Speed cameras raced back into headlines this week when it was revealed Greater Manchester Police had installed 100 two-way ‘ultra’ cameras across the city to catch drivers over the limit.
The VECTOR-SR cameras do not flash and use the latest in infra-red technology that means white lines don’t have to be painted on the roads they are monitoring.
While this is the most advanced type of fixed camera we’ve seen in Britain yet, it’s not the only device being used by police forces and authorities to detect speeding motorists.
In fact, there are now 18 different types in use across the UK, from conventional fixed roadside units, to average speed cameras and mobile devices.
Here’s what each one looks like, how they are monitoring your speed and what you need to know about them.
And we’ve also provided the latest information on the stretches of UK road with the most prolific speed cameras.
1. Digital Gatso speed cameras
The Gatso is the original speed camera – the one that dates back to the incarnation of fixed roadside cameras in the early 1990s. It’s a rearward facing system only
Digital Gatsos have replaced their film-based predecessors since 2007. They are still bigger than most fixed camera alternatives and are always supplemented by white road markings
The ‘Gatso’ is the original fixed speed camera – the first used for speed enforcement having debuted on Britain’s roadside in 1991 on the M40.
This was the most common speed camera on UK roads in the early phase of Big Brother speed enforcement, though it’s slowly being replaced by newer technology today.
The square yellow boxes – which were grey up until 2001 until new laws stipulated that all speed cameras needed to be painted yellow to make them easier to see – originally used film to snap drivers over the limit.
However, with times and technology moving on, the manufacturer switched to Digital Gatsos in 2007, thus eliminating the need for police and authorities to visit each site to collect and replace film.
Its latest on UK roads is the Gatsometer Type 24.
A rearward facing unit, it uses a radar to measure the speed of a vehicle. If it is above the pre-set threshold, the camera takes two pictures, producing a double flash that makes the rear registration plate and number clearly visible.
These cameras are always supplemented by white lines – called secondary check marks – painted on the road at specific intervals, which are used to confirm the vehicle’s speed.
While Gatsos can’t measure the speed of an approaching vehicle, operators have been known to periodically rotate them in order to monitor the opposite carriageway.
And not all of them are operating at all times. Some are dummy units, which will continue to flash motorists as a warning, but won’t result in enforcement.
2. Truvelo Combi speed cameras
The Truvelo camera uses infra-red technology, so you won’t see it flash
The problem – when it comes to enforcement – with Gatso speed cameras is that, being rear facing, they fail to capture the face of the motorist at the wheel.
This has allowed fine-dodging individuals to claim they weren’t the driver at the time the vehicle was snapped over the limit.
However, the forward-facing Truvelo camera eliminates that issue.
Unlike Gatsos, it doesn’t flash. Instead, it uses infra-red technology, so the forward-facing installations won’t momentarily blind any motorists with a bright light.
Using four sensors that are hidden in the road surface, it can calculate at what speed a vehicle is travelling when it passes the camera.
Similar to Gatsos, they are positioned where there are three white lines on the road to measure the time it takes a car to cover a particular distance. This is then used as back-up proof of speeding if a motorist disputes the camera reading.
A tell-tale sign that a camera is a Truvelo Combi is that they often have a separate grey camera with an orange lens on a separate pole. This takes a digital photo when the speed camera triggers so the identity of the driver can be used as evidence.
However, this image will only be released to a vehicle owner with their permission or if they deny it is them at the wheel.
3. Truvelo D-Cam speed cameras
The Truvelo D-Cam is also a forward- and rear-facing camera that can identify the speeding motorist at the wheel. They’re often supplemented by a second camera with an orange lens that takes photos
Truvelo’s D-Cam arrived on our roads in 2013 and can be told apart from the Combi by its svelte design.
D-Cam – short for Digital Camera – uses the same radar technology as the Combi but can be installed both forward and rear-facing, making them the ideal replacement not just for the older Truvelo systems but Gatsos too.
You’ll most commonly spot these futuristic-looking cameras fixed in the central reservation of the road – though the example pictured is at the side – and they can monitor across up to three lanes of traffic at a time.
And they’re not only used for speed enforcement – they can be used at junction to catch motorists running red lights using a similar system paired with sensors in the road.
