Hints and Tips

Hints and Tips

This section of the web site is dedicated to offering you information and advice about the real facts behind safety camera activity. Much is written in the media and other publications about this scheme and not all of it is accurate or indeed correct. Hopefully this section will fill in the gaps and allow you make you own mind up regarding the way in which safety camera partnerships are contributing to improved road safety nationally.

Safety Cameras – Questions & Answers


New Questions & Answers, December 2003

Q1    How many Safety Camera Partnership areas are there in the UK ?

There are currently ( as at December 2003 ) 43 partnership areas in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Q2    Why are cameras left in place despite accident problems having been resolved ?

If accidents at camera sites have reduced or been completely eradicated then the cameras are clearly having the desired effect. Leaving a camera in place provides a constant deterrent and ensures that crashes and casualties do not return to that location. If a pedestrian crossing was installed to help pedestrians to cross the road safely and once safety improved it was removed that would be irresponsible and stupid. The same applies to cameras – they are left in place to maintain a lasting safety benefit.

Q3    Why are cameras not switched off at night ?

The likelihood of being involved in an accident in the evening is far greater. The average risk of an accident per mile travelled between 1900 and 0700 is double that for the period 0700 to 1900.

Q4    Cameras should be placed only outside schools and hospitals and in accident hotspots.

The greatest road safety benefit results from cameras being placed where there is a history of speed related accidents. This may or may not be outside a school or hospital.

Q5    The Government clearly has something to gain from exaggerating claims about the dangers of speeding as revenue from fines is passed to the Treasury !

The Government has nothing to gain from exaggerating the effects of speeding. The only concern is to reduce the number of accidents that occur on the roads and make them a safer place for all road users. The safety camera scheme is self-financing. The bodies responsible for placing cameras do not profit and do not have any incentive to raise revenue for the Treasury. The cost of speed related accidents on the roads outweighs fine revenue for speeding offences returned to the Treasury.

Q6    Speed cameras are a waste of tax payers money.

The cost of speed cameras within the funding scheme is not met by the taxpayer but entirely by motorists who choose to break the law by speeding.

Q7    Why not plough back all fine revenue into road safety measures or providing more police ?

As the primary purpose of placing safety cameras is to save lives and reduce injuries, it would not be helpful if local authorities or the police appeared to gain financial advantage from the scheme. The rules ensure that only safety camera activity is refundable and this avoids any incentive to generate additional fine revenue that would be necessary to ensure the costs of meeting any other committed expenditure on road safety schemes.

Q8    Many responsible drivers feel so strongly that cameras are placed to raise revenue rather than reduce accidents that they are taking the law into their own hands and damaging cameras.

Vandalism is serious criminal behaviour and treated as such by the Police. Previous acts of vandalism have been isolated incidents of which a number of cases have been brought to justice and prosecutions made. The actions of such individuals do not pose a threat to the operation of safety cameras despite the claims made by them. Fortunately the vast majority of the public take a responsible attitude and do not condone those who carry out acts of vandalism against life saving cameras. Support for cameras is strong, particularly at locations where there have been casualties in the past.

Q9    Due to the fear of receiving a speeding ticket many motorists are putting themselves and others at risk by constantly watching their speedometers rather than the road ahead.

Safe driving requires concentration at all times and qualified drivers should be well aware of the approximate speed they are travelling without the need to constantly check their speedometers. Indeed, there are a number of situations in which it is necessary for drivers to be aware of what is happening on the road in directions other than immediately ahead. Examples include using rear and side view mirrors and checking at junctions and roundabouts in order to give way. These all require drivers to concentrate on other sections of the road other than those ahead and there is no evidence to suggest that such short and temporary diversions of concentration are a safety risk.

Q10    There is substantial, reliable independent research which shows how ineffective speed cameras are, for example the research published by Dr Alan Buckingham of Bath Spa University College.

Many assertions are made about cameras being ineffective but these are not supported by evidence. The views offered by Dr Buckingham and others mis-represent TRL research on accident causation, take no account of the many published reports that show clearly how successful speed cameras have been in reducing fatal and serious accidents and exaggerate enormously the numbers of cameras that were in place prior to the inception of the safety camera cost recovery scheme.

Q11    The reduction in deaths in road accidents has slowed since the introduction of speed cameras ten years ago. This shows they don’t work and have actually been directly responsible for increasing fatalities.

This is based on the assumption that there were a large number of cameras on our roads in the 1990s. There were not. In 1992 there were just 21 cameras and by 1996 there were 102 cameras being deployed at 700 sites. The significant increase in cameras has only happened since 2001 when the cost recovery scheme went national. The suggested correlation between a camera “explosion” and a reduction in the decrease in road accident casualties simply does not work nor does it account for traffic growth.

Q12    Britain’s roads are the safest in the world and placing cameras has hardly reduced the number of those killed over the last ten years.

We probably do have the safest roads in the world but we still suffer more than 3,000 people being killed each year in road accidents. Around 10 people a day are killed on Britain’s roads. Cameras are starting to play an increasing role in continuing the reduction in those killed and seriously injured in road accidents but the slowing in the decline does not correspond with the increase in camera enforcement that has happened over the last two years.

Q13    Police reliance on speed cameras is reducing their ability to detect other traffic offences which is impacting on the casualty figures.

Cameras are just one method the police have to detect speeding. However, the operational deployment of traffic officers is the responsibility of chief officers of police as too is the enforcement of road safety law. Both the Association of Chief Police Officers Road Policing Manifesto and the new National Policing Plan highlight this.

Q14    The two-year report claims a 35% reduction in people killed or seriously injured at camera sites. What has happened on the areas of roads that do not have cameras ?

There were 4% fewer people killed or seriously injured across the pilot areas as a whole. This equates to about 530 fewer people killed or seriously injured over the two years of the trial.

Q15    The average annual running cost of a camera is reported to be approximately £100,000. Would it not be wiser to spend the money on employing more traffic police ?

As the money used to fund speed cameras is entirely made up of fine revenue there is no negative costs involved to the police. Funding for police officers needs to be met from a reliable and certain funding source therefore it is not a matter of a choice between cameras or police officers.

