Are speed camera detectors legal? Everything you need to know

With school drop-offs, work commutes and day-to-day errands to run, it’s understandable that everyone has somewhere they need to be and fast. However, speed limits are in place for a reason, and they help to keep road users and pedestrians safe. As reported in this guide to speed camera detectors, people driving too fast accounted for 27% of fatal road traffic collisions in 2020, highlighting just how important it is to keep our speedometers within the limits.

In recent years, technology that allows drivers to detect speed cameras has become more common, making it easier for drivers to avoid being caught going over the limit – but is this a help or a hindrance? Read on to find out more about the contraptions and whether they are legal in the UK and across Europe.

What are speed camera detectors?

Speed camera detectors are devices that can be mounted in your car to notify you when you are nearing a speed camera. They can also be downloaded as apps on phones, and even come as standard in many navigation systems.

The purpose of these detectors is to promote safer driving by notifying you of the speed limit so that you can adjust your driving accordingly. However, it has been argued that instead, they allow drivers to speed and then slow down when they are approaching a speed camera to avoid getting a fine. As such, this argument would suggest that speed camera detectors are actually facilitating speeding and dangerous driving without consequences, which poses the obvious question – are they legal?

Are speed camera detectors legal in the UK?

This depends on the type of detector that is being used since different types are viewed differently by law enforcement:

GPS detectors

These use your GPS location in conjunction with a database to let you know when you are near potential dangers or speed cameras, or even schools. This information is generally available to anyone and so GPS detectors are legal.

Radar and laser detectors

These can detect the radar signals or lasers emitted from speed cameras so that you can be made aware of them before you are caught out. Since these can very easily be used to dodge fines despite dangerous driving, there has been some debate over their legality. However, for now, they remain legal.

Laser jammers

These devices can not only detect the laser signals from speed cameras but also block them so that they can’t register that a vehicle is speeding. For this reason, laser jammers are illegal in the UK and across a lot of other countries too.

Are they legal in Europe?

These detectors are so controversial that many European countries have made them illegal altogether. Due to this conflict, some UK stores have already stopped selling them despite them still being legal here. This is also significant as it means if you are planning on travelling and driving abroad, you will need to be aware of the change in laws concerning the devices.

Speed cameras are there for a reason

Research suggests that the installation of speed cameras is effective in forcing people to slow down. In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reported a 70% reduction in the number of people speeding at fixed camera sites. This shows that they are largely effective in helping to keep vehicles within the limit, enhancing the safety of all road users. Whether you use a detector or not, be sure to drive responsibly at all times, and you’ll be helping to keep yourself and others safe on the roads.

For more information on the types of driving offences, read Road traffic offences.

Leo Clarke