THERE won’t be many drivers who haven’t spotted a camera at the side of a road and immediately checked to see if they were travelling a little bit too fast.
But not all traffic cameras are the same, and some aren’t even there to record your speed.
According to data from more than 40 British police forces, just over half of fixed speed cameras are actively used, with plenty more surveillance devices there to track down criminals, manage traffic or simply collect data.
For your own peace of mind, it pays to know what each camera is there for – so take note of the ones that aren’t trying to catch you out, and the ones that will see you slapped with a fine.
Read on to see the different types of speed cameras on UK roads, and how they work.
Fixed speed cameras
The Gatso is the most common speed camera in the UK, and has been around since 1992 – but there a range of different fixed speed readers.
Normally found in built up areas and on carriageways, fixed cameras are there purely to make sure drivers stick to the speed limit.
Drive past one of these going faster than you should be, and you will no doubt be slapped with a fine.
Average speed cameras
Known as SPECS cameras, these measure your speed over a distance of anywhere between 200m and 10km.
Using number plate recognition, they measure how long it takes you to travel from camera A to camera B, then check that against the average time it should have taken if you were driving at the speed limit.
If your time works out to be over the limit you’ll be fined £100 and given three penalty points – even if you’re going below the allowed speed at the point you pass the camera.
Last year we busted the myths surrounding fixed speed cameras.
Highways Agency CCTV cameras
Highways Agency cameras are all over the country, but they aren’t there to catch out dangerous drivers.
The small grey cameras are used to manage traffic flow, and help monitor accidents and incidents on major roads.
They are simply used for observation and aren’t equipped with speed radars or number plate recognition systems.
CCTV cameras are most commonly found on motorways and major A-roads.
Bus Lane Cameras
Smaller, more discreet cameras, these are there to catch motorists driving in designated bus lanes.
They usually look similar to CCTV cameras, and will capture your registration if you are driving in the red lanes at the wrong times.
Driving in a bus lane usually attracts a Penalty Charge Notice of £90.
Police Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are used to combat crime – but not the regular traffic offences you might think.
They collect car registration data to track down offenders involved with local crime, organised crime or potential even terror-related activities.
They can also alert officers if a car without MOT, tax or insurance is used on a public road.
While they might not catch you for speeding, they can certainly track down law breakers for a range of offences.
Either hand-held or mounted in vans, mobile police radars are there purely to catch speeding motorists.
They can appear at any location police deem fit and operate 24-hours a day.
Highways Agency ANPR Cameras
Similar to police ANPR cameras, those operated by Highways England aren’t there to hand out speeding fines.
The green fixed cameras are used to determine traffic levels and journey times.
While the cameras do use a vehicle’s registration to gather data, number plate readings aren’t stored, and no images of cars or drivers are taken.
Traffic light cameras
Traffic light cameras catch motorists who run red lights.
They detect cars that pass over the advanced stop lines while the lights are red.
If you are caught, the camera will usually flash as it takes a photo of your car, and you will receive a £100 fine.
Earlier this year we reported how drivers can be fined even if they have stopped before the lights.
And new “speed on green” cameras are being used to catch risky motorists who speed up to try to beat traffic lights before they change.
Sometimes it does go wrong – with drivers speaking of their fury in September after cops admitted some were wrongly slapped with fines after a speed camera glitched.
Campaigners say thousands of motorists may have been ordered to pay out – despite doing nothing wrong – thanks to a fault with the Gatso in Southampton, Hampshire.