Speed limit enforcement

Speed limit enforcement is the effort made by appropriately empowered authorities to improve driver compliance with speed limits. Methods used include roadside speed traps set up and operated by the police and automated roadside 'speed camera' systems, which may incorporate the use of an automatic number plate recognition system. Traditionally, police officers used stopwatches to measure the time taken for a vehicle to cover a known distance. More recently, radar guns and automated in-vehicle systems have come into use.

A worldwide review of studies found that speed cameras led to a reduction of "11% to 44% for fatal and serious injury crashes".[1] The UK Department for Transport estimated that cameras had led to a 22% reduction in personal injury collisions and 42% fewer people being killed or seriously injured at camera sites. The British Medical Journal recently reported that speed cameras were effective at reducing accidents and injuries in their vicinity and recommended wider deployment. An LSE study in 2017 found that "adding another 1,000 cameras to British roads could save up to 190 lives annually, reduce up to 1,130 collisions and mitigate 330 serious injuries."[2]

The perception that speed limits in a given location are being set and enforced primarily to collect revenue rather than improve traffic safety has led to controversy.

Gatso Meter speed camera in Canberra
Gatso speed camera


Traffic calming was built into the 1865 Locomotive Act in the UK, which set a speed limit of 2 miles per hour (3.2 km/h) in towns and 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h) out of town, by requiring a man with a red flag to walk 60 yards (55 m) ahead of qualifying powered vehicles. The distance ahead of the pedestrian crew member was reduced to 20 yards (18 m) in 1878 and the vehicles were required to stop on the sight of a horse.[3] The speed limit was effectively redundant as vehicle speeds could not exceed the speed at which a person could walk.

By 1895 some drivers of early lightweight steam-powered autocars assumed that these would be legally classed as a horseless carriage and would therefore be exempt from the need for a preceding pedestrian. A test case was brought by motoring pioneer John Henry Knight, who was subsequently convicted with using a locomotive without a licence.[4] The Locomotives on Highways Act 1896 lifted some of the restrictions introduced by the 1865 Act, notably raising the speed limit for "light locomotives" under 3 tonnes to 14 miles per hour (23 km/h). The speed limit was lifted again by the Motor Car Act 1903 to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).

A Royal Commission on motorcars in the UK reported in 1907 and raised concerns about the manner in which speed traps were being used to raise revenue in rural areas rather than being used to protect lives in towns. In parliamentary debates at the time it was observed that "Policemen are not stationed in the villages where there are people about who might be in danger, but are hidden in hedges or ditches by the side of the most open roads in the country" and were "manifestly absurd as a protection to the public, and they are used in many counties merely as a means of extracting money from the passing traveller in a way which reminds one of the highwaymen of the Middle Ages".[5][6]

In 1905 The Automobile Association was formed to help motorists avoid police speed traps.[7] Chief Justice, Lord Alverston brought a test court case in 1910 ('Betts -v- Stevens') against an Automobile Association patrolman and a potentially speeding motorist—the judge ruled that where a patrolman signals to a speeding driver to slow down and thereby avoid a speed trap, that person would have committed the offence of "obstructing an officer in the course of his duty" under the Prevention of Crimes Amendment Act 1885.[8][9] Subsequently, the organisation developed a coded warning system which was used until the 1960s whereby a patrolman would always salute the driver of a passing car that displayed a visible AA badge unless there was a speed trap nearby, on the understanding that their officers could not be prosecuted for failing to salute.[10]

Gatsometer BV, founded in 1958 by rally driver Maurice Gatsonides, produced the 'Gatsometer' which was described as "a revolutionary speed-measuring device".[11] Developed initially for improving his race times, it was later marketed as police speed enforcement tool.[11] Gatsometer claim to have developed the first radar for use with road traffic in 1971, but this claim is undermined by evidence that radar detectors were already for sale in 1967.[11] Gatsometer BV produced the world's first mobile speed traffic camera in 1982.[11][12]

VASCAR was in use in North Carolina, New York and Indiana by February 1968.[13]


Polizei laser messung
Police officers in Bavaria checking speed with a tripod-mounted LIDAR speed gun.

