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All You Need to Know About Speed Cameras on UK Roads

Like them or loathe them, speed cameras are here to stay. They may be the bugbear of drivers right across the country, but it’s important to acknowledge the role these play in helping to keep dangerous drivers in check. This makes the roads we drive on safer for everyone. 

Read on for lots of useful information on the various cameras you’re likely to encounter, where you’ll find them, and what happens if you’re caught speeding. 

A little history

Officially known as safety cameras, the UK’s first speed camera was installed on the A316 over Surrey’s Twickenham bridge back in 1992 - a notorious accident spot. The Dutch Gatso device was set to catch drivers doing over 60mph on a stretch of road with a 40mph speed limit, and recorded an incredible 22,939 drivers exceeding 65mph in 22 days. 

According to figures from the Home Office, almost 600,000 motorists were caught speeding by cameras in 2000 across England and Wales. By 2007, that figure had increased to 1.8 million, thanks to an increase in the number of cameras from 1,600 to 4,737 in those seven years. The number of people being caught has since levelled off, with around 2 million people a year falling foul of the law. 

Why do we have speed cameras? 

A 2017 study conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) claimed that speed cameras reduced accidents by between 17% to 39%, and fatalities by between 58% to 68% within 500 metres of the cameras they looked at. The LSE team arrived at these figures by studying statistics from before and after cameras were installed across 2,500 sites in Britain, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)  state that inappropriate speed contributes to 12% of all injuries, 15% of serious injuries and 26% of deaths on the road. As speed can be linked to around 400 deaths and 2,500 serious injuries each year on British roads, it’s clear that safety cameras have a role to play, especially in accident blackspots. 

Different types of speed cameras

Fixed speed cameras

The Gatso is still a mainstay on British roads after more than a quarter of a century of service. Painted yellow, it’s a rear-facing camera due to the flash it uses. There are also Truvelo cameras, which are forward-facing and leave no room for disputing who was behind the wheel. 

Mobile speed cameras

Typically run by local police forces, mobile cameras tend to be deployed at accident hotspots. They’re also used as part of speed safety campaigns though, and by their nature can be found almost anywhere. Mobile cameras usually work out of parked cars or vans, with police often using radar guns at the roadside too. 

Average speed cameras

First seen in 1999, SPECS cameras are becoming more common across the UK. Using Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) technology, they calculate your average speed between two cameras by recording a date and time stamp as you pass. You’ll often see SPECS cameras at roadworks, especially on motorways where the speed limit’s been brought down from 70mph to 50mph. 

Variable speed cameras

These cameras usually appear on smart motorways, when the speed limit’s reduced because of an incident, bad weather or heavy traffic. Sitting on overhead gantries, they aren’t hugely obvious but the limit should be displayed on signs next to them. Variable speed cameras can still catch you even if the speed limit’s not been lowered. 

What happens if you get caught speeding? 

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) advises that drivers are given a 10% margin of error, plus 2mph for speedometer error. However, this is discretionary and you can technically get a speeding ticket if you stray 1mph above the limit, but it is very unlikely. If you’re caught, you can get a fine, points on your licence, an offer to attend a speed awareness course, or a date in court, depending on the severity of your offence. 

In April 2017, a new set of laws were introduced for speeding fines. A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) results in three points on your licence and a £100 fine, but if you were going particularly fast or reject the FPN, the penalties could be a lot worse. The maximum fine for speeding is £1,000 - though this figure rises to £2,500 for motorway offences - while there are three different bands which will determine your punishment. Band A is the lowest level of speeding and will land you a fine of around 50% of your weekly income plus three points, while Band C covers the most serious offenders. It carries a fine of 150% of your weekly income and six points on your licence, or even disqualification for between seven and 56 days. 

With the risk of such heavy punishment, not to mention the danger attached to driving at high speeds, the best advice we can give to avoid getting caught speeding is to stick to the speed limit at all times.