Q16    Speeding convictions are now so common that motorists no longer take them seriously.

This may or may not be the case but drivers should take the consequences of speeding seriously. Experience and research shows that excessive speed results in an increased risk of accidents, that is why the sanction is a sixty-pound fixed penalty and 3 penalty points. In addition, motorists may also face higher premiums on their insurance. Points stay on the driving licence and if 12 points are accumulated in a three year period a ban is imposed.

Q17    In a recent high profile court case the defendant could not remember who the driver was and the case was therefore thrown out of court. Surely this is a very easy way out that anyone could use.

The law requires that, the registered keeper of a vehicle is required to provide the police with information on who was driving it when certain road traffic offences are committed. It is an offence not to provide the police with such information unless the keeper can show that he/she did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have found out. These provisions are commonly used for offences detected by police cameras.
In cases where there is a genuine difficulty in establishing the identity of a driver it would be for the court to decide guilt after considering all of the relevant circumstances.

Q18    Will the police really waste time taking me to court if I do not pay a fixed penalty notice ?

It is the duty of the police to bring alleged offences before the courts. You have every right to have your case heard if you feel that you should not be penalised and this will in no sense be a waste of time.

Q19    Won’t the court impose a higher fine if I am found guilty ?

Possibly. Any penalty costs imposed are at the discretion of the court and they could amount to more than the fixed penalty, as can the number of penalty points imposed.

Q20    Can I pay a higher fixed penalty and have no points ?

No. The fixed penalty, which includes 3 points, is prescribed by law and cannot be varied.

Q21    As the Safety Camera scheme provides jobs for hundreds, it is surely in the partnerships interest to ensure fine revenue keeps coming in ?

It is a simple fact that the cameras need to be manufactured and purchased. Servicing is necessary and film must be placed, removed and developed, and the resulting administration must be performed properly and within the law. People are needed to undertake these tasks. At present, the system has to meet strict Treasury criteria to prevent revenue from being used for anything other than camera enforcement activity with all surplus revenue being returned to the Treasury.

Q22    Why is there so much secrecy surrounding the partnerships finances ?

Each year local authorities are obliged to make arrangements to allow their accounts to be made available for public scrutiny. This is most often in the autumn when the previous year’s accounts would have been audited. It is at that point that the accounts covering the cost of safety cameras can be scrutinised by members of the public.

Q23    Why are some sections of the media so strongly opposed to speed cameras ?

There are individuals and groups active in opposing speed management generally and speed cameras in particular. These are highly effective at energising elements of the media sympathetic to the messages they are trying to put across. This has resulted in recent campaigns running in national newspapers to have cameras removed and assertions being made of cameras being ineffectual in reducing accidents while being placed only to raise revenue from motorists. Neither accusation is supported by any reliable evidence.

Q24    What research exists to back up the claims made about speed cameras reducing accidents ?

The following are three good examples of the evidence available from research into camera use. The two-year evaluation report of the safety camera cost recovery system was published in February this year. It found a 35% reduction in people killed or seriously injured at camera sites, equating to around 280 people in the 8 areas covered by the study. In 1996 the Home Office published a cost benefit analysis of traffic light and speed cameras that showed a 28% reduction in accidents at speed camera sites. In 1997 the London Accident Analysis Unit published an analysis of accident and casualty data 36 months after the implementation of a number of speed cameras in West London with 36 months worth of “before” data. The key finding was that fatal accidents reduced from 62 in the 3 year before the period to 19 in the three year after period – a saving of at least 43 lives. Other published research exists from around the world that provides evidence proving that speed cameras reduce road accidents.

Your Questions Answered

Q1    What is hypothecation / netting off ?

It allows money received by magistrates’ courts’ from fixed penalties for speeding, or jumping red traffic lights, to be used to meet the costs of operating speed and traffic signal cameras, instead of being paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund. So these funds will be ploughed directly back into the fight against road crime and the wider objective of improving road safety.

Q2    What will be its effect ?

The effect will be to ensure the availability of funding to meet the costs of an increase in the number and geographical spread of speed cameras. This will aid both the prevention and detection of speeding offences. It will also reduce the burden of costs to all partners involved in this excellent example of joined-up Government.

Q3    How many ‘safety cameras’ are there currently in England and Wales ?

We have no precise figure. The placing of cameras is a matter for local authorities and the police. Guidance on deployment is provided in Circular Roads 1/92.
The 3000 figure often quoted probably refers to the number of camera housings ( as opposed to live cameras ). If all mobile sites are included, 5000 would be a closer estimate. However, the majority of fixed housings do not contain cameras and the number of live sites at any time would be in the region of 1000.

Q4    How many cameras were used in the pilot ?

This information will be included in the first year report on the traffic cameras pilot scheme to be published in the autumn. An executive summary is already available.This information will be included in the first year report on the traffic cameras pilot scheme to be published in the autumn. An executive summary is already available.

Q5    On average how many cameras were used in each pilot area ?

Varies considerably. The pilots have not simply been about increasing the number of cameras. They have also allowed film to be placed in empty cameras, cameras placed in housings and trigger speeds to be reduced.

Q6    What fixed penalty revenue is projected to follow national rollout of cameras ?

Cannot say as yet. Local partnerships will decide what is necessary in order to improve road safety in their areas. The revenue will depend upon the number of cameras and the number of offences. Legislation allows the whole country to fund speed camera operation effectively. Take up is likely to vary. If the current areas are indicative, the investment could be in the region of £50 million pa – this is small in comparison to the savings in casualties.

Q7    How many ‘safety cameras’ will there be as a result of national netting off of fixed penalty fines ?

Cannot say for certain. The pilots indicate that the number of cameras will not increase dramatically. What will increase is the enforcement and use of existing cameras.

Q8    Will the new system result in roads being littered with speed cameras ?

No. The new funding system will allow new cameras to be placed, some trigger thresholds reduced and film placed in all cameras but only where there is a real road safety need. It is based on projected prosecutions. Additional activity beyond projections will not be allowed to be netted off and the agencies involved will be expected to cover costs of unplanned activity.

Q9    If a proportion of the fine revenue from speed enforcement cameras is given to the police how can we be sure that the police focus will not shift to obtaining fines rather solving ‘real’ crimes ?

