Speed Cameras Explained - Everything You Need to Know

Picture this, you're on an unfamiliar dual carriageway, cruising at about 65 mph, listening to your favourite tracks, completely oblivious that you've passed a 60mph sign. Suddenly, that all too familiar yellow camera starts getting closer, and your speed dial isn't declining fast enough. The panic sets in, will you be caught?

It's normal for your head to fill with questions. Was that a real speed camera? Will I be fined? How accurate are speed cameras?

What is a Speed Camera? 

Traffic enforcement cameras (speed cameras) are cameras that are mounted near a road or on a vehicle to detect any motoring offences including speeding, driving through a red light, and not paying at a toll booth. They're unavoidable, with 2.84 million motoring offences being recorded in 2018/19 in England and Wales. So if you get caught, you're definitely not alone.

Which Speed Cameras Can You Get Fined From?


There are many different types of speed cameras across the UK, all serving a different purpose. Here is a quick list of some to be aware of:

The Gatso:

With the first one being installed in 1992 on the A316, the Gatsometer BV speed camera is the most commonly used speed camera in the UK, often located near common accident sites.

Mobile Camera (Tripod Speed Camera):

These often sneak up on speedy drivers. With no signs indicating their whereabouts, mobile speed cameras are handheld or mounted on vans and tripods, sometimes hiding out of sight to catch drivers off guard.  


SPECS are clever little cameras that work as a team to gang up on unsuspecting drivers. Unlike others, they photograph every car that passes beneath them, sending the data to another camera about 200m away, they then calculate the average speed of each driver between the two cameras to determine who is speeding. Clever right?

Police Automatic Number Plate Recognition:

Unless you're a criminal, you don't need to worry about these. Often found on bridges, these tripod speed camera's sole reason is to catch a person of interest, which we hope isn't you!

Variable Speed Cameras:

Working in a similar way to SPEC's, Variable Speed Cameras are positioned on gantries above motorists, often on smart motorways. However, unlike most speed cameras, they're unliking to be operating all the time.

What happens when I get flashed by a speed camera? And can I check if I have been caught? 

Besides the camera flashing at your number plate as you drive by, it's hard to know whether or not you've been caught until being sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and a Section 172 notice within 14 days. (If you don't return the notice within 28 days you may have to go to court.)

Following this, you'll either receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or a letter telling you to go to court. If you don't hear anything after 14 days, you are probably in the clear.

How much is a speeding fine?

The cost of a speeding fine depends on how far over the limit you're driving, as well as what the limit is. The fine can range from 25% to 125% of your weekly income depending on the seriousness of the offence. In severe cases, the fine can be as high as 700% of your weekly income! 

If you've been driving for less than 2 years and built up to 6 penalties, your driving license could also be revoked.

Speed limit (mph) Band A: recorded speed (mph) Band B: recorded speed (mph)
20 21-30 31-40
30 31-40 41-50
40 41-55 56-65
50 51-65 66-75
60 61-80 81-90
70 71-90 91-100
Penalty points Three Four to six*
Disqualification - Seven to 28 days*
Fine 25 - 75% of weekly income 75 - 125% of weekly income
*Drivers will receive penalty points or a disqualification.    


Source - Which?

Do speed cameras flash from the front or back?

It depends on the camera. Some, like the Gatso, flash from the back. However, others are designed to take pictures from the front, or both front and back. The Truvelo looks similar to the Gatso, however, most are designed to be forward-facing. Others, like the SPECs, are sometimes mounted on gantries, taking overhead images of motorists. 

Are all speed cameras active?

You've probably heard rumours about whether speed cameras actually do anything or not. Many people believe that some speed cameras don't work and are simply there to scare motorists. It's true that some speed cameras are switched off, however, it's impossible to tell. So it's best to keep it safe and follow the rules.

Are speed cameras accurate?

Although the law states that you can receive a speeding ticket even if you're exceeding the speed by as little as 1mph, it is likely that officers don't seek prosecution until a motorist has exceeded the speed limit by 10%, plus another 2mph. However you might catch them on a bad day, so be careful.

To sum everything up, you never know when you're being watched on the road, and it's better to play safe than risk a fine or a serious injury, right? Speed cameras are there for a reason, without them, accidents would skyrocket. So as much as we despise them, we should probably appreciate them too

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