Speed limits were originally enforced by manually timing or "clocking" vehicles travelling through "speed traps" defined between two fixed landmarks along a roadway that were a known distance apart; the vehicle's average speed was then determined by dividing the distance travelled by the time taken to travel it. Setting up a speed trap that could provide legally satisfactory evidence was usually time consuming and error prone, as it relied on its human operators.

Average speed measurement

VASCAR is a device that semi-automates the timing and average speed calculation of the original manually operated "speed trap". An observer on the ground, in a vehicle or in the air simply presses a button as a vehicle passes two landmarks that are a known distance apart, typically several hundred metres.

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems that use a form of optical character recognition read the vehicle's licence or registration plate. A computer system reads vehicle registration plates at two or more fixed points along a road, usually hundreds of meters or even kilometers apart, then uses the known distance between them to calculate a vehicle's average speed. From the mean value theorem, we know that the vehicle's speed must equal its average speed at some time between the measurements. If the average speed exceeds the speed limit, then a penalty is automatically issued.[14]

Police in some countries like France have been known to prosecute drivers for speeding, using an average speed calculated from timestamps on toll road tickets.[15]

Speed enforcement using average speed measurement is expressly prohibited in California.[16]

Instantaneous speed measurement

Din Fart (2012, ubt)
Automatic traffic speed measurement in Denmark
Traffic Speed Interceptor - Vehicles with speed camera used by Bangalore Police, India
Traffic Speed Interceptor - Vehicles with speed camera used by Bangalore Police, India

Instantaneous speed cameras measure the speed at a single point. These may either be a semi-permanent fixture or be established on a temporary basis. A variety of technologies can be used:


Officers in some jurisdictions may also use pacing, particularly where a more convenient radar speed measuring device is not available—a police vehicle's speed is matched to that of a target vehicle, and the calibrated speedometer of the patrol car used to infer the other vehicle's speed.[19]


In recent years many jurisdictions began using cameras to record violators. These devices detect vehicles that are exceeding the speed limit and take photos of these vehicles' license plates. A ticket is then mailed out to the registered owner.


Some jurisdictions such as Australia and Ohio, allow prosecutions based on a subjective speed assessment by a police officer.[20][21] In the future there is the potential to track speed limit compliance via GPS black boxes for recidivist speeders identified in the Australian National Road Safety Strategy 2011 - 2020 section on Intelligent speed adaptation.