The use of speed cameras does not need uniformed attendance thus facilitating uniformed resources to be re allocated to other crimes.

Q10    Is this not another example of “bashing” the motorist ?

On the contrary, this will be of benefit to all people, including motorists. Cameras are already shown to save lives – more effective, targeted use of cameras will save even more lives, many of which will be motorists.

Q11    Will netting off not simply be an incentive for the police to place speed cameras as they will keep the fine revenue ?

No. The rules for entry to the scheme demand that partnerships produce an operational case detailing the cost of their projected camera activity and casualty savings. They will only be re-imbursed enough to cover the projected costs. All additional fine receipts go to the Treasury. Therefore there is simply no incentive to place cameras other than to improve road safety.

Q12    Does the Metropolitan Police announcing through Assistant Commissioner Todd that they would be freezing the expansion of speed cameras not fatally undermine rollout ?

The Met Police are being very sensible in their approach to cameras. They have been operating cameras for a decade now with varying success. It is important they take stock of where their cameras and housings are sited to ensure maximum road safety benefit before seeking to enter the scheme. The Met’s entry to the scheme is not expected until 2002 at the very earliest.

Q13    Isn’t it hypocritical of the Chief Constable of North Wales and head of ACPO Traffic Committee, Richard Brunstrom, to support speed cameras when he has publicly admitted to speeding himself ?

No. Mr Brunstrom was being entirely honest in admitting that he, like most other people, on occasions exceeds the speed limit. He was making the point that cameras were necessary to discourage himself and others from speeding and, in doing so, were performing a valuable job.

Q14    In November the ‘safety camera’ ( speed and red-light camera ) fine was increased by 50% from £40 to £60, is it necessary for forces to make this kind of profit from speeding motorists ?

The increase in the fine from safety cameras is not aimed to raise revenue, it is aimed at deterring and reducing speed and the number of accidents that occur as a result of speeding.

Q15    An increase of 50% is a rather large inflation rate ?

The fixed penalty was introduced in early 1992 and has been £40 for nearly a decade, it is not unreasonable to increase this figure.

Q16    How does the ABD’s road safety campaign, “See it – Miss it” fit in with speed cameras ?

It appears to concentrate on inappropriate ( driving within the speed limit but too fast for the conditions ) rather than excessive speed ( breaking the speed limit ). Many of the issues it raises of driver training, awareness and concentration are already key areas being dealt with as part of the government’s road safety strategy. Cameras seek to prevent drivers exceeding the speed limit and as such are an important part of the road safety armoury.

Q17    The ABD claims that despite 4,300 cameras having been installed since 1991, the downward trend in fatal accidents has tailed off since 1994. This, they say, is a clear indication that the sole purpose behind more cameras is financial.

While there may be around 4,000 camera housings in place, the number of active cameras is far fewer. There are comparatively few working cameras due to the resource implications for the police and local authorities. That is why the netting off financing system is being made nationally available. We fully expect the downward trend in fatal and serious injury accidents to continue at a greater pace as better use is made of cameras.

Q18    Why introduce more cameras when the ones we have are often inoperative due to poor maintenance ?

Netting off will provide funds for the provision and maintenance of all speed cameras.

Q19    How much money are the current trials providing through netting off ?

Pilots netted off around £11M and approximately £1M will be returned to the Treasury. This £1M will not necessarily grow next year ( although in practice it may well do as more partnerships come on stream ). The reason for this is that pilots can only recover costs where there is sufficient netting-off revenue to do so – any excess netting-off revenue goes straight to Treasury. It is therefore not in the interests of the partnerships to exceed their business case forecasts by a large amount as they do not receive any of the additional revenue.

Q20    Where does the money from fixed penalties go at the moment ?

All money from all fixed penalties and fines for all offences go to the Lord Chancellor’s Department and then on to the Consolidated Fund of the Treasury.

Q21    Do you also need Treasury approval to get money from the magistrates to the force ?

All pilots have had to abide by the Treasury rules on netting-off. The change in legislation allows DTLR to make payments to the magistrates courts, local authorities and police to cover costs.

Q22    Is it ring fenced for local authorities ?

The income is ring-fenced for the whole partnership.

Q23    Who will determine where more speed cameras should be provided ?

Local authorities and their partners – the police and the magistrates’ courts – will assess where the increased use of cameras would have the greatest effect, in terms of reducing casualties and deterring dangerous driving.

Q24    What will happen to the receipts earmarked for local partnerships when enough cameras have been provided ? Won’t the partnerships be saturated with funds that they won’t need ?

Once capital costs are recovered and cameras are operating successfully in all areas that have a history of speed related casualties, then any surplus will go to the Treasury so preventing the partnerships from being saturated with funds.
The number of fixed penalty offences should reduce, as more drivers reduce their speeds and observe traffic light directions. This will mean that fewer fixed penalty notices will be issued, with a corresponding decrease in receipts. Increased compliance will also reduce the numbers of casualties. Receipts can only be used to off-set costs and when those costs have been met, any further receipts will pass to the Treasury.

Q25    What effect will the successful appeal by the Law Lords against the original judgement of the Margaret Brown case have on people seeking to challenge the requirement to identify the drivers of vehicles caught on camera for speeding and red light offences ?

This case was never about speed cameras, but the judgement will ensure that vehicle keepers will continue to be required by law to name the driver at the time of an offence and their Human Rights under the Act will not be infringed. It means business as usual for safety camera enforcement.

Q26    Is there a life expectancy of speed cameras ? Now the Human Rights Act is law in England, it will make it impossible for people to incriminate themselves when asked by police who was driving the speeding car ?

No, under section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the keeper of a vehicle can be required to provide the police with information on who was driving it when certain road traffic offences are committed. It is an offence not to provide the police with such information unless the keeper can show that he/she did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have found out. These provisions are commonly used for offences detected by police speed cameras.

Q27    Why are ‘safety cameras’ ( speed and red-light cameras ) painted dull grey if police do not want to trick motorists ?

Not all safety cameras are grey – there is no requirement that they be painted any particular colour. Under the rules warning signs should be erected before a stretch of road that may have safety cameras on it.
Under the rules fixed safety cameras must be visible.

