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Speed Cameras: Do You Know the Difference?

By: Simon McBride - Updated: 18 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Speed Camera Speed Traffic Police

The UK has a host of speed cameras but do you know the difference between a Gatso, Truvelo or a SPECS system? You’ll also need to know about the mobile detectors that the police use and Traffic Light Detectors that can be seen at lots of traffic lights in town centres.

According to figures from the Department of Transport, the UK has one of the best road safety records in the world and the Government claims that this is largely down to the role of safety cameras or speed cameras (as they are more commonly known to the public).

Speed Cameras come in an array of shapes and sizes, some are fixed like the Gatso and Truvelo and Traffic Lights Camera’s, some are mobile these are the ones the police patrols use and others work on the motorists average speed, these are called SPECS and work in a time-over-distance manner.


It looks like a square box on a long stand and is usually painted in yellow.

The Gatso speed camera is the most commonly used safety camera used in the UK. It is a fixed camera and is rear facing, if the motorist is speeding the Gatso will flash to capture the image required for prosecution. The Gatso contains film, this means from time to time it needs to be changed, so rarely a driver will get flashed but not get convicted as the camera will be out of film. The Gatso camera can only take pictures of vehicles that pass on the side of the road that the camera is positioned on.

Truvelo Speed Cameras

It looks like a square box with two eyes and is usually painted yellow or blue.

The Truvelo is forward facing safety camera. This means that it not only takes the front of the offending car it also will have a shot of the driver which should stand up in a court of law when the authorities come to prosecuting. The Truvelo will not dazzle the driver as it uses an infra-red flash, which cannot be seen by the human eye. This type of safety camera is becoming more common on UK roads.

SPECS Cameras

Looks like a small CCTV, one faces forward and the other is rear facing and is usually on a stanchion and painted yellow

The SPECS system records motorists while their car is within the entry and exit points of the cameras. You must be under the average speed between the entry and exit points or you will be prosecuted for breaking the speed limit. As the cameras use Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) and infra-red technology the vehicle and driver will be recorded on the video footage.This system is usually found on Dual Carriageways and motorways and is a common sight to slow traffic when negotiating motorway roadworks.

Traffic Light cameras

These look quite similar to the Gatso (above) but are positioned at junctions that use traffic lights.

This camera will be triggered if a motorist drives though a red light. This is achieved as sensors have been positioned under the road and activate when a vehicle goes through a red light. Not only does this camera take a reading of the speed of the offending vehicle it also records that the vehicle has been driven through a red light. That means the driver could be prosecuted for two offences, if the driver was also speeding when the vehicle triggered the camera.

Mobile and Handheld Devices

Police forces use a wide range of mobile and hand devices to catch speeding motorists. A common device used by police forces has been nicknamed the hairdryer – the police officer aims the detector from a distance of 1000 metres at the vehicle number plate and using laser technology records the speed of the target vehicle.

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