Up to 100,000 digital photos taken by these cameras can be stored at any one time and they can even be sent in real-time to databases run by police forces and operators to issue a notice of intendent prosecution (NIP).
4. SpeedCurb speed cameras
This RedSpeed device can be deployed as a speed camera or to enforce red lights. The SpeedCurb variant uses sensors in the road to measure vehicle speed and the camera takes three digital photos if it detect a motorist over the limit – one is a close-up of the number plate
SpeedCurb cameras are said to be the highest-mounted speed detection cameras used in the UK currently
Like the Truvelo D-Cam, RedSpeed has produced a dual-purpose camera that can enforce both traffic speed and red light violations.
SpeedCurb is the name given to the rear-facing cameras that monitors speed alone (RedGuard is the name for traffic light enforcement) across two lanes.
The slim cameras are installed on a pole at the roadside and are among the highest-mounted fixed speed camera devices currently used.
They are often seen mounted in pairs so that they can measure the speed of traffic across four separate lanes in two directions.
They differ from Gatso speed cameras that use radar to trigger, instead utilising sensors embedded into the road surface like the Truvelo – which makes them more expensive to install for authorities.
These sensors are spaced at one-metre interval and when a vehicle drives over them it measures the time between each sensor being triggered. If the time taken is faster than the set speed limit, the SpeedCurb camera automatically takes three digital photos to record the violation.
Two of these digital images are wide-angle to show the vehicle, while the third captures a close-up photo of the number plate that can be checked against the ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) database.
Again, there are check marks painted onto the road surface, which can be used as secondary evidence to prove a motorist is speeding using the footage captured.
5. VECTOR-SR speed cameras
The Jenoptik VECTOR-SR is the latest roadside camera being used by police forces and local authorities to catch both speeding drivers and motorists running red lights. And what makes it more advanced is that it can also be used to enforce seatbelt and mobile phone offences
There latest device being installed on roads all across the country has been dubbed an ‘ultra’ speed camera due to it being the most advanced of its kind yet.
Having received approval for use in Britain back in 2019, it looks and works very differently to typical roadside cameras.
Like other systems, it can double for both speed and red-light enforcement, making it one of the most versatile cameras on the market today.
It uses a video-based system that works in tandem with an intelligent virtual grid to judge if a driver is speeding. This means there is no need for sensors to be dug into the road, which is costly and requires road closures for their installation. Yet another reason why it is very attractive to cash-strapped police forces and local authorities
Measurements from Jenoptik’s radar technology is then validated by secondary independent and image-based evidence.
That means there is no need for road markings – which have typically been one of the biggest tell-tale signs to let drivers know the whereabouts of speed cameras.
The system uses infra-red technology which allows images to be captured via still photos and video recordings, which eliminates the need for a camera flash, even at night and in bad weather.
Unlike previous cameras which only capture vehicles travelling in left-hand lanes, the new model captures up to three lanes of traffic going in both directions. This means one installation can enforce an entire section of road.
It will also be able to identify speeding vehicles and their owners quickly, too, as it has built-in ANPR tech.
And because the camera records footage of a driver breaking the limit, any visual evidence showing motorists driving without a seatbelt or using a mobile phone can be used to enforce these offences too.
6. REDFLEXspeed speed cameras
REDFLEX cameras can capture both multiple offences by one vehicle at the same time and multiple offending vehicles speeding through the same junction
REDFLEX is another camera some Britons might not have seen too often, but having been approved by the Home Office are likely to crop up more often.
There are two types. REDFLEXred is for red light monitoring and REDFLEXspeed for motorway speed enforcement that can cover up to six lanes.
REDFLEX says the cameras can also be used to enforce average speed zones, though these can only measure average speed from one device to another.
Each unit has a built-in 11 megapixel digital camera that produce high-resolution colour images.
Impressively, they can both capture multiple offences by a driver in a single vehicle and identify more than one offending vehicle at a single junction at one given time.
7. Peek speed cameras
Peek speed cameras, like this one, are considered old hat and have mostly been replaced across the country
Peek cameras are few and far between today with just a few still in operation in built-up areas in the UK.
