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Speed cameras and the law: FAQs

We’ve all heard these ‘hacks’ from friends of friends on how to get out of speeding fines. But are any of them true?

Yellow speed cameras on a motorway 

According to government statistics, 50% of cars broke the speed limit on motorways between January and March this year.

Even more worryingly, on 30 mph roads, 56% of cars broke the speed limit. 

Almost four in five (79%) drivers admit to having broken the speed limit at some point*. And more than two in five (42%) have been caught doing it. 

With so much misinformation and confusion, we decided to set the record straight. We spoke to GoSafe – Wales’s road casualty reduction partnership.


Is there a tolerance on speed cameras?

Almost a quarter (24%) of drivers said they were confused about speed camera tolerances.

Most speed cameras have tolerances. This is mainly to accommodate different types of speed and traffic cameras. For example, speed cameras, speedometers and portable speed meters. 

The tolerances are also there to allow for driver safety. You could miss a hazard if you have your eyes glued to your speedometer.

Usually speed cameras have a tolerance of around 10% + 2 mph, but this isn’t set for all speed cameras and it’s not worth risking it. Always stick to the speed limit.

Go safe says: The speed limit is the maximum speed – it’s not a target speed.

When safety camera programmes came about, GoSafe adopted the NPCC guidelines:

"This takes into consideration any variances in speedometers. This doesn't apply to police officers – they can enforce at different levels."

Speed limit Lower threshold Speed awareness course up to:
20 mph
24 mph
31 mph
30 mph
35 mph
42 mph
40 mph
46 mph
53 mph
50 mph
57 mph
64 mph
60 mph
68 mph
75 mph
 70 mph 79 mph  86 mph 

Is there an automatic ban on certain speeds above the limit?

Usually, there’s not an automatic ban if you exceed the speed limit by a certain speed. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a ban. 

It all depends on the circumstances in which you were caught speeding. 

Go safe says:

"It’s commonplace for people to lose their licence when their speed is double or over 100 mph on a motorway.

"It all depends on the circumstances. That’s at the discretion of the court hearing the case."


To see the sentencing guidelines on speeding, visit the Sentencing Council website


Are speed awareness courses noted on your licence?

Speed awareness courses aren’t recorded on your driving licence record. But the National (UK) Driver Offender Retraining Scheme database keeps a record.

Go safe says that "This is to assess your eligibility for courses in future i.e. if you re-offend within three years."

If you take a speed awareness course, you don’t accept the usual points or the fine that goes along with it.

So it might mean that your car insurance costs don’t increase as a result. But multiple factors could affect car insurance - so this isn’t a guarantee. 

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What happens if I don’t attend my speed awareness course?

If you don’t go to your speed awareness course, the police should be informed. Then it’s likely you get the points on your licence and the accompanying fine. You might even have to go to court. 

It’s worth making every effort to attend. You could end up with penalty points on your licence  for between 4 and 11 years, depending on the severity of the offence. And you’d have to pay the fine.

If you can’t get to the speed awareness course due to health reasons, you should get in touch with the course provider. You might be able to rebook, but this could come at a cost. 

Go Safe recommends checking all the terms and conditions on the course to make sure you can reschedule.  


What happens if I’m caught speeding after attending a speed awareness course?

You can only take one speed awareness course in a 3-year period. If you’re caught again within this time, you might get a fixed penalty and points on your licence. 

You might have to go to court or you could be banned from driving too, depending on the severity of the offence.


Do speed cameras need speed camera warning signs?

It’s not a legal requirement to warn you if there’s a speed camera ahead.

In fact, mobile speed cameras operators could technically choose to operate in an unmarked vehicle with no speed camera sign. But often, the sign is a deterrent in itself.

For stationary speed cameras you usually see signage, but this isn’t mandatory. You could still be charged for speeding even if there are no speed camera warning signs.

Go safe says: 

"You can see safety camera signs on routes leading to sites where fixed cameras operate.

"This isn't a legal requirement. The mobile sites operated by GoSafe have no requirement to have a camera warning sign." 

If you’re confused about what the speed limit is, keep an eye out for speed limit signs or street lighting to show the maximum speed.

Street lighting usually indicates that the speed is 30 mph.  But the absence of a camera sign doesn't make it okay to speed.


What are the rules around warning drivers of a speed camera?

According to Go Safe, you shouldn’t do this. Flashing your lights at other motorists to warn them about speed cameras could count as police obstruction.
Go Safe says that if you were caught, the court might consider the following:
  • Was there any obstruction of a constable?
  • Was the constable acting lawfully in the execution of their duty?
  • Was the obstruction intentional?

By July 2022, speed limiters will be mandatory on all new cars.

The system senses speeding signs and automatically reduces the car’s speed. This might eventually spell an end to any type of speeding and drivers warning each other about speed cameras.


Is it possible to drive fast enough that you don’t set off a speed camera?

No. Cameras can detect all speeds, there’s no exception for excessive speeds. 

Go Safe says:

"There are many cases where cameras have caught vehicles speeding at excessive speeds. One example is a supercar that was recorded travelling through Texas at 242 mph."


Can you be penalised for driving too slowly?

You can be penalised for driving too slowly as it could cause other driving offences. 

Worryingly,  over one in 10 (11%) didn't know if this was an actual offence.

Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 says:

“If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he [sic] is guilty of an offence.”

The ‘reasonable consideration’ part is something that the court decides on based on the evidence.

So, if you were going too slow you could cause tailbacks, ill-judged overtaking and you might not merge onto the motorway properly. If there was an accident as a result of this, you could be taken to court or fined. 

Go safe says that Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 could also apply to:  

  • leaving an indicator on too long to give a misleading signal
  • a bus driver taking a corner so fast that passengers are thrown out of their seats and injured.

What are the speed camera rules?

There’s guidance around speed cameras for their positioning and their appearance. The guidelines from the Department for Transport says:

  • Speed cameras must sit in a yellow housing
  • The housing itself should be visible and not obscured by trees or bushes
  • You should be able to see the speed camera from 60 metres away in a 40 mph zone, or 100 metres for all other zones
  • Signs should be placed in areas where there are visible camera housings - but this isn’t mandatory 
  • Every camera site should be reviewed every 6 months. This is to make sure they’re visible and properly signposted

Remember, if you’re caught by a camera that doesn’t meet these conditions, you can’t use it as a defence. You could get fines and penalty points even if the speed camera doesn’t meet these conditions.


What are mobile speed camera rules? 

Mobile speed cameras are usually run by local police forces and positioned in places where there’s been a history of road traffic incidents. Like any other speed camera, they catch you if you break the speed limit. 

Mobile speed cameras also have guidelines on their positioning and appearance:

  • Mobile speed camera operators should be visible and wearing fluorescent clothing. Their vehicles should be marked with reflective strips too 
  • Signs should be placed in areas where mobile cameras are operating - but this isn’t mandatory
  • Like the speed cameras, every mobile speed camera site should be reviewed every 6 months 

Again, if a mobile speed camera doesn’t meet these rules, you won’t be able to use this as a defence.


What happens if you get multiple speeding tickets on the same road? 

It’s not impossible to get a speeding ticket multiple times on the same road, for example on the motorway. 

Depending on the severity, you could end up with 2 sets of points of your licence and a speeding fine.  All of these could add up to a driving ban and potentially increase your car insurance costs.

* Figures taken from omnibus research carried out by OnePoll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK motorists. The research was conducted between 22 and 24 February 2021.