If you drive carefully past a speed camera, adhering to the speed limit and think you are safe, then you might be wrong. Most of us don’t realise that those big yellow boxes can do a lot more than just register our speed and send information that gets us a speeding ticket.  But just what are their full abilities?

The offence camera

The speed camera should rightly be called the offence camera because it can record many offences other than just speeding.  They include not wearing your seatbelt, using a mobile phone while driving and even having illegal number plates.

According to statistics for the north east of England, between August 2015 and November 2015 there were a total of nearly 700 drivers who were caught for not wearing a seatbelt through a speed camera.  This is an offence that does seem bizarre – not only is it the law to wear one but they can also save your life if you are involved in an accident.

Speed Cameras sign

(Credit – Elliott Brown)

Speed camera spotting

Another big problem is the use of mobile phones while driving.  To highlight how serious it can be, the fine was increased to £200 in March this year and now comes with six points on the license if you are caught.

Now you can be caught by speed cameras when on your mobile phone and receive a fine just the same as you would if you were spotted by a police officer.  This also includes mobile speed cameras which are now recording a range of other offences in the same way as the stationary version.

The most common device used for mobile speed cameras, that can record various information, is the LTI 20.20 UltraLyte 1000.  This device uses a laser linked directly to a DVD system that is running the whole time that the enforcement is in operation.  It can collect an image from cars up to 1000 metres away and includes information such as the time, date, speed, distance, site coding and whether the vehicle was travelling towards or away from the camera.  This is all detailed on the image of the driver.

The mobile phone problem

The reason for the higher penalties and the use of speed cameras to catch drivers using a phone behind the wheel is because it remains a huge problem.  In one crackdown last November, police caught around 40 drivers per hour on their mobile phones, handing out 7966 fixed penalty notices during a one-week long campaign.

This was an increase on previous periods of enforcement on ‘distraction driving’ where a crackdown had been in place.  In May 2016, they had caught 2323 drivers, in September 2015 the figure was 2276 and in May 2015, the number of drivers caught was 2690.

During the same period, where 36 forces around the county participated, there were also hundreds of verbal warnings issued along with 68 court summonses and 117 other ‘distraction’ offences noted.  The figures were part of the reason why the new fines and points system was brought in the following March.

Mobile phone law

The current law on mobile phone states that it is illegal to drive a vehicle and use a hand held mobile phone or a similar device.  It is also illegal to supervise a learner driver while using a mobile.  The definition of ‘driving’ is also one to watch – you are driving if you have the engine running so merely pulling into a layby without turning the engine off won’t save you from a fine.  Stopping at traffic lights also still counts as driving.  You can use a hands-free kit but if you are shown to be not in ‘proper control’ of the vehicle while using it, you can be prosecuted.

With speed cameras now doubling as mobile phone use detectors, it is worth really thinking hard about how urgent that call is. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below