Caught on Camera, do Speed Cameras Work?

It’s been twenty years since Britain’s first ever speed camera was switched on over Twickenham Bridge in Surrey. Since the creation of the Gatso camera in 1992, speed cameras have earned millions in revenue, but do speed cameras remain a reliable technology to reduce driver speed as well as capture reckless road users responsibly?

The official government statement is that speed cameras have become a vital part of a nationwide effort to reduce road traffic accidents. In 2013, the Department for Transport  reported that, on average, five people are killed and 376 are injured every day on UK roads. The government claims that without cameras, around 100 more people would be killed each year.

However, there are many people who beg to differ, including the very man who helped create the speed camera. Roger Reynolds is angry, claiming the current state of our road camera culture as a ‘fiasco’.  With the number of caught motorists rising from 600,000 in 2000 to 1.8 million in 2007, Reynolds isn’t far wrong - so are speed cameras still a useful tool or are they becoming an overused nuisance?

How do Speed Cameras Work?

Firstly, we’ll begin with how today’s speed cameras work when you enter the speed trap. Regular motorist drivers should be familiar with the SPECS average speed cameras, which utilise state of the art video with automatic number plate reading digital technology.

As vehicles pass between the entry and exit camera points, their number plates are digitally recorded, whether they are speeding or not. The images are then paired up and, because each image carries a date and time stamp, the computer can then work out your average speed between the cameras.

It’s important to remember that the registered keeper of the vehicle must be sent a speeding ticket within 14 days from the date the photo was taken or it is no longer legal to prosecute someone.

How Much Margin for Error is There?

You’re currently allowed 10 per cent of the limit plus 2 mph. The 10 per cent allows for a difference between your speed and the cameras and the 2 mph on top is because all car manufacturers set speedometers around 2 mph below the speed you’re actually doing in an attempt to slow people down.

Are Speed Cameras Always Correct?

The original Gatso speed camera detectors don’t always work successfully. They have been known to flash on their own without being properly triggered by a speeding vehicle as well as being set off due to vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.

The photos are only used to perform a secondary check of the alleged speed as the driver’s speed is determined in relation to markings on the road. However, the latest digital SPECS average speed cameras are proven to be far more reliable as there is no film, and your speed is calculated by time rather than markings on the road.

Alternatives to cameras

Not all areas in the UK enforce the use of speed cameras as harshly as others and, in fact, it’s a right that local councils decide how best to tackle specific problems in their areas. One alternative approach proposed by police is to offer offenders a speed awareness course instead of three penalty points on their licence.

Many people still remain not entirely convinced on the benefits of speed cameras, with an estimated 53% of UK motorists believing they fail to solve the problem. Fortunately, over the next year, local authorities and police will work with the public making full details about speed cameras accessible to drivers.

Experts in Motoring Offences

If you have been accused of a motoring offence, including being caught by a speed camera, and require legal advice, take a look at our driving offence services page for more information.  

The solicitors at JMW specialise in speeding camera offences where there are grounds for defence against conviction. Call 0800 804 8159, or fill in our contact form to speak to a member of the team about your circumstances.

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