or taller, would it change the way you saw the speed? Whatever the case, if the speed posted on a sign is readable, follow it and avoid getting a ticket.

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