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30 Sep 2020
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

Drivers risk fines as speed camera tolerances revealed


Speed camera over a busy motorway

As research confirms that speed cameras have a ‘buffer zone’, drivers are warned that taking advantage of this might land them with a fine.

Do you think speeding tolerances are too harsh? Let us know in the comments!

Speed cameras in general cause no end of confusion for motorists.

Is that camera actually turned on? Is that a speed camera or just a traffic cam?

And, one of the more common questions – do speed cameras have a bit of leeway before they flash you?

According to research by Auto Express, the answer to this last question is yes, they do.

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UK speed camera tolerances

Auto Express contacted 45 UK police forces. Of the 33 that responded 25 shared information on when their speed cameras activate if a driver is going above the speed limit.

Most police forces have a tolerance of 10% plus 2 mph above the limit before a speed camera ‘flashes’. So on a 30 mph road, a camera wouldn’t normally activate unless a car drove past at 35 mph or above.

On a 70 mph stretch of motorway, this threshold would go up to 79 mph.

Here are the thresholds in full:

UK police force Speed camera tolerance
Avon and Somerset 10% + 2 mph
Bedfordshire Wouldn't reveal threshold
Cambridgeshire Wouldn't reveal threshold
Cheshire 10% + 2 mph
Cleveland 10% + 2 mph
Derbyshire 10% + 2 mph
Devon and Cornwall 10% + 2 mph
Durham 10% + 2 mph
Essex Don't use a standard threshold
Greater Manchester Wouldn't reveal threshold
Gwent 10% + 2 mph
Hampshire 10% + 2 mph
Hertfordshire Wouldn't reveal threshold
Kent 10% + 2 mph
Lancashire 10% + 3 mph
Leicestershire 10% + 2 mph
Merseyside 10% + 2 mph
Metropolitan Police / TfL 10% + 3 mph
Norfolk 10% + 2 mph
North Wales 10% + 2 mph
Northumbria 10% + 2 mph
Nottinghamshire Wouldn't confirm if threshold exists
Northern Ireland 10% + 2 mph
Scotland Wouldn't confirm if threshold exists
South Wales 10% + 2 mph
South Yorkshire 10% + 2 mph
Staffordshire Wouldn't reveal threshold
Suffolk 10% + 2 mph
Thames Valley 10% + 2 mph
Warwickshire 10% + 2 mph
West Mercia 10% + 2 mph
West Midlands Wouldn't reveal threshold
West Yorkshire 10% + 2 mph

This ‘buffer zone’ exists in order to improve driver safety - as AA president Edmund King puts it:

“The last thing we want is drivers glued to the speedometer 100% of the time. We want drivers to concentrate on the road ahead.”

READ MORE: Traffic cameras – what to do and how to spot them


Drivers risk fines for hedging their bets

Of the nine police forces that wouldn’t reveal their cameras’ buffer zone, two refused to acknowledge that such a buffer exists.

It would be easy for a driver to do the maths and think, ‘I’m in a 40 zone, so I can go 50 mph without getting caught.’

Hedging your bets and speeding because of these thresholds is not only dangerous, but it could land you with a fine.

These tolerance levels for speeding are at the discretion of the police force. So they’re within their rights to punish drivers that flout the speed limit even by a few miles per hour.

Also, in 2017 the rules on speeding fines changed so that they were based on a percentage of your weekly income (minimum £100). This is in addition to getting points on your licence. Our speeding fine calculator lets you work out these potential fines yourself.

If the offence is minor, you may be asked to go on a speed awareness course rather than take the fine and points. For more serious offences, though, this option isn’t on the table.

Let’s take the above example of driving 50 mph in a 40 zone. Based on the UK average weekly income of £569, a speeding conviction would land you with a fine of up to £284.50.

READ MORE: What happens on a speed awareness course 


Impact on insurance

Although the fines can be hefty, it’s not the only thing that motorists need to worry about.

Your basic speeding fine also lands you three points on your licence – more serious offences will get you six. These are taken off your DVLA record after four years, but insurers use them in their calculations for five.

According to research from Consumer Intelligence, a speeding conviction adds £50 to your annual car insurance premium, on average. That’s an additional £250 to pay while that conviction remains on your record.

The research also found that motorway speeding offences (offence code SP50), increased premiums by more than £100 a year. 

Have you been caught by a speed camera recently? Were you within the ‘buffer zone’? Share your stories in the comments!


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