Q28    Cameras are ugly and intrusive, especially in rural areas, and will cause nuisance and distraction to many people ?

Cameras come in various forms for use in fixed and mobile installations and suitable equipment can be used according to the needs of the road and surroundings.

Q29    Nationally, how much money do magistrates’ courts currently receive from fixed penalties for speeding/jumping red lights as a result of camera detection ?

This information is not available other than for the pilot areas, as these statistics do not form part of those regularly collected in the Lord Chancellor’s Department. ( In the case of the pilots the information was produced specifically for the operational cases. )

Q30    If speeding accounts for one third of the amount of road casualties what is being done about the other two thirds ?

The government published last April its casualty reduction targets and the road safety strategy to meet those targets. In addition to tackling speed the strategy also set out proposals on driver training and testing, drink, drugs and drowsiness, vehicle safety, etc.

Q31    What has been the effect on speeds and casualties in the pilot areas ?

Research into the effect of speed on casualty rates has shown that for each 1 mph reduction in speed, casualties decrease by about 5%. In the pilots average speeds have reduced from between 1 and 10 mph with an average reduction of 5.6 mph – this would mean expected casualty reduction of between 5% and 50%. At camera sites the actual reduction has been 47% for killed and seriously injured casualties.

Q32    Why not allow the pilots to run the full two years before rolling out nationally ?

We know cameras work in reducing speeds, accidents and casualties. The pilots are testing the new funding arrangements. The results of the first year are very impressive. The casualty reductions are of a magnitude that makes delay indefensible.

Q33    As there are so many people exceeding the speed limits, is it not time to review whether we should increase the maximum limits on roads ?

The question of assessing the appropriateness of speed limits was addressed in the DETR Speed Review and both DETR and highway authorities work to guidelines on setting speed limits. These will be reviewed as a DETR Road Safety Strategy commitment. The Speed Review and RS Strategy were published in March 2000.
In addition a person’s idea of what speed is right changes depending on whether they are walking, cycling, driving or residing on a road. A good example of this is in urban areas. Surveys show that the 30mph speed limit has a great deal of support – few people want it raised, and around one quarter would like to see it lowered. Yet around 66% of car drivers exceed this limit.

Q34    More people caught on camera will surely result in an increase in those who fail to pay their fines. This will create a serious extra burden for the police.

Section 38 allows payments to be made to cover any enforcement action or proceedings in respect of speeding and traffic signal offences. Partnerships will be able to cover the cost of chasing up unpaid fines in their operational cases.

Q35    Will the channelling of fine revenue be used just to fund cameras ?

Yes. Section 38 allows for any equipment to be used and funded so long as it is type approved by the Home Office, but to include in-vehicle video and hand held lasers would introduce complications during national rollout. However, the possibility to review this exists should operational experience show it to be justified.

Q36    Will national rollout cover all camera activity or just the additional activity where cameras are already operating ?

All costs will be allowable so as to establish a level playing field for all police forces and to simplify the administration and accounting

Q37    If all costs are to be allowed will partnerships be expected to accept a reduced annual budget commensurate with their existing costs of camera enforcement ?

The various Departments concerned, including HMT, are considering how to deal with this question but it is recognised that the amounts of money are relatively small and the administrative and accounting requirements would be complex.

Q38    Surely when the roads are quiet at night and traffic is light the roads are safer, so surely it is unfair to prosecute people for speeding then ?

The accident rate doubles at night, particularly late in the evening and in the early hours. This is due to higher vehicle speed, because there is less traffic, more alcohol consumption, tiredness and reduced visibility. Respect for speed limits is just as important at night, if not more so.

Q39    The Province of British Columbia in Canada has decided to remove its speed cameras on the grounds of their being considered revenue raising ?

British Columbia had their own political reasons for removing their cameras. It was not a universally popular move, particularly amongst the police. Our experience of cameras is that they are highly effective at reducing accidents. That is why we are rolling out the new funding system.

The Law

Q1    When was the law introduced to allow the use of cameras to enforce speed limits ?

The Road Traffic Act 1991 amended the law so that Courts could accept evidence of speeding from type approved photographic equipment accompanied only by a certificate signed on behalf of the relevant police force. Following that change in the law, local authorities were given guidance on where and how to deploy cameras in Circular Roads 1/92 and how to sign cameras in Circular Roads 1/95. Where cameras are placed and how they are signed or made visible is not covered in law.

Q2    Why is signing and visibility not covered in law ?

Additional guidance on deployment and rules on signing and visibility were introduced for those areas seeking to participate in the scheme that allows some fine revenue to be re-cycled to cover the cost of camera operation. These relate to financial arrangements but have no bearing on the prosecution process. All speed limits should be clearly signed and it is the responsibility of drivers to stay within the legal limit at all times or risk prosecution.

Q3    Why isn’t any discretion given for a previous good driving record ?

The law on speeding is clear and safety camera routes are clearly signed. A clean driving licence does not necessarily indicate a safe driver, as many drivers speed and endanger themselves and others.

Q4    Cameras are often too close to the change in speed limit sign.

Speed should be modified at the start of the posted limit. All camera sites are visible from a distance. Once past a speed limit sign you are required to drive at the speed stated ( or less depending on road conditions and environment ).

Q5    Is it true that the offence is not valid if the camera isn’t yellow ?

No. The Government guidelines for high visibility enable the partnership to be eligible to reclaim the operational costs in relation to those offences detected by these cameras. The camera colour does not change the legal status of cameras if you have been caught speeding.

Q6    Speeding is not a serious offence – everybody does it at some time.

Speeding is both a serious and criminal offence. Research and experience confirm that excessive and inappropriate speed is a major contributory factor in collisions that cause death and injury. The purpose of speed cameras is to encourage drivers to change their attitude towards speeding and comply with limits at all times.

Q7    I received a fixed penalty notice and I was only going 32mph in a 30mph zone.

