Dramatic increases have been recorded in the proportion of motorists who stay within the 120kph speed limit on a stretch of the M7 in Co Tipperary following enforcement of a new average speed safety camera system since the end of April.
New figures show that 96% of motorists now comply with the legal speed limit over a 15km stretch of the M7 between Junction 26 (Nenagh West) and Junction 27 (Birdhill) compared to 59% in 2016.
The new system monitors the average speed of vehicles travelling between the two points in either direction.
The average speed safety cameras on the M7 were introduced on a pilot basis in early 2021 but motorists have only started being fined for breaking the speed limit since April 25 this year.
Any motorist found to be driving at an average speed over 120kph between the two junctions is liable for an €80 fine and three penalty points.
Figures obtained under freedom of information legislation show compliance levels with the speed limit in the enforcement zone in previous years averaged just 60% between 2014 and 2018.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland noted that the installation of highly visible yellow camera poles on the M7 before the system became operational had itself reduced speeding on that stretch of the motorway.
Official figures show the compliance rate with the speed limit was 69% in the early part of 2021 before the equipment was erected but it rose to 89% following the installation of the average speed safety camera infrastructure.
TII said the compliance rate had increased to 96% since enforcement began in April together with associated additional signage and publicity.
The average speed safety camera system on the M7 is only the second deployment of such technology in Ireland.
It was first introduced on the full 4.5km length of the Dublin Port Tunnel in 2017.
The section of the M7 in Co Tipperary was chosen because it had been identified as prone to frequent weather-related events, particularly hailstorms, which had caused a number of road traffic collisions.
Gardaí also pointed out that speeding is typical of driver behaviour on low traffic volume sections of the motorway network throughout the country.
Reacting to the latest figures, the Road Safety Authority said the improved compliance rate with the speed limit on the M7 since the introduction of the average speed safety camera system was very welcome.
“Average speed safety camera systems are a known lifesaver and it is important to note that the Government’s current road safety strategy identified them as one of 50 high-impact reactions to reduce road deaths,” said an RSA spokesperson.
Although average speed safety cameras are predominantly used on motorways, the RSA said they could be deployed on other roads and noted they are installed on the A1 dual carriageway just north of the border on the main Dublin-Belfast road.
The RSA spokesperson said the further rollout of such cameras could be expected as part of efforts to reduce annual road deaths by 50% by 2030.
Several other stretches of motorways have been identified by gardaí as locations with a history of high-speed collisions including sections of the M1 in Louth, the M6 in Co Westmeath, the M8 in Co Cork and the M18 in Co Clare.
The RSA said it believed motorists regarded average speed safety cameras as “fairer” than the more familiar speed cameras that just measure the speed of a vehicle at one particular point.
“It is important to remember that they are not about raising revenue by catching people out but getting motorists to stop speeding,” the spokesperson said.
An Garda Síochána did not respond to a request for figures on the number of motorists who have been fined as a result of the average speed camera system on the M7 in time for publication.