The UK’s first speed camera was installed in 1991 on the M40 motorway and recorded an incredible 400 instances of speeding within its first 40 minutes. Since then, speed cameras, often known as traffic enforcement cameras or safety cameras, have become an increasingly common sight on British roads. They are designed to make the roads safer and ensure that drivers comply with the speed limits. Those who exceed the legal limits are contacted and offered the choice between a fine and points on their driving licence or a date in court.
There are a number of different types of cameras used on our roads, with the most common being fixed speed cameras.
Fixed speed cameras use radar to detect the speed vehicles are travelling. While the original speed cameras used film, the latest models are fully digital and are always on. These cameras will be accompanied by white markings on the road spaced out at specific intervals. Once the radar is triggered, the camera takes two photographs at 0.5-second intervals. This photographic evidence provides details of the vehicle but also secondary verification of the speed detected by the radar.
These cameras are able to recognise different kinds of vehicle, such as cars towing caravans, as these will have to adhere to different speed limits.
Red light cameras, also known as traffic light cameras, are positioned at traffic lights to detect any cars going through an intersection unlawfully when the light signals red. These cameras often double up as fixed speed cameras.
There are multiple forms of mobile speed camera but most commonly these are vans specially fitted with the latest speed detection and imaging technology. Specialist police officers use laser detection to measure speed with a beam bouncing off the target vehicle in less than half a second to provide an accurate reading. Mobile camera units can generally be found parked at the roadside or on an overbridge. Unlike fixed cameras, these have visibility over 360 degrees, meaning they can capture images of vehicles as they approach and pass, providing added opportunity for number plate identification.
Average speed cameras can be found over long stretches of road where the flow of traffic needs to be controlled. They are often deployed on motorways during periods of prolonged road works but can also be permanent fixtures on roads such as the A9, where speeding is deemed to be a significant problem. These cameras use Automatic Number Plate Recognition to monitor the average speed of a vehicle as it passes between several cameras over a section of road. They are able to track vehicles across different lanes and multiple roads.
If you are caught speeding, the police will use the car’s number plate to get the owner’s address from the DVLA. A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) will be sent to the owner along with a request to provide driver details. If the owner was not driving the vehicle at the time, then they must notify the police of the name and address of the driver.
Once these details have been sent back, the driver at fault will be sent either a court summons, a Fixed Penalty Notice or an offer to attend a speed awareness course.
The National Speed Awareness Course scheme is designed to re-educate drivers to prevent reoffending. It is sometimes offered in place of penalty points and a fine if a driver has been within certain limits. It will not be offered to any drivers who have attended a course within the last three years.
It takes the form of an informal workshop with two trainers providing 24 attendees with information to help them recognise speed limits, understand the consequences of speeding and provide information to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.
The minimum penalty for speeding is £100 along with three penalty points added to your driving licence. Drivers within two years of passing their tests will be given six points on their licence. An accumulation of 12 points will result in a driving ban.
From April 2017, fines of up to £1000 can be given for speeding, rising to £2500 on a motorway. The level of fine and the number of points added to your licence depends on the seriousness of the speeding. There are three bands of speeding fine.
Band A fines are given for the lowest levels of speeding. Anything from 1mph to 10mph over the speed limit falls into this category e.g. 31mph to 40mph in a 30mph zone. This will result in three points on your licence and a fine approximately 50% of your weekly income.
Band B is more serious and will be given if you are travelling between 31mph and 40mph in a 20mph zone or up to 100mph in a 70mph zone. In this band, you can expect a disqualification of up to 28 days or four to six points added to your licence. The fine will be based on 100% of your weekly income.
Band C fines are awarded for the worst driving offence. These will be given to drivers travelling above 41mph and above in a 20mph zone up to those going above 100mph in a 70mph zone. The fine will be based on 150% of your weekly income. Six penalty points can also be given and a disqualification of up to 56 days.
A number of other factors may be taken into account in determining the level of fine. These include any previous convictions, the weather conditions, and the location of the offence, with highly populated areas potentially resulting in a harsher punishment.