It would be extremely unusual for any driver to be fined or prosecuted for travelling at 32mph in a 30mph limit. The police do not operate at levels often described as “zero tolerance”. The guideline issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers is not to prosecute motorists unless they are recorded as going at 10% plus 2mph over the posted speed limit. In the case of a 30mph limit that would be 35mph. This is to safeguard against any discrepancies there might be between speedometers and police equipment. Should you believe your penalty to be unsafe in any way you could seek recourse to the courts.

Q8    Who is responsible for placing safety cameras ?

The responsibility for placing safety cameras rests with the local highway authority in consultation with the police. Guidance on camera deployment has been issued by the Department and is contained in Circular Roads 1/92.

Q9    I did not see any camera. How and why have I been caught ?

The offence you are alleged to have committed may have been captured by the police conducting regular speed checks in unmarked vehicles or using hand held equipment. Local Parish Councils may have raised a concern regarding the number of drivers speeding in their area, and then requested the Police Authority to take some action. Not all locations are required to comply with the high visibility enforcement regulations, nor do they have to have a history of people being either killed or seriously injured to be eligible for enforcement action. Speeding is a serious and criminal offence and the police are entitled to enforce the legal limit in whichever way and wherever they choose.

Q10    Are all cameras correctly calibrated ?

All cameras must have current calibration certificates, which can be submitted to a court if necessary.

Q11    If a speeding ticket is ignored, will there be follow up action ?

If no response is received, a police officer will call at the registered keeper’s address to serve the papers personally. If matters get to this stage a court trial will be the only option where, if found guilty the penalty points and fines can be considerably more severe. Any attempt to give false information will result in criminal proceedings.

Q12    The photograph was taken from the rear of the car. How do you know I was the driver ?

Once the vehicle has been identified the law requires the owner to identify the driver. If you were not the driver of the vehicle it is your responsibility to identify who was.

Q13    As the Human Rights Act is now law in England, it will make it impossible for people to incriminate themselves when asked by police who was driving the speeding car ?

No, under section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the keeper of a vehicle can be required to provide the police with information on who was driving it when certain road traffic offences are committed. It is an offence not to provide the police with such information unless the keeper can show that he or she did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have found out. These provisions are commonly used for offences detected by police speed cameras.

Q14    I didn’t know what the speed limit was.

All changes of speed limit must be signed. Drivers must therefore assume the prevailing speed limit does not change unless and until they pass another speed limit sign. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure speed limits are correctly signed or run the risk of being challenged in the courts.

Q15    If drivers are to comply with the speed limit they will need to constantly take their eyes from the road ahead to check their speedometers. This is dangerous.

It is not reasonable to claim that drivers are forced to watch their speedometers rather than the road. Safe driving requires concentration at all times and qualified drivers should be well aware of the approximate speed they are travelling without the need to constantly check their speedometers. There are a number of situations in which it is necessary for drivers to be aware of what is happening on the road in directions other than immediately ahead. Examples include using rear and side view mirrors and checking at junctions and roundabouts in order to give way. These all require drivers to concentrate on other sections of the road other than those ahead and there is no evidence to suggest that such short and temporary diversions of concentration are a safety risk.

Q16    Why do the police allow drivers to exceed the limit by a significant amount before pulling them over, or triggering the speed enforcement camera ?

There is some flexibility in application of the limits because of the unreliability of speedometers.
While the police have made it clear that they will not be imposing a zero tolerance strategy, and will continue to use their discretion, they will be seeking greater compliance.
The police have made it clear they will not be prosecuting people who drive just over the speed limit. The police will continue to use their discretion, but will be seeking greater compliance. Better utilisation of cameras will allow them to enforce speed limits to the ACPO guidelines, where existing resource constraints may prevent this.

Q17    Why don’t police forces set their cameras at the same speed threshold ?

It is an operational matter for each chief officer of police to decide at what threshold he sets the cameras. They have to take account of local circumstances. The Association of Chief Police Officers issued guidelines in February 2000 on the speed thresholds where enforcement begins.
The Principles of Speed Enforcement as stated in the document are as follows:- “The enforcement of traffic law by the police should be guided by the principles of proportionality in applying the law and securing compliance; targeting of enforcement action; consistency of approach; and transparency about what enforcement action is undertaken and why; and recognition that effective partnership with other organisations is essential.”

Q18    The police should enforce speed limits without relying on cameras.

Safety camera enforcement is just one way to control speed and the police still have a part to play in slowing traffic. Outside of the funding scheme the police may enforce speed limits using any equipment that has been approved by the Home Office and frequently stop drivers to offer advice about their speed without prosecuting.

The Safety Camera Funding Scheme

Q1    What is a Safety Camera “Partnership” ?

Areas that have been accepted into the safety camera funding scheme must form partnerships made up of local authorities, the police and courts in order to qualify for payment from conditional offer fixed penalty receipts to cover their costs of safety camera operation.

Q2    Why is the term “safety camera” used rather than “speed camera” ?

The term safety camera is used to encompass both speed and traffic signal enforcement cameras; and there is significant evidence that they do have a highly beneficial effect on road safety.

Q3    What is the SPECS system ?

These cameras measure the speed of vehicles between two fixed points and can cover large distances. They are usually suited to urban high-speed roads with serious accident histories. This camera system is the most expensive in terms of initial capital outlay and was first used by Nottingham in the first year of the pilot scheme.

Q4    Why not use the SPECS system everywhere ?

The SPECS system is proving to be highly effective at reducing speeding where it has been operating in Nottingham. However, it is just one of several approved and effective camera systems that local authorities and the police may use and it is a local operational matter to decide which is appropriate in each case.

Q5    Why are some cameras hidden?

It is not in the interests of local authorities or the police to place cameras that have no effect on reducing casualties. Those areas participating in the scheme that allows some fixed penalty fine revenue to be netted off and reinvested in camera activity must comply with certain rules and achieve casualty reductions or risk being suspended from the scheme. Fine revenue for those areas remaining outside the scheme passes to the Treasury. In each case, therefore, it would make no sense to “hide” cameras.

Q6    How can drivers be certain of the speed limit at camera sites ?

Rules exist that aim to ensure drivers are warned of the presence of a camera and reminded of the speed limit through signing. These rules operate for the scheme that allows some fine revenue to be netted off and re-invested by partnerships of local authorities, the police and courts to cover the costs of safety camera operation. Netting off currently covers over 30 police force areas and the majority of those not yet taking part are expected to be participating by spring 2003.

