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Speed cameras


Love them or hate them speed cameras and vehicle monitoring systems are likely to be with us for some time to come. Although they may be despised by many, there is no doubt that they do encourage drivers to keep to the speed restrictions which ultimately may help reduce traffic accidents.

The objective of the various safety camera schemes is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads as a result of people driving at inappropriate speeds. They hope to achieve this by catching and fining persistent offenders and also organising traffic safety courses for those who have committed less serious breaches of the road traffic regulations.

Gatso cameras

The Gatso speed camera is named after the company that produce them, Gatsomeer BV in Holland. Invented in the 1950's, it uses radar technology to detect the position of the vehicle at several points as it approches the camera and from this calculate the speed of the vehicle. If the speed restriction is exceeded it triggers a camera which then photographs your number plate from behind. Gatso speed cameras are always positioned to take photos from behind, because they use a flash which would otherwise dazzle the driver.

The camera can take up to 400 photos before it runs out of film which on a busy road this can run out very quickly - the problem is we never know when this happens!

The white lines marked on the road near the cameras are used to verify the exact speed the vehicle was travelling at by comparing the distance between the two photographs that are taken, one after the other. This second speed measurement is used as physical evidence of the speed violation and will be used if the offender disputes the offence.

Mobile cameras

Mobile speed cameras are mounted inside clearly marked vans and are used to randomly 'spot check' sections of road that have the speed camera warning signs, but don't have a permanent camera installation.

Police motorcycles are also sometimes used to carry and set up smaller portable cameras in areas where it is not possible to park the larger vans.

The SPECS system

The SPECS system uses at least two cameras linked to an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system to calculate the average speed of a vehicle between two points. The cameras also have infra red lights that effectively give them 'night vision', so they can work by day or night.

SPECS cameras are normally mounted either at the roadside or on the central reservation but unlike GATSO cameras they don't have any conventional 'film' in them. They are often used on dual carriageways and motorways because they have the advantage of being able to monitor several lanes at once.

As the vehicle approaches the first camera a digital image is taken of number plate with a time stamp, this is then compared with an image and time stamp from the second camera. Because the distance between the cameras is known, the speed can be calculated and checked against the restriction for the road.

Truvelo cameras

The Truvelo speed camera faces directly at the driver of the vehicle, but unlike the gatso it uses an infra red spotlight which is invisible to the human eye. Because the camera is facing you it also captures an image of the driver, so it can make it a little more difficult for someone to claim that 'my wife was driving' if they don't want the points!

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

You may have noticed the term ANPR being displayed at motorway service stations and at the roadside in recent years. This is not actually a speed detection system but it is used to instantly check your registration against various databases to check if the vehicle is being driven legally. An ANPR system can scan and process over 3000 number plates an hour and the police may even stop a vehicle straight away if the checks arouse suspicion.


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