Speed cameras come into the open

Speed camera
It’s not always easy to spot a speed camera. You might perhaps fail to notice a device perched high on a gantry, or lurking behind a bush. And what about those small, grey cameras that blend in with their surroundings, making detection almost impossible? Stealth cameras have caused something of a controversy, primarily because of their record of catching out speeding motorists. For example, a grey device placed between junctions five and six on the M25 in Kent, near Clacket Lane Services, snapped more than 1,500 drivers in less than three months.

Colour blind

Campaigners claim the cameras are simply doing their job. Stick to the speed limit and it makes no difference whether a safety camera is small and grey or blue with pink spots. Others disagree. They believe stealth cameras are more about raising money than road safety. So they might be pleased to know that cameras could in future be easier to identify. The government has announced that every working speed camera on the so-called strategic road network will be yellow within a year.

Highway stars

The strategic network is managed by Highways England and made up of 4,300 miles of motorways and major A roads. The decision to phase out grey cameras follows a review of speed camera policy on motorways and Highways England has now confirmed plans to increase the visibility of all speed cameras on the network. So it’s goodbye to grey. It could also be farewell to dangerous braking. Fixed speed cameras can create braking black spots, according to a recent study by Wunelli, a driver data firm. It discovered that the number of motorists who suddenly slam on their brakes when they approach a fixed-speed camera in order to slow down and avoid a fine is about six times higher than the average.

Grand slam

Of course you are likely to slam on the brakes especially hard if you only spot the speed camera at the very last moment - if it’s grey, for example. Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary, describes the move as common sense. He says: “We are on the side of honest motorists. I’ve always been clear that cameras should be visible and get used for safety rather than revenue raising. Speed cameras should make journeys safer rather than lead to dangerous braking.” There are approximately 200 camera sites on England’s motorways, some of which contain multiple cameras, though we don’t know how many are grey.

High visibility

The existing guidelines state that signs must be put up to alert drivers to the cameras. But the change of colour should make them even more visible.


The government is keen to keep the cost of the colour change down, so most will be treated during standard renewal of speed camera units. Edmund King, AA president, is a fan of the new camera colour scheme. He says: “Cameras are most effective when drivers slow down and being visible should make them more effective. Motorways are our safest roads and having visible cameras should show that the intention is to slow traffic and safe lives rather than generate cash.” Cameras on roads that are not part of the strategic road network are managed by local authorities and the police – and should be yellow. The guidance is quite clear and states that fixed speed camera housings should be coloured yellow or treated with yellow retro-reflective sheeting. Local authorities and the police are also required to publish information on the impact of speed cameras on road safety, so they can be held accountable. They might be watching us, but we should also be watching them.

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