Similar to Gatsos, they’re solely rear-facing systems, have a flash and rely entirely on radar technology.
8. HADECS3 motorway speed camera
Smart motorways call for smart speed cameras, and the HADECS3 is the latest version being used to snap drivers during variable restrictions
Motorway speed cameras have been through the biggest transformation in the last decade or so – and the arrival of ‘smart’ motorways has required more advanced systems that are sneakier than ever.
One of the latest examples is the third system from HADECS, which stands for ‘Highway Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System’.
This camera type being used predominantly on smart sections of the M1, M3, M4, M5, M6, M20, M25 and M62.
They can be notoriously difficult to spot as they are placed either in overhead gantries or on poles at the side of the motorway high above the road – and not all of are painted yellow, with some being grey.
They’re among the most advanced systems in use, using radar technology unlike anything we’ve seen in speed-camera technology yet.
They can monitor up to five lanes of traffic (including the hard shoulder, which may be active as a running lane) and can capture vehicles using lane identification, vehicle position and positive vehicle identification.
They also operate faultlessly to catch speeders in all weather conditions.
9. SPECS average speed camera
The SPECS camera is the first of the average speed monitors that were given UK approval in 1999
The turn of the century brought a new menace to motorists with the introduction of the average speed camera, with the Home Office giving them approval in 1999.
SPECS devices are among the earliest examples of average speed restriction enforcers.
The system uses multiple installations along a road (a minimum of two at least 200 metres apart) using cameras on overhead gantries.
The devices have infra-red and ANPR tech to record passing cars to calculate their average speed from one camera to another.
Two photos are taken and a computer analyses the average speed between to two connected devices.
Drivers don’t know which two cameras are paired, meaning they could be calculating the average speed over up to 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) on a single stretch of carriageway.
The ANPR tech identifies the vehicle and owner and is used to issue a ticket.
Some motorists believe they can dodge the cameras by changing lanes, but often they are set to overlap to prevent this.
10. VECTOR average speed cameras
VECTOR average speed cameras are later versions of SPECS that can be used to capture more than just speeding offences
VECTOR average speed cameras were introduced in 2014 and are more advanced than SPECS because they include technology for additional use as well as speed detection.
In fact, only those painted yellow can catch you over the limit.
Grey VECTOR cameras can be seen dotted around city centres, especially London.
These are ANPR cameras for the enforcement of bus lanes, traffic lights, yellow-box junctions and the capital’s Congestion Zone. They’re also used at tolls and for parking management.
11. Siemens SafeZone average speed camera
Despite being bright yellow, the Siemens SafeZone cameras are so ultra-compact they’re incredibly difficult to spot on the road
Most of the Siemens cameras are being used in slower restrictions, such as outside schools
Despite being bright yellow, these Siemens units are incredibly compact and discreet, making them one of the hardest speed cameras to spot on the road to date.
This average speed device is most commonly used in towns, cities and villages, particularly zones where low-speed management is crucial, such as outside schools.
They’re another example of ANPR technology being put to use to enforce speed limits but also to assist to reduce traffic congestion.
The SafeZone camera is approved for constant monitoring of speed limits between 20mph and 140mph, so can also be used in a variety of locations, from urban areas to Europe’s fastest-moving motorways.
What makes them even more difficult to identify is the fact they can be fitted to existing street furniture, such as cantilever poles and bridges, and double installations can film in one or both directions at the same time.
12. SpeedSpike average speed cameras
SpeedSpike is one of the latest forms of ANPR speed camera. Up to 1,000 can be hooked up to work together to capture average speeds across an area
Another relative newcomer to the market is the SpeedSpike, which has some fairly incredible claims.
For instance, the manufacturer of this average speed camera says a network of up to 1,000 separate cameras can be linked together using GPRS to provide enforcement of an area 24 hours a day.
Like SPECS, VECTOR and the Siemens camera, it uses ANPR, so can identify your vehicle by cross-referencing with the online database.
Most are fitted to gantries and roadside posts where there are roadworks on one side of the carriageway and different limits need to be enforced in each direction.
The cameras, which are positioned together but facing away from each other, can sit in the central reservation and detect speeding motorists going in both directions in different restrictions.
