Did you know that the first ever speed camera in the UK was installed on the westbound A316 over Twickenham bridge in 1992? The speed limit on the camera was set to 60mph, even though the limit for that particular part of the road was 40mph because they wanted to see just how bad the speeding problem was. Their findings weren’t great; 22,939 drivers were caught going over 65mph (over 25mph more than the speed limit!) within the 3 weeks after the camera was first installed, showing how casual drivers attitudes to speed limits were a couple of decades ago.
The reason we have speed cameras on our roads is for safety; over a quarter of deaths on the roads are caused by drivers going faster than the speed limit and around 2500 serious injuries are caused as a result of speeding.
Fixed speed cameras activate if they detect a vehicle moving faster than a set speed, however, there is a widespread assumption that speed cameras allow for leeway of 10% over that speed limit, (so in theory, on a 30mph road, drivers going at 33mph won’t be caught) however this remains unconfirmed. The NPCC suggests that police officers use a discretionary 10% when charging drivers for speeding however there is no law that says they must. The law simply states that you are accountable for a speeding offence by going at any speed above the mandatory limit, so going at 31 in a 30mph zone could still land you a fine.
In the UK, there are 4 main types of speed cameras.
Fixed Speed Cameras
Fixed speed cameras are also known as “Gatso” cameras and are distinguishable by their grey and yellow paint and their cubic shape. They were the first kind of speed camera to ever be installed in the UK, and remain the most common kind of camera used in the UK. The Gatso has a rear-facing camera, so is often fitted with the Truvelo that operates using a forward facing camera, which helps to identify the driver of the vehicle caught speeding.
Mobile Speed Cameras
Mobile speed cameras can come in a variety of formats including marked or unmarked vehicles, radar and laser guns. They are usually operated by local police forces and are often situated at sites where there is a history of traffic accidents. Mobile speed cameras can detect speeding vehicles from up to two miles away, however, they do not work around bends or over hills in the road.
Average Speed Cameras
Average Speed Cameras, also referred to as SPECS camera, use Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) technology to record your speed by measuring the time it takes you to pass between two connect cameras. A date and time stamp allows a computer in the camera to calculate the speed you were travelling at. Average speed cameras monitor over 250 miles of road in the UK and they’re particularly common on motorways and by road works.
Variable Speed Cameras
Variable Speed Cameras are most often used on smart motorways where speed limits change in accordance with real-time traffic and weather updates. The speed cameras are usually located beside the changeable speed limit signs on the overhead gantries of the motorway.