Q7    Why not allow police, courts, and councils to keep the entire fine ?

That would run the risk of cameras being placed simply to raise revenue. Cameras must be placed only to improve road safety.

Q8    What happens if the scheme is so successful that fewer people speed and there is insufficient revenue to cover the extra camera costs ?

If this happens there will be a very significant reduction in the number of people killed and injured on our roads. This will save far more in medical and social costs, apart from the misery and suffering that will be saved, than the loss in revenue. The benefits of camera enforcement could thus be recovered from savings made elsewhere, and corresponding changes to camera funding arrangements could then be made. As compliance improves, camera use may be reviewed and scaled down as appropriate.

Q9    Why does money from speed camera fines need to be channelled back to fund more ‘safety cameras’ ( speed and red light cameras ) ?

An increase in operational safety cameras on British roads will discourage speeding resulting in:
  • Fewer road traffic collisions.

  • Reduced casualties in terms of numbers and severity.

  • Reduced demand on the health service.

  • Calmer and more free flowing traffic environment.

Q10    How can we ensure that all of the money given to the police from speed camera enforcement will be spent on ‘safety cameras’ ( speed and red light cameras ) ?

The force areas who wish to be considered to be part of the netting off scheme must:
  • Form a partnership including local authorities, police and magistrates courts.

  • Present an operational case to the Project Board ( containing amongst others, central government departments, local government officers and ACPO ).

  • Ensure the whole process is monitored and audited annually to ensure netting off rules are not broken.

Rules Of The Safety Camera Funding Scheme

Q1    How many accidents are needed at proposed sites for enforcement in order for cameras to be placed ?

The rules for the safety camera netting off scheme have been developed to have the most positive road safety benefits and demand that partnerships should use the guideline of four accidents resulting in people being killed or seriously injured over the previous three years at sites they propose to enforce using cameras. This does not preclude cameras being placed at sites that do not meet the guidelines if they contribute to the overall strategy aimed at reducing road accident casualties.

Q2    Why are the rules so restrictive ?

Guidance on safety camera deployment has always made it clear that cameras should only be placed where there is a history of speed related road accidents. Since those forming the partnership are able to use some of the fine revenue to cover their costs involved in camera operation, it is vital camera deployment meets the primary purpose to reduce collisions, deaths and injuries. A detailed set of rules has been devised including the need to conduct an analysis of speeds and casualties prior to the placement of cameras. Experience of the netting off scheme shows quite clearly that the greatest success in reducing death and serious injury results from a strong partnership working towards a common goal.

Q3    Why are cameras coloured yellow ?

A report by the TRL recommended yellow as the colour with greatest visibility in the greatest number of circumstances for street signs. It made sense to carry that over to camera housings.

Q4    Yellow camera housings are hard to see in some circumstances, for example, driving into direct sunlight ? Are fines quashed if it is too sunny to see the camera ?

There will always be circumstances in which it is more difficult to see the camera housings. The rules are sufficiently flexible to allow housings to be coloured non-yellow if the circumstances demand on a site by site basis. Absolute visibility will always be impaired during bright sunlight at the time of year when the sun is low in the sky, but the combination of signing and housing should provide drivers with sufficient warning. Whether the camera is visible or not the prosecutions will stand.

Q5    What are the circumstances that allow different colours to be used ?

Partnerships will have to provide visibility statements in their operational cases. These will be considered by the Project Board. The sort of circumstances in which a colour other than yellow might be approved might be in towns where the prevailing stone colour is yellow or in an area of outstanding natural beauty where a bright colour could be considered intrusive. In most circumstances, however, the colour will be yellow.

Q6    Why is it that forces outside the camera funding scheme do not have to colour their cameras yellow ?

Guidance for local authorities not participating in the scheme have been issued and closely follow the visibility rules for the netting off scheme. While this does not force them to comply with the visibility guidance, they would be expected to take close account of the advice. It should be noted, however, that those remaining outside the scheme will not be able to recover the cost of their camera operations.

Q7    Is there evidence that coloured cameras are more effective than grey ones ?

No studies have been conducted but numerous complaints from drivers have been received that cameras have not been evident. It makes sense that drivers will slow down if they see the camera but might not if they do not.
No firm evidence exists one way or the other on whether or not highly visible cameras obtain better casualty reduction than less visible or hidden cameras. In New Zealand the Government found during trials that hidden cameras were more effective but reverted to visible cameras after the trial, and it is also possible to point to British Columbia in Canada that took the decision to stop entirely speed camera enforcement in the belief it was having no effect on improving road safety. Ministers do not believe either approach is right for the UK.

Q8    Was the move to remove speed cameras in the Province of British Columbia in Canada a success ?

British Columbia had their own political reasons for removing their cameras. It was not a universally popular move, particularly amongst the police. Our experience of cameras is that they are highly effective at reducing accidents.

Q9    Why were cameras coloured at all ? Surely if someone is committing a criminal offence they deserve to be caught ?

The purpose of cameras is to dissuade drivers from exceeding speed limits, not to catch them speeding. Making cameras clearly visible to drivers has improved compliance. Those who still choose to flout the law will be caught

Q10    Was the Government giving in to the motorists lobby by colouring cameras ?

The perception of “hidden” cameras runs the risk of failing to slow traffic and at the same time alienating the motoring public. Colouring cameras was simply a matter of the interests of road safety and the wishes of the public coinciding.

Q11    Have higher visibility cameras encouraged the practise of motorists braking only when they see a camera and subsequently speeding up ?

The rules incorporated better signing and greater visibility of camera housings. As a result, drivers should have a better opportunity to slow down.

Q12    Why are coloured cameras more acceptable to motorists ?

If cameras are more visible drivers will have the opportunity to slow down. Drivers will more readily accept that the cameras are not there to catch them speeding but to encourage them to comply with the limit.

Q13    Coloured cameras will be ugly, particularly in rural areas and conservation areas.

They may be, which is why flexibility has been built in to the rules. However, it is highly likely that mobile units will be used in rural areas which are not permanent intrusions on the landscape.

