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Speed cameras and the law: FAQs

Our research revealed that 1.74 million1  drivers were snapped by speed cameras last year. As a result, drivers have paid a staggering £45.7 million2 in fines. So where are the most prolific speed cameras? And do they have tolerances? We answer common questions on speed cameras with the help of Go Safe - Wales’s road casualty reduction partnership.

Yellow speed cameras on a motorway 

Speed cameras are an effective way to catch people breaking the speed limit. Almost half (44%)3 of the drivers we spoke to admitted to getting a speeding fine in the past. And 1 in 4 (24%) people that were caught speeding faced a fine. The average speeding penalty came to a whopping £187.10. 

Almost a fifth (18%) of people we surveyed have attended a speed awareness course instead of paying a fine. Another fifth(20%) got points on their licence. And almost half (49%) told us that they had 3 points on their licence because of speeding.

 As well as the fine, having points on your licence makes your car insurance costs more expensive - which isn’t good during a cost of living crisis. 

We found that there are currently more than 1,300 operating speed cameras on UK roads. So where are the most prolific speed cameras? And what are the speed camera rules?

As well as our own research, we spoke to GoSafe to help put an end to the confusion.

 

Where are the most prolific speed cameras?

We looked at speed cameras in the UK to see which ones are the best at catching people speeding. 

Our data revealed that cameras on the A40 in North-West London have caught 50,000 speeding drivers in the last financial year alone. 

As you might expect, speed cameras on motorways like the M4, M5 and M6 have also caught many motorists breaking the law. 

Site No. of intended prosecutions Police Constabulary
A40 between Long Dr and Wellands Gdns E/B
49,050
Metropolitan
M25 Junction 7-16, Surrey
23,134
Surrey
M4 Junction 20-19, Bristol
18,317
Avon & Somerset
A5460 Narborough Road, Leicester, Jnc with Fullhurst Avenue
16,634
Leicestershire
M6 Junction 1-4 (Northbound and Southbound)
15,410
Warwickshire
Garston Way/ Dock Road, Liverpool
15,295
Merseyside
M5 Junction 4a-6, Birmingham
15,062
West Mercia
A282 Dartford Tunnel Approach Road
14,423
Kent
Lewes Road, Brighton, Jnc with Coldean Lane
14,172
Sussex
M6 Junction 7 & 8 N/B, Birmingham
12,762
West Midlands
 

Is there a tolerance on speed cameras?

Some drivers might not be aware, but most speed cameras have a tolerance of 10% + 2 mph. 

For example, if a driver’s speed goes over 30 mph, they might not get a fine unless they reach 35 mph. 

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're constantly looking at your speedometer.

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. 

Car insurance expert Louise Thomas at Confused.com, comments:

“Although some motorists might feel that speed limits are an inconvenience, they're there to ensure our roads are safe for all.

“If caught speeding, motorists could land themselves with a fine, points on their licence or even a driving ban. In some cases, drivers could attend a speed awareness course instead, but the punishment depends on the seriousness of the offence. A speeding fine or points added on to your licence could also lead to an increase in your car insurance costs.

“If you're faced with a fine, there's a chance it could be calculated based on your salary, and may be heftier than you first think. Speeding fines are also often calculated depending on how far over the limit you are. If you're unsure on how speeding fines are determined, our speeding fine calculator can help.”

Compare car insurance quotes

 

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?

Speed limiters are now mandatory on all new cars.

We asked drivers what they thought about these, and 1 in 3 (34%) welcomed new technology which should discourage drivers from speeding.

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. 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.

1 Confused.com issued a Freedom of Information request to police constabularies requesting the following information:

1. Please state how many sites you have where there are fixed position cameras in operation for the detection of speeding motorists as of 1st April 2022?

NB: If you have more than one camera at a site to detect speeding using average speeds across a set distance please count this as one site.

2. For each of the last five financial years (17/18), (18/19), (19/20), (20/21) and (21/22) please state how many notifications of an intended prosecution were issued by you for the fixed position speed cameras that you had in operation?

3. For each of the last five financial years (17/18), (18/19), (19/20), (20/21) and (21/22) please state how many (a) fixed penalty notices were issued, and (b) speed awareness courses were carried out as a result of people being caught in the fixed position speed cameras that you had in operation?

Q.4: In relation to the last financial year (20/21) which fixed position camera site was responsible for issuing the most notices of intended prosecution? Could you please state the position of the camera and the number of notices of intended prosecution issued.

2 This figure is based on 457,232 fines of £100 being issued to speeding drivers 

3 Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 9th and 14th June 2022.