Speed cameras

  • Aside from the issues of legality in some countries and states and of sometime opposition the effectiveness of speed cameras is very well documented. The introduction to The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras A review of evidence by Richard Allsop includes the following in the foreword by Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC (Royal Automobile Club). "While this report fully lays out the background to the introduction of speed cameras and the need for speed limits, its job is not to justify why the national limits are what they are; a review of speed limits to see whether they are soundly based is for another day. What it has done is to show that at camera sites, speeds have been reduced, and that as a result, collisions resulting in injuries have fallen. The government has said that a decision on whether speed cameras should be funded must be taken at a local level. With the current pressure on public funds, there will be – indeed there already are – those who say that what little money there is can be better spent. This report begs to differ. The devices are already there; they demonstrate value for money, yet are not significant revenue raisers for the Treasury; they are shown to save lives; and despite the headlines, most people accept the need for them. Speed cameras should never be the only weapon in the road safety armoury, but neither should they be absent from the battle."
  • The 2010 Cochrane Review of speed cameras for the prevention of road traffic injuries and deaths[1] reported that all 28 studies accepted by the authors found the effect of speed cameras to be a reduction in all crashes, injury crashes, and death or severe injury crashes. "Twenty eight studies measured the effect on crashes. All 28 studies found a lower number of crashes in the speed camera areas after implementation of the program. In the vicinity of camera sites, the reductions ranged from 8% to 49% for all crashes, with reductions for most studies in the 14% to 25% range. For injury crashes the decrease ranged between 8% to 50% and for crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries the reductions were in the range of 11% to 44%. Effects over wider areas showed reductions for all crashes ranging from 9% to 35%, with most studies reporting reductions in the 11% to 27% range. For crashes resulting in death or serious injury reductions ranged from 17% to 58%, with most studies reporting this result in the 30% to 40% reduction range. The studies of longer duration showed that these positive trends were either maintained or improved with time. Nevertheless, the authors conceded that the magnitude of the benefit from speed cameras "is currently not deducible" due to limitations in the methodological rigor of many of the 28 studies cited, and recommended that "more studies of a scientifically rigorous and homogenous nature are necessary, to provide the answer to the magnitude of effect."
  • According to the 2003 NCHRP study on Red Light Running (RLR), "RLR automated enforcement can be an effective safety countermeasure....[I]t appears from the findings of several studies that, in general, RLR cameras can bring about a reduction in the more severe angle crashes with, at worst, a slight increase in less severe rear-end crashes.[22] However it noted that "there is not enough empirical evidence based on proper experimental design procedures to state this conclusively."
  • The 2010 report, "The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras A review of evidence",[23] by Richard Allsop concludes "The findings of this review for the RAC Foundation, though reached independently, are essentially consistent with the Cochrane Review conclusions. They are also broadly consistent with the findings of a meta-analysis reported in the respected Handbook of Road Safety Measures, of 16 studies, not including the four-year evaluation report, of the effects of fixed cameras on numbers of collisions and casualties."
  • A recent study conducted in Alabama reveals that Red Light Cameras (RLCs) seem to have a slight impact on the clearance lost time; the intersections equipped with RLCs are half a second less in use compared with those without cameras; and highway capacity manual estimates a shorter lost time and thus may overestimate the intersection's capacity.[24]
  • In 2001 the Nottingham Safety Camera Pilot achieved "virtually complete compliance" on the major ring road into the city using average speed cameras,[25] across all Nottinghamshire SPECS installations, KSI (Killed / Seriously Injured) figures have fallen by an average of 65%.[26]
  • In 2003 Injury Prevention reported that speed cameras were effective at reducing accidents and injuries and recommended wider deployment.[27] In February 2005 the British Medical Journal reported that speed cameras were an effective intervention in reducing road traffic collisions and related casualties, noting however that most studies to date did not have satisfactory control groups.[28] In 2003 Northumbria Police's Acting Chief Inspector of motor patrols suggested that cameras didn't reduce casualties but did raise revenue – an official statement from the police force later re-iterated that speed cameras do reduce casualties.[29]
  • In December 2005 the Department for Transport published a four-year report into Safety Camera Partnerships which concluded that there was a 22% reduction in personal injury collisions and 42% fewer people being killed or seriously injured following the installation of cameras.[30] The Times reported that this research showed that the department had been previous exaggerating the safety benefits of speed cameras but that the results were still 'impressive'.[31]
  • A report published by the RAC Foundation in 2010 estimated that an additional 800 more people a year could be killed or seriously injured on the UK's roads if all speed cameras were scrapped.[32] A survey conducted by The Automobile Association in May 2010 indicated that speed cameras were supported by 75% of their members.[33]
  • *The town of Swindon abandoned the use of fixed cameras in 2009, questioning their cost effectiveness with the cameras being replaced by vehicle activated warning signs and enforcement by police using mobile speed cameras:[34] in the nine months following the switch-off there was a small reduction in accident rates which had changed slightly in similar periods before and after the switch off (Before: 1 fatal, 1 serious and 13 slight accidents. Afterwards: no fatalities, 2 serious and 12 slight accidents).[35] The journalist George Monbiot claimed that the results were not statistically significant highlighting earlier findings across the whole of Wiltshire that there had been a 33% reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured generally and a 68% reduction at camera sites during the previous 3 years.[36] In 2012, the town had the fewest accident rates per 1,000 registered vehicles: a result linked by the Local Authority Member for Council Transformation, Transport and Strategic Planning to the removal of speed cameras and resultant additional funding for road safety, alongside close working with the police.[37]