Q14    Are yellow cameras more visible at night than grey cameras ?

They are not more visible at night, but they are visible and can be reflective.

Q15    What are the rules for mobile units ?

Fixed and mobile cameras do not operate under identical visibility rules. Although fixed camera housings should be yellow in appearance and visible, mobile camera units should have a sign placed at the beginning of targeted routes and vehicles associated with mobile enforcement should be in a livery that makes clear they house speed enforcement cameras. Those operating the cameras within the vehicles are required to wear standard, fluorescent tunics.

Q16    How do I report a camera that does not comply with the rules of the scheme ?

This is a local matter that should be reported to the Project Manager of the relevant Safety Camera Partnership. All areas are subject to quarterly and annual audits and partnerships are under obligation to put right any sites that do not comply. It should be noted, however, that the visibility rules do not affect the prosecution process or the legal status of cameras. Drivers should note that any failure by a safety camera partnership to comply with the rules has no bearing whatsoever on the legality or otherwise of a prosecution against them for speeding or crossing a red traffic signal.

Q17    Have visible cameras been accepted by the public ?

The Government believe that if the public understand and accept the deployment of cameras in an open way, they are more likely to respond and reduce their speeds as required. And that is exactly what is happening in the safety camera partnership areas that are participating in netting off. Partnerships must put in place an effective communications strategy to ensure the local people have a clear idea of why and where cameras are being deployed in their area. Experience is showing that this approach is ensuring people recognise and support the use of cameras where appropriate.

Safety Or Cash ?

Q1    Why do we need ‘safety cameras’ ( speed and red-light cameras ) rolled out nationally ?

Of the 3,412 people killed on Britain’s roads about one third result from collisions where speed is a contributory factor.

Q2    How much money are the Police making from speed cameras ?

The police are not making any money. All monies collected from speeding fines are sent directly to the Lord Chancellor’s Department. The Safety Camera Partnership may claim back only the funds for the operational costs.

Q3    Numerous television programmes and press reports confirm that cameras are placed to raise revenue.

Media reports on safety cameras are often inaccurate or selective. All relevant research indicates very clearly that where cameras are placed at sites or on routes with a history of speed related accidents, the reduction in collisions resulting in death and serious injury is very substantial. Indeed, monitoring of the eight areas that piloted the scheme that allows some fine revenue to be re-invested in camera activity showed a reduction over two years of 35% in those killed and seriously injured at camera sites.

Q4    Is the introduction of more ‘safety cameras’ ( speed and red light cameras ) just another stealth tax for motorists ?

No. The new system has to meet strict Treasury criteria to prevent revenue from being used for anything other than camera funding. The only people who will be subject to speeding fines will be those that break the law.
Any funding arrangements will only meet the costs of the police, courts and highway authorities. The surplus will go to the Treasury, as does all the existing revenue.
The primary test on the new arrangement is whether it reduces casualties. Evidence from the pilots and an earlier study on camera effectiveness (Home Office, PRG police research series paper 20), is that casualties have reduced significantly both at camera sites and in the areas where cameras have been placed.

Q5    Are cameras not simply another example of “bashing” the motorist ?

On the contrary, cameras are of benefit to all people, including motorists. Cameras are already shown to save lives – more effective, targeted use of cameras will save even more lives, many of which will be motorists.

Q6    Catching drivers speeding will become even easier pickings using all these cameras. Is this not just an easy way for the Government to pass on more costs to drivers when the police should be dealing with other crimes and more serious traffic offences such as dangerous driving ?

Speeding and red-light running are very serious crimes and kill and injure thousands of people every year. The only drivers who need fear prosecution are those who break the law and in so doing put additional risk on others and themselves. Law-abiding drivers and other road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists, will welcome this initiative which is intended to make our roads safer for everyone.

Q7    Isn’t this just a measure to generate revenue for the police ?

No. There has been some mis-reporting of this in the press. The application of the receipts will be strictly controlled, on a scheme-by-scheme and an area-by-area basis. They will be used to meet only the costs of the agencies involved in operating the cameras and the related administrative activities. Additional funds in excess of the costs of operating the cameras will be paid into the Treasury Consolidated Fund.

Q8    The more people who are caught speeding on cameras, the more jobs are created for those in the safety camera partnerships. Is this not an incentive for partnerships to hide cameras in order to catch motorists ?

Safety camera partnerships have no incentive to hide cameras in order to collect fine revenue. The rules of the scheme ensure that safety cameras are visible. Drivers are able to avoid being fined by complying with the speed limit and this is the ultimate aim of the scheme. It is a simple fact that the cameras need servicing, film must be placed, removed and developed, and the resulting administration must be performed properly and within the law. People are needed to undertake these tasks. However, as compliance improves, camera use may be reviewed and scaled down as appropriate and fewer people will be required. If this happens, there should be a reduction in the number of people killed and injured on our roads which will save huge amounts in medical and social costs as well as lead to a reduction in misery and suffering. The benefits of camera enforcement could thus be recovered from savings made elsewhere, and corresponding changes to camera funding arrangements could then be made. At present, the system has to meet strict Treasury criteria to prevent revenue from being used for anything other than camera funding with all surplus revenue being returned to the Treasury.

Q9    Why are there so many speed cameras on motorways yet few outside schools ?

Away from the M25 controlled motorway experiment and at road works, there are few cameras on motorways. Cameras are generally only effective at specific sites and school safety requires a greater zonal effect, although some may be present outside schools where local authorities and police have judged it necessary.

Q10    What is the cost of a speed camera ?

The actual cost of a Gatsometer speed camera ( fixed site ) is about £32,000. Evidence from pilots indicates that partnerships in those areas ( Essex, Strathclyde, South Wales, Northants, Lincolnshire, Cleveland and Thames Valley ) show a five-fold economic return on investment recovered against the social costs of deaths and injuries saved.

Q11    Will surplus revenue be made available to pay for other road safety activity, such as traffic calming features and road safety education ?

No. Although legislation is drafted so that this might be allowable, it is not the government’s intention to divert surplus revenue to other expenditure and all such revenue will be passed directly to the Consolidated Fund.

