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What are speed cameras?

Driving faster than a speed limit is an offence under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Speed cameras were introduced to help enforce speed limits. Speed cameras measure the speed a vehicle is travelling at and take a picture if the vehicle is going above the speed limit. 

If you are caught speeding, you may be subject to fines and other penalties (eg points on your licence, mandatory speed awareness courses, or a court summons).

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 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?

This depends on the type of detector that is being used, as different types are viewed differently by law enforcement. For example:

GPS detectors

GPS detectors 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, as a result, so GPS detectors are legal.

Radar and laser detectors

Radar and laser detectors 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 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 in a lot of other countries too.

Speed camera detectors are so controversial that many European countries have made them illegal altogether. Due to this conflict, some UK stores have stopped selling them despite their still being legal in the UK. 

These bans in Europe are also significant as they mean that,  if you are planning on travelling and driving abroad in your own car, you will need to be aware of the change in laws concerning the devices.

Speed cameras are used 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 speed limits, 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 different types of driving offences, read Road traffic offences.

Leo Clarke
Leo Clarke
Content producer and researcher

Leo Clarke is a London-based digital content producer and researcher. Leo is particularly interested in sustainable transportation, micromobility, and safety. Apart from his projects, he also attends various conferences and events on business marketing and travel.

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