Evidence gathering

UK fixed speed camera with road calibration markings

While digital cameras can be used as the primary means of speed detection when combined with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) average-speed camera systems, their use is more commonly restricted to evidence gathering where speeding offences are detected by various other types of sensors such as Doppler radar, piezo strips, infrared or laser devices.

Photographs are typically time-stamped by a high resolution timing device so that a vehicle's speed can be checked manually after the fact if necessary using the secondary method of calculating its speed between a series of calibrated lines (known as "Dragon's Teeth") painted on the road surface.[38]

The change from analogue "wet film" to digital technology has revolutionised speed cameras, particularly their maintenance and the back-office processing required to issue penalty notices. Images from digital cameras can be uploaded in seconds to a remote office over a network link, while optical character recognition software can automate the "reading" of vehicle registration numbers.[39]

Types of camera include Gatso, Truvelo Combi and D-cam.

Avoidance and evasion

Radar Detector. canada. Escort Passport 8500 x50 blue 3635
Passive RADAR and LIDAR detector

Some drivers use passive radar detectors or LIDAR detectors to detect police radar or LIDAR signals, with the intention of avoiding or evading prosecution by slowing down before entering an enforcement zone. The legal standing of these type of devices varies by jurisdiction. For example, they are legal in most of the United States, but not in most of Canada.[40] Active devices might also be used—in this instance, radar or LIDAR signals are typically jammed with counter emissions. These devices are more frequently illegal than passive devices.

Drivers may flash their lights to approaching drivers to warn them of a speed trap. The legal standing of this action also varies by jurisdiction. In the United States, it is common for motorists with Citizen's Band (CB) radios to report the location of speed traps over the CB radio to other motorists.[41]

In 2006, the UK Automobile Association controversially published a road map that included the location for thousands of speed cameras—the first time such information was available in printed form,[42] although more accurate and frequently updated GPS-based information was freely available for some time before that.

Mobile applications such as Njection, Trapster, and Waze provide mobile information to drivers on speed traps and traffic conditions. These applications rely on users to keep the databases current.[43] In addition to mobile applications that might be considered evasion-centric, there are other similar mobile applications that are classified as Intelligent speed adaptation technologies that are considered too compliance centric and in Australia both National and State Road Safety Strategies encourage the adoption of such technologies.

In Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, the location of speed traps are announced using the Highway location marker at regular intervals on major radio stations. Conversely, announcing the exact location of a speed trap is illegal in France; some mobile applications circumvent this restriction by displaying a more general "hazard zone" around where the speed trap is located."Flitsmeister". Flitsmeister.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 19 January 2019.


Groups such as the National Motorists Association define speed trap more narrowly as a place where "traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety".[44] When highway speed limits drop suddenly just as they enter a municipality which collects large amounts of revenue from traffic tickets, a safety hazard can be introduced, and efforts have been made in the U.S. to ban this practice.[45] Some police forces have even been forced to disband as a result of overzealous enforcement.[46] However, a meta-analysis of studies finds automated ticketing machines that enforce speed limits may have reduced the number of traffic injuries and deaths.[47]


Kevin Richardson proposed the idea of rewarding drivers travelling at or below the posted limit with a cash lottery, funded by the fines on speeding drivers. This was demonstrated in Stockholm, Sweden, in November 2010.[48]


Speed limits may not be enforced for speeds close to the legal limit. In the United States, speeding enforcement tolerance is usually up to the discretion of the arresting officer. Some states (such as Pennsylvania and Florida) have official tolerances.[49]

