Speed cameras are used to monitor passing vehicles and capture information about speeding vehicles which is then used to issue speeding penalties.
In this guide for motorists, we look at common types of speed cameras in the UK, and what you can expect to happen if you’ve been flashed by a speed camera.
How do speed cameras work?
Speed cameras are used to measure vehicles’ speeds in certain locations.
Different types of speed camera work in different ways. Some use radar technology while others rely on detectors in the road.
If a vehicle is travelling faster than the relevant speed limit for that road, the camera will take a photograph.
Some cameras act as both speed cameras and traffic cameras, monitoring speed and traffic junctions. These are triggered if a vehicle exceeds the speed limit for the road, jumps a red light or enters the junction after a red light.
Most speed cameras are fixed but police and traffic enforcement officers may also use mobile cameras.
Types of speed camera
Some of the more common speed cameras on UK roads include:
Gatso speed cameras
These are the most common type of fixed-speed camera in the UK. They are the large, yellow-boxed camera positioned ahead of a series of lines painted on the road.
They use radar to measure the speed of vehicles.
If the vehicle passes the camera above the speed limit, the camera will take two digital images in quick succession of the rear of the vehicle. This is the flash the driver sees. The two images are used to work out the distance the vehicle has travelled between the two images being taken.
Truvelo Combi speed cameras
Truvelo cameras look similar to Gatso cameras, but they work differently. Truvelo cameras use sensors embedded in the road surface to monitor a vehicle’s speed as it drives over the road. If a vehicle is speeding, the sensors send a signal to the camera unit to take an image.
They are front-facing units, and as such they do not flash when triggered by a speeding vehicle. That said, some Truvelo units have a separate adjacent pole with a flash, and some also have white lines on the road as a secondary check for vehicle speed.
They capture an image of the front of the vehicle so that the driver can be identified.
Truvelo D-Cam speed cameras
This is a later version of the Truvelo Combi camera. Most use sensors in the road to monitor the speed of passing traffic.
They can be either front or rear-facing and cna be configured to monitor other motoring offences such as driving through a red light.
However, there is a variant of the Truvelo D-Cam which uses a laser to measure the speed of passing vehicles. It works on the same principles as a police officer’s – and if a car registers too high a speed, the camera records the offending vehicle.
HADECS 3 speed cameras
HADECS 3 – Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3 – also knowon as the stealth camera, are one of the newest kinds of speed camera on UK roads.
They use two radar systems to monitor up to five lanes of traffic at the same time.
If a vehicle is caught speeding by the camera, it takes an image of the registration plate which is then automatically sent on for centralised processing.
They’re typically installed high on the side or rear of motorway gantries. They’re small in size, and sometimes painted yellow and sometimes grey, which can make them hard to spot.
SPECS speed cameras
Rather than measuring vehicle speed at one point, SPECS cameras monitor vehicle speed over an extended distance. At least two cameras are needed for this system; one positioned at the start of the stretch which uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to capture the registration plate and time the vehicle enters the stretch being monitored, and another camera at the end of the stretch which records the time it has taken the vehicle to cover the distance. If the average speed over the distance is above the relevant speed limit, the driver will be issued a speeding ticket.
Mobile speed camera vans
Mobile speed cameras operate from police vans parked at the side of the road. They typically use radar or laser technology to measure speed. It works by transmitting the radar or laser to the front of the vehicle, which then bounces back and is read by the police receiver.
How do average speed cameras work?
Average speed cameras monitor the average speed of a vehicle along a certain stretch of road.
Camera pairs are positioned at the begnning and end of the monitored roadway segment. Each camera captures the time and date alongside the licence plate number of each passing vehicle. The combined data is used to determine the car’s average speed between the paired cameras. If this exceeds the speed limit, a ticket is automatically sent to the vehicle’s registered owner.
What happens if you’ve been flashed by a speed camera?
If you’ve been flashed by a speed camera, you can expect to receive a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) from the police within 14 days. The notice is sent automatically to the vehicle’s registered keeper.
You will have 28 days to reply by completing the enclosed Section 172 notice confirming you were the driver. You will then receive a further notice adivsing of the penalties that are being imposed .
If you’re not the registered keeper of the vehicle, for example, you were driving a hire car, it may take longer for the NIP to be delivered to you.
Penalties for speeding
The minimum penalty for speeding is £100 and three points on your driving licence.
Speeding penalties are classified into three bands, depending on the severity of the offence:
- Band A for minor excesses (for example, up to 40mph in a 30mph zone)
- Band B for moderate excesses (for example, up to 50mph in a 30mph zone)
- Band C for major excesses (for example, more than 50mph in a 30mph zone)
Speeding fines are determined by the driver’s earnings:
- Band A: 50% of your weekly salary, plus 3 penalty points
- Band B: 150% of your weekly salary, plus 4-6 penalty points or disqualification for up to 28 days
- Band C: 150% of your weekly salary, plus 6 penalty points or disqualification for up to 56 days
Speeding penalty points
In addition to the fine, you will normally receive penalty points, depending on the offence. Anything above six penalty points will almost certainly be heard in court, due to the severity of the offence.
- Band A offence: 3 penalty points on your licence
- Band B offence: 4 – 6 penalty points on your licence, or a driving ban of between 7 and 28 days.
- Band C offence: 6 points on your licence, a ban from driving for seven to 56 days or get six penalty points on your licence.
You can only apply for the endorsement to be removed from your licence after four years.
Defending a speed camera fine
You can dispute your speeding ticket if you disagree with it, however, a fine is unlikely to be cancelled unless you can prove one of the following:
- You were not speeding.
- You were not driving at the time of the offence.
- There was inadequate or no speed limit signage.
- Your vehicle had been stolen.
Taking legal advice is the best way to determine if you have grounds to appeal. If your appeal fails, you could face harsher penalties than you were originally given.
Contesting a speeding ticket in court
If your case is being heard in court, you will need to complete a plea and mitigation form, pleading either not guilty or guilty with mitigating circumstances.
If pleading guilty with mitigating circumstances, in your mitigation statement, you can explain why you were speeding and why this justifies a lighter sentence. This evidence will be submitted in court, and it may persuade the magistrate to reduce the sentence.
If pleading not guilty to a speeding charge hearing, you or your legal adviser will appear in court to defend your plea.
You are permitted to request the police and prosecutor’s proof of the crime prior to the hearing. This can be useful if you cannot recall who was driving, you believe an error was made in identifying the car, or you believe your speed was incorrectly reported.
You can use these results in your defence.
During the trial, the prosecution must prove that you were driving the vehicle at the time of the offence and that your speed exceeded the posted limit for that length of road.
If you are convicted, you can be fined up to £1,000, or £2,500 if you were speeding on a motorway, between three and six penalty points can be added to your licence, and you could be banned if you were driving more than 30mph over the speed limit.
If you are found not guilty, there will be no further action taken.
Speed cameras FAQs
How do you know if a speed camera caught you speeding?
How do you know if a speed camera caught you speeding?
At what speed can a speed camera not catch you?
Generally speaking, speed cameras are set to have a tolerance of 10% plus 2 mph above the limit before it will be triggered and flash. However it's important to remember that driving any speed over the relevant speed limit is against the law and is punishable.
Do all speed cameras take photos?
Average speed cameras and speed camera vans don't take photos of the driver. Instead of photos, average speed cameras use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to measure speed. The camera records the vehicle's licence plate with a time and date stamp and then compares this information with another camera further along the road.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.