Find out how mobile speed camera vans work with a glimpse behind the scenes
A speed camera operator has given a glimpse behind the scenes inside a road speed camera van to separate the facts from fiction for motorists to help them become better drivers.
Go Safe Casualty Reduction Officer Gareth Thomas told North Wales Live how speed cameras work and debunked some of the urban myths about how you can avoid being caught speeding while at work.
He said: “I decided after retiring that I wanted to make the roads as safe as they can be in this area.
“The aim of the cameras is to reduce the number of people killed – or seriously injured – on our roads.
“Go Safe prefers to educate drivers rather than punish them with fines and penalty points.”
He answers a series of common questions that will help motorists avoid being hit with fines.
Do speed vans have to be visible at all times?
No. There are no laws about visibility, so there is nothing stopping an officer operating in the dark.
But they don’t often choose to do this and maintain that being visible acts as a deterrent in its own right.
Gareth said: “Legally, we don’t have to be visible. I could camouflage myself if I wanted to – but it’s all about being fair, education and preventing an accident.
“Even if I parked my van and went for a walk somewhere, it would deter people speeding straight away.”
Can officers only catch motorists travelling in one direction?
No. Any car that passes a Go Safe van is recorded on the officer’s camera.
So, if you’re exceeding the speed limit no matter what direction you are travelling in, you can expect to be hit with a speeding ticket.
Does the 10 per cent rule exist?
Yes. You will not get a ticket as long as your speed does not exceed the limit by 10 per cent, plus one mile per hour on North Wales roads.
So, in a 30 miles per hour zone, you will be recorded as speeding if you drive at 35 miles per hour.
However, be warned. The Go Safe thresholds can vary and change without notice. Officially, any speeding offence at more than 1 mile per hour above the limit is regarded as an offence, but most police forces allow for a variance.
Are officers effectively revenue collectors for the Government?
No. Gareth said: “We’re not here to get figures or to make money. We’re just here to catch the people who are speeding.
“If I get a day where I don’t get any drivers speeding, then I know I’ve done my job.
“If I’ve been working an eight-hour shift, I just hope at least one person that day has escaped injury or a crash has been avoided.”
Can I get caught speeding more than once on the same day by the same camera?
The current position with Go Safe, is if you are caught twice within 20 minutes, it’s treated as the same offence.
But, theoretically, a driver with a clean licence could be caught several times on the same day and could risk disqualification under the totting-up system.
Gareth said it could happen where several speed cameras are on the same road or motorway. However, when offences are said to have been committed ‘on the same occasion’, the court has the discretion to impose only one set of points for two or more offences.
Is it illegal to obstruct a van’s view of the road?
Yes. Obstructing a field of view during operational duties is an offence and you can be prosecuted for it.
Do officers enforce anything other than speeding?
Yes. Officers are there to ensure motorists wear seat belts, don’t use mobile phones. Anyone caught breaking these laws will face prosecution.
Is it illegal to eat behind the wheel?
No. However, if you get distracted while eating you could face prosecution for careless driving. Gareth once had a driver who was looking in the mirror and putting lipstick on.
“She was riding on the cat’s eyes in the centre of the road and veering. I recommended that she was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.”
If you flash your headlights to alert motorists of a speed van is it illegal?
It could be a breach of the law, under section 89 of the Police Act 1997, as it is an offence “to willfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his/her duty.”
However, Gareth said while it is an offence, it can be difficult to prove. “It doesn’t bother me that people flash to warn them of the speed van – I just want to educate people and the van to act as a speed detererrent.”
How long do speed vans tend to stay at one particular spot?
For technical reasons, a speed van usually will remain in situ for 90 minutes, Gareth said.
Who decides where the speed vans park up?
There are a number of factors including – death or serious injury has occurred at the location, or speeds have been recorded as consistently high, or concern raised by residents has been corroborated by a traffic speed survey.
What happens if I am caught speeding?
It all depends on the circumstances and how much you were in excess of the speed limit.
The minimum penalty is a £100 fine if you are caught speeding on UK roads.
But, in some circumstances, police can offer the option of attending a speed awareness course – which is an alternative to a fine or penalty points.
Gareth said an accredited course is “far more likely” to improve driver behaviour and make roads safer.
Courses are available to drivers who respond quickly to notices and who were driving at “no more than 10 per cent, plus 9 miles per hour” above the posted speed limit.