A study of over 1000 drivers caught speeding in the U.S. and in Canada examined factors that predicted fines issued by police officers. In both countries, drivers were stopped for speeding on average 26 km/h (16 mph) over the speed limit and received fines of approximately US$144. As expected, drivers traveling at higher speeds over the limit received higher fines. What drivers said to the police also affected the amount of the fine. 46% percent of drivers in the study reported offering an excuse (e.g. "I didn't realize the speed I was driving"), which was the most common type of verbal response. Excuses, justifications, and denials did not reduce the amount of the fine. Almost 30% of drivers expressed remorse (e.g., "I'm sorry") and received a considerable reduction in fines. Offers of remorse were most effective at higher speeds over the limit. For example, American speeders who offered remorse for traveling at higher speeds over the limit (21 mph) received fines that were US$49 lower than drivers who were speeding the same amount, but did not offer an apology. Although this research indicated that apologies can be related to lower fines for speeding, most drivers who offered remorse were still punished to some degree. To maintain a relatively normal sample of speeders, a small percentage of drivers who reported extreme speeds (80 km/h (50 mph) or more over the limit) or very severe fines (US$500 or more) were excluded.[50]

As older vehicle construction regulations allowed a speedometer accuracy of +/- 10%, in the United Kingdom ACPO guidelines recommend a tolerance level of the speed limit "×10% +2 mph" (e.g., a maximum tolerance in a 30 mph (50 km/h) zone of 30 + (30 × 10% = 3) + 2 = 35 mph).[51]

In Germany, at least a 3 km/h tolerance (3% of measured speed when speeding over 100 km/h) in favor of the offender is always deducted. This tolerance can increase up to 20% depending on the method of measurement.[52] Fines for speeding depend on how high above the speed limit the measured speed is and where the offense occurred. Speeding in built-up areas invariably carries higher fines than outside city limits. While fines for minor offenses tend to be moderate, speeds in excess of 20 km/h (12 mph) above the limit in built-up areas result in distinctly higher fines and points on the driver's license, and, depending on the speed at which the offender was clocked, may lead to a driving ban of at least one month.[53]

The state of Victoria in Australia allows for only a 3 km/h (1.9 mph) tolerance for mobile speed cameras and 2 km/h (1.2 mph) for fixed cameras on the basis that, although the increased risk is lower, there are very many more drivers involved, which creates a substantial risk across the road network.[54][55] An alternative view is that police devices are accurate to 1 km/h, and that a 2-3 km/h tolerance is the minimum margin that police require to defeat any challenge in court regarding the accuracy of their speed measurement equipment.[56] Speed tolerance in New South Wales was an election issue in 2011, following a move by the budget committee of the previous Labor state government to abolish the 3 km/h margin in order to increase revenue.[54]

Speed limit policy can affect enforcement. According to a 1994 report by the AASHTO, "experience has shown that speed limits set arbitrarily below the reasonable and prudent speed perceived by the public are difficult to enforce, produce noncompliance, encourage disrespect for the law, create unnecessary antagonism toward law enforcement officers, and divert traffic to lesser routes".[57]

In Mexico, the maximum speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) on urban freeways on other urban roads. However, fines are only given when speeding above 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph), thus giving a 10 kilometres per hour (6.2 mph) tolerance. The Mexican highway patrol (Mexico City) and traffic law enforcement officers (Guadalajara) may enforce speed laws only when a car is speeding above reasonable speeds in regard of the amount of traffic. Maximum speed for all Mexican highways is 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph). Speeding fines are given to those going 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) and up to 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph). Police may however place a squad car as a pace car so drivers behind cannot exceed 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph); this is common during Summer and Winter holiday season.

Law enforcement approaches

Local conditions, law and police practices mean that the tactics adopted to catch speeding motorists vary considerably. In some regions, police may adopt a more subtle approach, concealing themselves and their equipment as much as possible; other jurisdictions require highly visible policing, with cameras painted yellow, and camera operators not permitted to use approaches such as attaching the camera to what may appear to be a broken-down vehicle when enforcing speed limits.

