Have you been caught out by one of these recently? Maybe you just want to know a bit more about the technology that’s on UK roads. Either way, you’ve found the right article for everything you need to know about mobile speed cameras and speed cameras in general.
Speed cameras have been on UK roads for a while. While you might not like having to slow down to what seems like unnecessarily slow speeds, they’re there for a reason. That reason isn’t just to find people and make some money—it’s to keep the roads safe. While you might know where some speed cameras are in your local area, did you know that some of these might actually be dummy camera boxes? That’s to get you to slow down without actually recording or catching anyone. If you know where a dummy camera is, they might not be much use.
Whether you are near dummy or real speed cameras, you’re probably used to the static type. These are the most well-known speed cameras in the UK. But have you also seen those mobile speed cameras? Perhaps you were caught out somewhere you thought there weren’t any speed cameras, or saw a flash come from a van? That’s a mobile speed camera. Maybe you haven’t been caught out, but want to know a bit more about them so that you know what to look out for.
Remember, this guide isn’t to help you speed and break driving rules without being caught. You should always drive carefully and under the speed limit. But it’s good to know a bit more about the technology authorities use and the systems you’re sharing the road with. That’s why you should keep reading this article about speed cameras, so you know how they work.
How do speed cameras work?
Speed cameras in general work by photographing your vehicle and timing it between two points. That’s how you work out the speed of a moving object. Because of the markings on the road, and the camera’s internal clock, they can photograph your vehicle at two points and the system’s software will automatically know how fast you’ve gone. That’s when you’ll see a flash if you’ve gone too fast.
There’s always a bit of leeway in these systems, so they won’t record your vehicle’s speed if you’re only going a tiny bit over the limit. Nobody really knows exactly how much leeway there is, but estimates vary between 10% and 20% over the speed limit. But if you’re going really fast, you’re likely to get a ticket. But how does the ticketing system work>
When the camera decides you’re going too fast, it takes a photograph of your car including number plate. Recognition software then accesses the DVLA database to find out who’s car that is registered. A letter is then normally sent out automatically. Punishment might depend on how fast you were going and how many driving infractions you’ve had in the past. You might have a choice of options from points on a license, a fine, or attending a safe driving course. For someone going extremely fast, punishments might be more severe. Remember, if someone else uses your car, the system will send a letter to the main registered driver. However, there will be a section where you can make it clear who was driving the car if it wasn’t the main driver, so that the punishment is received by the actual person who was driving.
How do mobile speed cameras work?
Mobile speed cameras therefore work in much the same way. Except they’re mobile. That means they’re in a van rather than fixed to the side of the road. This means it’s harder for people with local knowledge to avoid the cameras, because they could be parked almost anywhere.
There’s one key difference with mobile speed cameras in that they don’t have the road markings in place to help calculate your speed.
Mobile speed cameras will generally be in areas where speeding is common. They will also be clearly marked as mobile speed cameras, although the van might not be visible to all road users. They look a bit like police vans and are brightly coloured, although don’t have sirens on top. They might be in laybys or on road bridges, but they won’t be parked in areas where there are parking restrictions.
Because they don’t have the road markings, they work by using radar technology that’s similar to handheld speed gun cameras. This is different from traditional speed camera technology, but it still does a good job. They will use either a laser or radar to bounce off the vehicle in order to measure the speed. They can measure a vehicle’s speed in under half a second and up to a mile away, so they’re quite accurate and effective. However, they don’t have built-in car recognition software, so the camera operator will normally relay the information to another police car which will then pull the offending vehicle over and take action on the spot.
Radar guns are similar to laser guns, but they have a slightly shorter range and take a tiny bit longer to register speeds.
These mobile vans must have signage in place to notify road users of their presence, the same as fixed cameras. But that doesn’t mean everyone pays attention to them. However, they can be parked and used at any place, and at any time. Because they need additional police help to pull over offending drivers, they tend to only go for cars that are seriously breaking the limit (although not always). Punishment for these speeds can be harsher.
Some driving clubs and car communities might issue briefings to notify other members of the community about the locations of mobile speed cameras.
Now you know a bit more about speed cameras and the technology they use. Remember to keep driving at a safe speed whether there are cameras around or not.