13. Mobile speed cameras
Mobile speed camera vans are still being used in the UK at multiple sites.
Hidden inside the vehicle is an operator with one of a number of different cameras.
This includes mini Gatsos, radar guns and laser guns.
There are two types of mobile speed camera – ones that rely on technology in the road (DS2) and ones that can be used anywhere
14. DS2 mobile speed cameras
It’s a little unfair to call these mobile speed cameras because they’re actually semi-permanent.
That’s because they’re only used at sites where there are three piezo strips either on top of the road surface or embedded within the tarmac.
When in use, the camera partnership vans used for the operation are connected to the DS2 sites that automatically trigger the cameras. The lines on the road can then be used as additional evidence of speeding.
One benefit for operators is that DS2 systems can be left unattended with some of the cameras used by forces, meaning the vehicles can be unmanned and still capture speeders.
15. Aecom mobile speed cameras
This is the next-generation mobile speed camera, which has its own overhead gantry structure that can not only measure speed but also capture photographic evidence of drivers using a phone at the wheel or not using their seatbelt
The latest in mobile speed detection systems is called the Aecom – and it’s very different to the conventional camera van at the side of the road.
The ‘Big Brother’ vehicle is the brainchild of National Highways.
It is designed in a way that it can catch a multitude of offences, including speeding.
It was first trialled by Warwickshire Police in 2022 with great success, and is being put through its paced by a number of different constabularies.
The van can travel to speeding hotspots and pull up at the roadside. A large metal structure then extends from the roof to create a mobile overhead gantry with cameras and the latest in surveillance tech at an elevated position.
The system uses multiple cameras with high shutter speeds, an infra-red flash and a lensing and filtering system that can record high-definition images of passing vehicles.
Not only does this provide technology to capture speeding motorists, the cameras – using artificial intelligence (AI) – can also determine if motorists are using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel or if a driver – or passenger – isn’t wearing a seatbelt.
The van is also capable of being kitted with additional technology to detect tailgating offences, although this system does not form part of the trials in Warwickshire, the authorities said.
The Government’s major roads department says the hi-tech van is first being used to ‘understand the scale of the problem around these dangerous motoring offences’, though suggest similar technology-packed vehicles could be distributed across the country to ‘boost road safety’.
16. Long Ranger mobile speed camera
The long-ranger camera can snap drivers speeding from a mile away. It can also be used to enforce dangerous driving, seatbelt and mobile phone offences
Police forces since 2018 have been using a new long-range camera that can catch motorists speed from over half a mile away. It’s been dubbed the ‘Lone Ranger’ but some constabularies.
It can capture speeding drivers at one kilometre (0.6 miles), making it the longest distance speed enforcer currently in use.
And it’s not just speed that it can detect.
It’s also used for catching tailgaters, middle-lane hoggers, drivers not wearing seatbelts and anyone using a phone behind the wheel.
17. Traffic light cameras
Traffic light cameras have recently been retrofitted for use as speed cameras, working in a similar way to Gatso cameras
Don’t be under the assumption that an obvious camera situated at a set of traffic lights can’t catch you speeding.
These cameras tend to be triggered by radar technology or ground loops in the road at junctions to take pictures of those jumping red lights.
However, they can also be used in combination with speed measurement in a similar way as a Gatso speed camera operates.
18. Handheld speed guns
The new blue speed gun that will have you bang to rights: The TruCam handheld speed camera is the latest and most advanced handheld device used by police
The new TruCam II has an automatic focus function and a new 3.7-inch touchscreen LCD display. Another update for the second-generation speed gun is a night mode. The original TruCam could only be used in daylight
Polices forces for years have used speed guns to detect motorists over the limit, and in recent years these have become incredibly advanced.
A number of UK constabularies – including Northumbria Police and Warwickshire Police – now use the latest version, which have been described as ‘next generation’ enforcement devices.
The blue device is called the LTI 20/20 TruCam II Speed Enforcement Laser with Video.
They cost in the region of £10,000 and not only measure speed by can identify a vehicle make, model and read a number plate from distances of up to 750 metres in daylight and at night.
