How many cameras are watching motorists?

As you drive down the motorway, have you thought that there seem to be a lot of cameras monitoring your journey?
Well, that’s because there are!  There are approximately 20 different kinds of devices in use on British roads.  Here we try to explain what they are and how they work:

  • DS2

These speed cameras are semi-permanent installations and can cover two lanes of traffic travelling in different directions. DS2 traffic cameras can be attended or left unattended whilst enforcing the speed limit.
DS2 speed camera sites work via three piezo strips either on top of the road surface or embedded within the surface of the road. The piezo sensors are set approximately 1m apart and are accompanied by a short grey post on the roadside. When in use the DS2 site is connected to the safety camera partnership van or unmarked car. Autovision can then be used to provide video evidence of the speeding offence. Alternatively, the Police will operate with a police car further along the road, and a message will be sent with details of the offending vehicles registration details to stop and issue the speeding offence.

  • DVLA and DVSA Cameras

The DVSA has a network of mobile and static cameras to monitor whether goods vehicles have paid the HGV Road User Levy.

  • Gatso

These are rear-facing speed cameras.  They work by emitting a radio signal which bounces back off your vehicle.  The time between the signal being sent and the reflection is measured.  A second radio signal is sent out and the time recorded.  The vehicle speed is calculated using this information.  A photograph is taken and automatically sent to the enforcement office.

  • Hadecs 3

These were introduced by the Highways Agency and record average speed over a specific distance.  Hadecs are used to patrol sections of the motorway with variable the speed limits e.g. M1, M6 and M25. They enforce reductions in the limit in an effort to keep the traffic flowing during busy times. This is the ‘smart’ motorway ideal.

  • Highways Agency CCTV

The Highways Agency has 1,500 cameras to assist with management of traffic.  The Cameras record traffic flow and how roads cope with it, but they don’t store data on individual vehicles.

  • Mobile Camera

These are devices held by police officers on the side of the road or mounted in a van.  They use either laser or radar technology to catch speeding vehicles.

  • Peek

These use radar to measure your speed and are similar to a Gatso.  They will take a picture of the rear of your vehicle if you are speeding.

  • Police Automatic Number Plate Recognition

These record number plates of every passing vehicle.  The information can be accessed for up to two years and is used to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality.


These are average speed cameras which are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition.  They photograph every vehicle which passes beneath them.  The information is sent to another set of cameras further down the road.  The time it takes for a vehicle to pass between the two points is used to calculate the vehicle speed.

  • SpeedCurb

These work by sensors embedded in the road triggering a camera to take a photograph when a vehicle passes over them too quickly. The cameras use three piezo sensors embedded into the road which are spaced out by 1 metre. When a vehicle drives over the sensors the time between each sensor is time
They are often used to monitor traffic light offences as well as speeding offences

  • SpeedSpike

These are currently on trial in Hampshire and uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition.  Each time your vehicle passes the camera, the number plate is read and time-stamped together with the camera’s information.  The 1000 cameras can be linked so as to monitor your whole journey on main roads across the country in a similar way to an average speed camera on the motorway.

  • Traffic light Camera

These take a photograph of any vehicle which passes through a set of traffic lights which are on red.

  • TrafficMaster

These cameras measure traffic speeds and congestion.  They are operated by a private company. If you have TrafficMaster, the information is sent to your Sat Nav to enable it to advise you of a better route.

  • Truvelo

These are forward facing speed cameras.  They do not ‘flash’ in the same way as a Gatso.   There are four sensors in the road which when driven over measure the vehicle speed.  These are linked to the camera which, because they are forward facing, will show the face of the driver on the images.

  • Truvelo d-Cam

These are updated versions of the Truvelo.  The only difference being that the images are transmitted automatically to the enforcement office without the need for a person to collect and replace the film.

  • Vector

These speed cameras work in the same way as SPECS speed cameras by measuring the average speed of your vehicle between two or more locations by using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).  They were launched in 2014.
They can also help with bus lane enforcement, red light enforcement, yellow box violations, and congestion charging.

  • Watchmen

Watchman speed cameras are rear facing roadside cameras similar to Gatso speed cameras.  They use radar to detect speeding vehicles. They are currently on trial awaiting type approval, prior to a national installation programme. They also feature a second camera for Number Plate Recognition.
Whether you like them or hate them, cameras are here to stay.  This is good evidence of their benefits.  Independent research by Professor Allsop, of University College London, found that:

  • Deployment of speed cameras leads to appreciable reductions in speed in the vicinity of the cameras, and substantial reductions in collisions and casualties there over and above the likely effect of regression to the mean.

A review of 35 studies worldwide of the efficacy of speed cameras concluded that:
‘the consistency of reported reductions in speed and crash outcomes across all studies show that speed cameras are a worthwhile intervention for reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths.”
For advice on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 100.
Content is believed to be correct at time of writing.  Content written on 29.01.15.

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