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How Do UK Speed Cameras Work?

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Speed cameras play an important role in encouraging drivers to keep their speed within the applicable limit.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), speeding plays a role in 15% of serious injuries and 24% of deaths on the road. In the years since the introduction of speed cameras, UK roads have undeniably become safer - and this technology is likely to have played a significant role.

Authorities often place speed cameras on stretches of road where collisions are particularly high. Motorway speed cameras are especially common.

But how do speed cameras work?

Speed cameras work by determining a vehicle's speed using road markings or radar. If a vehicle breaches the applicable speed limit, an image is taken, and the registration, vehicle colour and type are recorded. It will also note the date, speed and by how much the speed limit was exceeded.

Some cameras also take an image of the driver, making an offence more difficult to dispute.

Speeding cameras: Do They All Flash?

No, not all speed cameras flash. Some systems work by tracking a vehicle over a long distance in order to determine its average speed.

Types of Speed Camera in the UK

How Do Fixed Speed Cameras Work?

Fixed speed cameras may be either rear-facing (as with the Gatso brand camera) or front-facing (as with the Truvelo branded camera) and are fixed to one spot.

How Do Mobile Speed Cameras Work?

As the name suggests, mobile speed cameras are mobile and are often operated by police from marked or unmarked vehicles, or manually in radar or laser form. They are often used as part of speed safety campaigns. These can detect speeding at distances of around one mile.

How Do Average Speed Cameras Work?

Average speed cameras record a vehicle's speed between two points on the road. They use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), which records the vehicle's number plate.

How Do Variable Speed Cameras Work?

These work in a similar way to average speed cameras. They are often used on smart motorways, where the speed limit is adjusted according to congestion levels or particular hazards (for instance, fog). They are attached to overhead gantries.

How Do Traffic Light (or 'Red Light') Cameras Work?

Traffic light cameras are attached to traffic lights, and are activated when the light turns red. If any vehicle passes the stop line after the red light shows, an offence is recorded. These systems are often called 'red light' cameras and are common across the UK. They are a good reason - alongside safety - not to go too early when the lights begin to change.

New Two-Way Speed Camera

A new 'bi-directional digital camera' was introduced to Devon and Cornwall in 2023. These new cameras will replace older speed cameras in areas where speeding is more common. These cameras are fixed to silver and yellow poles and feature cameras pointing in opposite directions.

Speed Camera Detectors: Are They Legal?

Speed camera detectors usually take one of two forms: a dashboard-mounted device that detects upcoming speed cameras and smartphone apps that use online data or updates provided by other drivers.

Using a speed camera detector is legal in the UK. However, their use is banned in some EU countries. For example, if you are found with a speed camera detector in France, you could receive a 1,500 euro fine.

Speed Camera Jammers: Are They Legal?

Speed camera jammers that block signals from speed cameras are illegal in the UK. Those caught using them could receive a hefty fine.

The law states that, if you exceed a speed limit by any degree, you can receive a speeding ticket. For reasons of safety - and to protect your bank balance - the sensible option is to stay within the specified speed limit.

Keep up to date with GEM Motoring Assist at:

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