Officially approved for use in the UK in June 2020, it has an integrated laser and patented technology to measures the time and distance between vehicles.
It also has a digital video camera that can collect and store a complete chain of video evidence for speeding.
While predominantly used for speed enforcement, the manufacturer – LTI (which stands for Laser Technology, Inc) – says it can be used to catch tailgating, distracted driving and even motorists who fail to wear a seat belt.
The high-resolution imaging system not just captures evidence but can identify a vehicle make and model and even read the registration plate.
Also integrated is GPS technology that generates location-based information every time the camera triggers.
When the footage, images and vehicle information are uploaded to the police’s database, it also includes historical data to say where and when offences were captured by the cameras – this drastically reduces input hours and admin for constabularies.
All of the information is collated in the system and can be cross-referenced with vehicle owner records to automatically issue NIPs in the post, also reducing process time for officers.
The TruCam’s measurements, video and photographic evidence has all been given the green light to be used in court to prove a driver’s guilt, should the accused choose to dispute the speeding offence.
WHERE ARE THE MOST PROLIFIC SPEED CAMERAS?
Data obtained from police forces show that these are the stretches of road where the most drivers were caught speeding by cameras in the financial year 2021/22
Average speed cameras on the A40 heading into London are said to be the most prolific at catching motorists over the limit in the previous financial year, according to an investigation by Confused.com
The latest study into speed camera enforcement found that more than 1.74 million drivers were caught by these devices on major routes in the financial year 2021/22.
Top 10 sections of road where drivers are most commonly caught by speed cameras
1. A40 between Long Drive and Wellands Gardens E/B: 49,050 intended prosecutions by Metropolitan Police
2. M25 Junction 7-16, Surrey: 23,134 intended prosecutions by Surrey Police
3. M4 Junction 20-19, Bristol: 18,317 intended prosecutions by Avon & Somerset Police
4. A5460 Narborough Road, Leicester, Jnc with Fullhurst Avenue: 16,634 intended prosecutions by Leicestershire Police
5. M6 Junction 1-4 (Northbound and Southbound): 15,410 intended prosecutions by Warwickshire Police
6. Garston Way/ Dock Road, Liverpool: 15,295 intended prosecutions by Merseyside Police
7. M5 Junction 4a-6, Birmingham: 15,062 intended prosecutions by West Mercia Police
8. A282 Dartford Tunnel Approach Road: 14,423 intended prosecutions by Kent Police
9. Lewes Road, Brighton, Jnc with Coldean Lane: 14,172 intended prosecutions by Sussex Police
10. M6 Junction 7 & 8 N/B, Birmingham: 12,762 intended prosecutions by West Midlands Police
Source: Confused.com FOI request to UK police forces for number of speed camera offences in financial year 2021/22. 36 out of 46 UK forces responded with data
Comparison website Confused.com sent a Freedom of Information request to all 46 police forces regarding the number of intended prosecutions for speeding offences captured by cameras in their areas. Some 36 forces responded with figures.
The data shows that the most prolific stretch of fixed roadside cameras is on the A40 in North-West London.
The cameras on the 40mph busy carriageway between Long Drive and Welland Gardens caught 49,050 speeding drivers in the 12-month period, according to Met Police.
That figure is more than double the number any other camera caught over the same year under review.
Cameras on the M25 in Surrey and M4 near Bristol follow with over 41,000 speeding offences combined, the respective police forces covering each revealed to the FOI request.
The A5460 in Leicester and the M6 near Coventry rounded out the top five roads where motorists are most likely to be flashed by a speed camera.
Despite so many drivers being flashed by roadside cameras, the data provided by the police shows that only 457,232 were forced to take a £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence.
Instead of a fine, 698,115 drivers opted to take a speed awareness course, which typically costs around £100 for enrolment but sees participants escape having points added to their licence, which would likely have caused their insurance premiums to increase.
Thousands more of the cases will have been taken to court.
According to Confused’s research, there are currently more than 1,300 operating speeding cameras policing our roads.
Further research by the comparison site – involving a poll of 2,000 drivers – found that almost half (44 per cent) have received at least one speeding fine in the past.
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of those caught speeding faced a fine, with the average speeding penalty totalling £181.70.
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