5 things to know about speed cameras

 In driving facts

5 things to know about speed cameras


You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on British roads who has much good to say about speed cameras. But while they might feel like a nuisance when you’re behind the wheel, in reality, they’re one of the most important tools in helping reduce the likelihood of an accident.


For newer drivers, it’s particularly useful to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of how to manage your speed. Cameras might have their detractors, but it’s universally accepted that they have the power to make you think about how fast you’re travelling – especially in more urban areas.


Today, we’re going to look at five of the most important things to know about speed cameras, in order to better understand their place in regulating road safety. From recognising the different types of cameras, to knowing the repercussions of getting caught, make sure to keep all of these factors in mind.



1.  They’ve been on British roads for over 30 years

The number of Brits who’ve driven without the looming presence of speed cameras is dwindling all the time. The first official speed detector was introduced back in 1992, on the M40 motorway in West London, near Twickenham.


Despite the camera being set at a generous 60mph limit in a 40mph zone, as many as 22,939 drivers were found to be moving at speeds in excess of 65mph in the first 22 days of operation. Even more amazingly, the original camera had a 400-exposure roll, which was estimated to be completely used up within the first 40 minutes of it being switched on every day.


The figures really highlight how prevalent driving over the limit was at the time, with no means of consistently policing road speed. Whether or not there has been a significant improvement since then is still up for debate.


2.  There are many different types of speed cameras


Just as with most things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to speed cameras. Knowing the different kinds of cameras that are out there can reduce your chances of being caught out by a hidden unit. Some of the most common which you’ll see dotted across the country are included here:


  • The Gatso. The most common cameras on UK roads, these bright yellow boxes are easily visible. They use internal radar sensors to work out how fast a vehicle is travelling, and take snapshots of those who are breaking the rules. The cameras are rear-facing, which means they’ll take a photo of your rear licence plate.


  • Truvelo Combi. These cameras are front-facing, and use an infrared flash to avoid dazzling a driver. They don’t carry a sensor themselves, but rather work in tandem with one which is embedded in the road surface. They are also large yellow boxes.


  • Truvelo D-cam. Similar to the combi, these Truvelo models can use sensors in the road or the unit themselves, and are able to be mounted versatilely almost anywhere.


  • Speedcurb. Working as a combination of sorts of the Gatso and Truvelo, Speedcurb cameras use sensors in the road, while only taking photos with a rear-facing camera. These cameras snap three photos (two of the side of your vehicle, one of the back).


  • SPECS. Most commonly found on motorways and dual carriageways, these cams will assess you over several points, using a timestamp. If your average speed is higher than the limit, you’ll be charged.


  • Mobile cameras. As the name suggests, these units aren’t fixed to one location – most often finding a home in a police vehicle, which moves about and monitors particular hotspots.



While you certainly don’t need to know the ins and outs of every individual model, it can help to know where and when to expect certain cameras.


3.  Understanding how a speed camera works


Have you ever wondered how a speed camera actually operates? Despite sometimes relying on something as high-tech as radar tracking, the process is actually surprisingly easy to understand. Think about it as a step-by-step process for every camera:


  1. A car is tracked going too fast by either a radar system, or as a result of sensors in the road surface.


  1. The camera is triggered. It takes a digital image, which will often capture the make, model, colour and registration of the vehicle in question.


  1. The camera will then record the time and date of the offence, the speed you were moving at, and the speed limit on the road you were on.


  1. The police then contact the DVLA to attain the registered address of the vehicle in question, and send a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) within two weeks.


It’s a quick, but effective, system.



4.  There isn’t a rule about a speeding wiggle room


A lot of us are also under the assumption that cameras offer a slight buffer when it comes to breaking the limit. The generally accepted rule of thumb is that this sits around 10%. For example, going at 33mph in a 30mph zone would be acceptable.


The reality is that this is not a rule which has to be followed – with it being totally at the discretion of the police to decide what level of speeding does or doesn’t need to be penalised. Make sure to keep that in mind if the nasty surprise of a speeding ticket turns up at your door.



5.  The penalties for being caught speeding


We all know there are charges associated with being caught travelling over the speed limit. But do you know exactly what kind of a fine (or worse) you could be slapped with? The amount you’ll be charged will depend on a variety of factors.


As standard, you can expect to be charged £100 and receive 3 penalty points for an offence. If you build up 12 points within three years (or 6 points in two years as a new driver), you could lose your licence.


If you decide to appeal the fixed penalty notice, but are found guilty of the offence, you can be charged up to £1,000 for an offence on a regular road, or £2,500 on the motorway. You could also get more than the regular three penalty points.

Make sure to keep all of these factors in mind when thinking about speed cameras in the future. It could make all the difference and could save you a pretty penny in fines.

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