Stealth speed cameras offer fast track revenue for cash-strapped police

Stealth speed cameras attacked by critics

‘Police, Camera, Action!’ used to be best known as an ITV television show that screened clips of reckless drivers failing to outrun the police on Britain’s roads. But increasingly the title is being adopted by more cynical drivers who feel that police are treating speed cameras technology to raise revenue.

The mood among motorists changed markedly after Olly Martins, Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, revealed to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week that he could raise up to an extra £1million from cameras.

Martins claimed the additional funding could be generated by permanently switching on speed cameras that normally only operate when a temporary speed restriction is placed on a stretch of road.

From the end of June, Avon and Somerset police turned to speed cameras to target drivers who exceed the 70mph speed limit. It switched on cameras over stretches of managed motorway on the M4 and M5. Within two weeks nearly 550 drivers were issued with fixed penalty notices or a court summons.

Generation stealth: the speed cameras coming to a road near you

Other forces are lining up a new generation of speed camera, called the Hadecs3 (Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System). Unlike the cameras used on the M4 and M5, they are not installed on gantries, but mounted on slim poles at the roadside. They aren’t covered with reflective yellow paint and don’t rely on white distance marker lines on the road to calibrate their readings, making them difficult to spot.

Instead, drivers need to familiarise themselves with a new road marking that shows when they’ve entered an average-speed measuring zone – said to appear a little like an upside-down “L”.

Police forces are attracted to the latest digital speed cameras, as they’re less expensive than the more familiar Gatso cameras that still use film and need replacing with lower-maintenance digital cameras.

The volume of speeding fines handed out by speed cameras has been steadily climbing since 2010. Last year, over 115,000 drivers were issued with fines.

One camera, located in Cardiff, Wales, proved to be something of a ‘cash cow’ last year, raising £800,000 in just six month. It trapped an average of 71 drivers each day.

Speed awareness courses allow police to keep funds

Critics argue that increasing numbers of speed cameras operated to a zero-tolerance approach will only penalise a majority of minor offenders, and fail to deter uninsured or drink drivers.

Most drivers caught speeding are offered the chance to attend speed awareness course, rather than face a fixed penalty with three or more licence points. The majority choose this and hand over around £100 to police – which forces are allowed to keep.

One thing’s for certain: drivers had better get used to digital cameras, as their use is booming in other areas of road policing.

This week, figures from The Home Office were released, showing that every day a staggering 30 million drivers are captured on ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras. A total of just under 7,900 ANPR cameras captured images and information of drivers 11 billion times during the 2014/2015 period.

That’s a rise of 7.3 billion since 2009/2010. Each time an image is taken, the numberplate and face of the driver are recorded, and stored for a minimum of two years.

Read more: In car cameras: All you need to know

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