Very few things can catch you off guard like the flash of a speed camera after passing one while your speed tips just over the limit.

Speed cameras have been around in the UK for over 30 years now. While their effectiveness in reducing speeding offences is well documented, getting caught can still be a shock.

Whether you’re driving in a new area where you might not know the speed limit or didn't realise how fast you were travelling, breaking the limit can be a costly mistake.

In this guide, we’ll explain how different speed cameras work and the fines you can expect if you’re caught by them.

Types of speed cameras

There are six different types of speed cameras to watch out for on UK roads. Below, we’ll explain how each one works…

Digital Gatso speed camera

How do they work?

These are the most common and have been around since the introduction of speed cameras in the UK. Originally, older camera models used film to record speeding offences. Newer cameras have been digitalised since 2007.

A digital camera won’t run out of film as older models tended to do. So, if you see a flash, there's a good chance your picture was taken. Radar technology allows the camera to snap two images of the back of your car to determine how long it took you to travel the distance between two points.

As a secondary measure of speed, white lines can be painted along the section of the road monitored by the camera. Not only can this corroborate the camera’s findings, but it can also act as a secondary warning to the driver and allow them to slow down.

It’s worth noting that a Gatso won’t take an image of the front of your car. Therefore, it won't record a speeding infringement if you're travelling towards a camera situated on the opposite side of the road.

Typically found: High-risk hotspots across the UK

Do they flash? Yes

cars driving past camera

Truvelo Combi speed camera

How do they work?

The Truvelo camera is forward-facing and uses four sensors to measure the speed of an approaching vehicle.

In contrast with the Gatso, it takes an image of the front of a vehicle. This can help identify who was driving at the time and ensure the penalty is delivered to the right person. An infrared flash is used to avoid distracting or blinding the driver, making it difficult to know whether you were caught.

Three white lines can be painted just in front of the unit on the road. The speed at which a vehicle crosses these lines helps indicate the speed it was travelling at the time.

Typically found: Hampton and Northamptonshire counties mostly, but can be found across the UK.

Do they flash? No, they use infrared

Average speed camera

How do they work?​

Average speed cameras measure your average speed over a set distance, rather than simply measuring how fast you pass a camera. These are usually well signposted but won’t visibly flash if you’re caught speeding.

They use a powerful infrared sensor capable of monitoring up to five lanes of traffic at any time. At least two cameras will be placed on the road to capture your number plate and the date and time. The data collected is used to calculate your average speed over a set distance.

All vehicles passing through these cameras are scanned for the number plate and average speed.

Typically found: Motorways and dual carriageways

Do they flash? No, they use infrared​

mounted speed cameras

SpeedCurb speed camera

How do they work?​

SpeedCurb cameras capture speeding offences in individual locations across up to two lanes. They use a series of sensors embedded into the road that measure the time a vehicle takes to travel across them. If vehicles exceed the set speed limit, the SpeedCurb takes three images – two of the vehicle and one of the number plate.

Painted white marks on the road can also help calculate the car's speed in the event of a dispute. 

Typically found: Mounted on high, purpose-built poles on dual carriageways and in built-up areas.

Do they flash? No

REDFLEX speed camera

​How do they work?

REDFLEX cameras are the most versatile camera type. These are useful for both single-location speed checking and average speed measurement.

Some REDFLEX cameras can detect multiple traffic violations, such as speeding and running through a red light. They do this by using two radar devices to analyse data while simultaneously monitoring up to six lanes of traffic using a high-resolution camera.

Typically found: REDFLEXred cameras are usually at junctions, while REDFLEXspeed cameras are typically pointed at motorways and major roads

Do they flash? No, they use infrared

Mobile speed camera

How do they work?​

Mobile speed cameras are generally self-explanatory. A mobile speed camera's location can easily be changed depending on where they're required. 

Certain mobile cameras are modelled on fixed versions like Gatso and REDFLEX, while others have been specifically designed for use on the move.

They mostly use radar or laser beam technology to measure the speed of a vehicle. Laser guns can be aimed at a flat surface on the target vehicle and provide a readout within around 30 seconds. They’re also accurate up to one mile away.

Meanwhile, radar guns reflect radio waves to the unit from the vehicle and only provide an accurate reading up to 300 yards. It also takes longer to get a reading.

Typically found: Anywhere – usually high-risk areas or on motorways

Do they flash? Flash depends on the type of camera used​

roadworks and mounted speed camera over motorway

Do all speed cameras flash?

Not all speed cameras will flash if they catch somebody speeding. Some older designs like the Gatso and Peek camera systems still use a visible flash, but many newer camera models use infrared lights. These aren't usually visible to the naked eye.

With these cameras, the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) appearing in the post is the only tell-tale sign you were caught out.

Do speed cameras work in both directions?

Most cameras can only focus on traffic travelling in a single direction. However, some more modern camera units can monitor multiple lanes and vehicles. In some cases, two cameras can be mounted back-to-back, allowing for monitoring across both directions.

What is the fine for speeding in the UK?

Speeding fines are dictated by how far you exceeded the speed limit. A typical fine is usually three points added to your licence and a £100 penalty.

However, some people might be offered the opportunity to complete a speed awareness course instead of gaining points and paying a monetary fine. The NIP sent to you will usually outline your particular fine.

For more motoring tips and advice, head to the Brindley blog. In the market for a used car? Maybe you want to learn about our servicing options? Follow the links or contact your local Brindley Group dealership.