Q12    How many offences do speed cameras deal with per year ?

This information is available from the Home Office.

Why Target Speed ?

Q1    Why is the government so concerned about speed when deaths on the road have fallen so sharply over the last 30 years ?

Success at tackling other road safety issues such as drink/driving and the fitting and wearing of seat belts have contributed enormously to reducing road deaths. In more recent years the use of speed reducing measures such as road humps and the creation of 20 mph zones have resulted in a reduction in casualties. But we need to continue to tackle excessive speed and the proper use of cameras has shown that they will remain important at continuing the downward trend in casualties.

Q2    Isn’t the 70 mph motorway speed limit out of date ? Should it be raised given the improvement in road and vehicle design since the limit was introduced in the 1960s ?

The motorway speed limit is being kept under review. There are many issues to consider such as putting at risk the excellent casualty record on motorways, emissions and noise. There is also the question of enforcement given that a majority of drivers exceed the current speed limit.

Q3    Why the obsession with excessive speed ? Surely it is only the incorrect and irresponsible misuse of speed, which can kill ?

It is necessary to reduce both excessive and inappropriate speeds. Cameras are highly effective at treating the former; other measures such as traffic calming features are used to tackle inappropriate speeds.

Q4    A TRL report has stated that only 7% of crashes are due to excessive speed, whereas Government publicity says speed is a contributory factor in about a third of all crashes. Why is the Government so obsessed with speeding when it is bad driving that is the real problem ?

The TRL report A New System for Recording Contributory Factors in Road Accidents is about contributory factors in accidents in the context of a new accident data recording system being brought into STATS 19. Speed as a contributory factor is shown in the report to occur in about 7% of accidents, whilst we normally quote about one third. This apparent disparity can be explained. Excessive speed as a causation factor may be coded for any one of the following reasons:
  • Excess speed for the limit

  • Excess speed for the vehicle (e.g. LGV)

  • Excess speed for the conditions

Although speed was not always shown as a factor in the trial schemes, which is what the report is about, speed is clearly a factor when the causes are shown as any of the following:
  • Sudden braking

  • Careless/reckless driving

  • Following too close

  • Behaviour – in a hurry

  • Loss of control of a vehicle

  • Poor overtaking, etc.

Adding up these factors the report effectively confirms the “one third” figure. A more relevant report that explains the speed – accident relationship is the Effects of Drivers’ Speed on the Frequency of Road Accidents TRL Report No. 421.

Cameras – Why And How ?

Q1    Why not try other methods of slowing drivers down, such as better speed limit signs, traffic calming , driver education and publicity ?

Cameras are not the only means of slowing drivers, but they are effective in the right circumstances.

Q2    Do speed cameras actually reduce the occurrence of speeding ?

The Home Office Series Paper PRG 20 published in 1996 showed an average speed reduction of 4.2 mph at camera sites. The pilot camera schemes show reductions in average speeds at new camera sites of between 1.2 mph to 10.7 mph. The pilots are to be judged on the reduction in casualties in those areas. Results are certainly encouraging and if anything better than the earlier Home Office findings.

Q3    Will allowing fines to pay for more cameras open the floodgates and lead to a proliferation of cameras used for raising revenue from drivers ?

The primary purpose of speed limit and red light enforcement cameras is to reduce death and injury on the roads. The Governments Road Safety strategy made the commitment to improve enforcement and to roll out a new safety camera funding mechanism nationally as part of a package to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured by 40% by the year 2010.

Q4    How many cameras are “live” ?

The proportion of live cameras varies from force to force. The forces determine the ratio of live to dummy cameras according to local circumstances. Forces rotate the live cameras between sites so all sites are operational at some point. Better funding will mean a much greater proportion of live cameras as forces make better use of existing equipment. But dummy cameras will continue to be in use. The objective is to obtain compliance with speed limits and reduce casualties. Prosecutions are only a means to that end.

Q5    At the moment many of the speed cameras flash but have no film in, will the introduction of digital speed cameras increase the number of offenders that can be captured ?

The increased capacity that digital cameras provide will increase the probability that speeding offenders will be caught by cameras and prosecuted. Digital speed cameras remove the need to replace film and their increased use might, initially at least, result in an increase in the number of offenders caught because the film does not run out. However, where they are being used in Nottingham ( in pairs along a route ) compliance with speed limits has improved dramatically since the cameras started operating. A significant reduction in casualties has been achieved.

Q6    Will the digital cameras used in Nottingham become the norm everywhere else, and will such cameras mean that the police can bring down prosecution thresholds and catch more people because the film won’t ever run out and need changing ?

Digital cameras are certainly more efficient and require less attention to service. But their purpose remains the same – to deter law breaking and reduce road casualties. The setting of prosecution thresholds is an operational matter for the police.

Q7    There are many road safety issues more important than speeding, why is the Government not tackling these ?

Safety cameras and speed enforcement are not the only important road safety issues. Proposals and commitments in respect of other road safety matters are addressed in the Government’s strategy “Tomorrow’s Roads – Safer for Everyone”, which was published in 2000. The strategy can be obtained free from PO Box 236, Wetherby, LS23 7NB ( and is available on the

DfT website


Speed Enforcement Detection Devices ( SEDD )

Q1    What is the Government’s position on the use of SEDD in motor vehicles ?

We believe drivers who purchase SEDD do so primarily to avoid being caught speeding. It is our belief that drivers should stay within speed limits at all times. Not just in areas where they think they will be caught.

Q2    Is it true that the Government intends to ban devices for warning drivers of cameras and other enforcement devices, so called radar and laser detectors and diffusers ?

The DTLR has conducted a consultation exercise on whether to ban the installation and use of speed enforcement detector devices in motor vehicles. Officials are currently considering their response and an announcement will be made shortly.

Q3    Aren’t SEDD a legitimate road safety device ?

There are varying types of SEDD available on the market. The most objectionable SEDD will deflect the safety camera beam thus allowing the drivers to continue to speed undetected. There can be no defence for devices such as these.
It is our belief that a SEDD could only be described as a road safety device if it contained details of speed limits, thus enabling the driver to stay within speed limits at all times and not just in those areas where there is a likelihood of being caught.