Authorities are not able to monitor every vehicle on every road—limited resources generally mean that enforcement needs to be targeted. A New Zealand study concluded that actual enforcement as well as the perceived chance of being caught both contributed to changes in drivers' behaviour.[58]

Jurisdictional reciprocity

Many jurisdictions operate traffic violations reciprocity where non-resident drivers are treated like residents when they are stopped for a traffic offense that occurs in another jurisdiction. They also ensure that penalties such as demerit points and the ensuing increase in insurance premiums follow the driver home. The general principle of such interstate, inter-provincial, and/or international compacts is to guarantee the rule 'one license, one record.'

Extrajudicial enforcement

In 2001, Acme-Rent-a-Car in Connecticut controversially tried to use a contractual clause in the rental agreement to issue speeding fines to any of its customers that exceeded speed limits as detected by GPS tracking units its cars. The company actions were challenged and defeated in court.[59][60]

Photo-enforcement employee deaths

Doug Georgianni, 51, was shot as he operated a photo radar van on a Phoenix freeway and later died at a hospital.[61]

Reprisal attacks on equipment

Retribution attacks on photo enforcement equipment have become commonplace throughout the world.[62][63][64]

Regional issues


New South Wales

In August 2005, in Sydney, Australia a speed camera photograph was challenged on the basis that an MD5 cryptographic hash function used to protect the digital photograph from tampering was not robust enough to guarantee that it had not been altered. Magistrate Lawrence Lawson demanded that the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) produce an expert witness who could prove the photographs were tamper-proof, but the RTA was unable to provide such evidence. The defendant was acquitted and awarded court costs.[65]

In June 2011, the New South Wales (NSW) government was reported to have raised A$350 million over the previous five years from speed cameras.[66] The Roads Minister accused the previous Labor government of using speed cameras to raise revenue;[66] the Auditor-General was therefore tasked with investigating all 141 fixed speed cameras in use throughout the state.[66] Following the release of the report, 38 speed cameras, located primarily on highways, were switched off after the Auditor-General determined that they had no significant road safety benefit. The report found the majority of fixed speed cameras had a proven road safety benefit. The report also concluded that it was "too early" to conclude if mobile speed cameras affected road safety, although early results indicated drivers might be speeding less. To address public concerns, the RTA would now monitor the effectiveness of individual fixed speed cameras annually.[67][68]

South Australia

It is predicted that the South Australia (SA) government will raise A$138 million in the 2011–12 year from speed limit enforcement activities. They raised A$114 million in 2010–11.[69] The SA government are resisting moves by their opposition to commission an inquiry into whether speed cameras are being used effectively and efficiently: to improve road safety, to raise revenue, or both.[69]


Mobile speed camera
Gatso Mobile Speed Camera, used in Victoria, Australia. The camera is mounted on the passenger side dash, whilst the black box on the front is the radar unit.

In 2004, in a Poltech fixed speed camera on Melbourne's Western Ring Road recorded a four-cylinder Datsun 120Y sedan travelling at 158 km/h, but testing found this vehicle only capable of 117 km/h.[70] A Victorian state government inquiry found that maintenance and accuracy checks had not been done regularly.[71]

Victoria achieved record low road tolls in both 2008 and 2009.[72][73] Newspaper reports credited a co-ordinated and well-funded campaign that focused on higher risk young drivers, more aggressive policing, increased police activity, drink driving, and in 2009, a 50% increase in the use of mobile speed cameras.[72][73]

After a growing number of complaints about incorrect and inappropriate fines, Victoria's Auditor-General plans to investigate whether speed cameras are being used primarily to raise revenue for the state government rather than to improve road safety.[74]

In June 2011, in Victoria, the road toll for the year so far was reported to be "significantly higher"" than it was for the same period of the previous year.[75]

The Victoria government forecasts that a revenue of A$245 million will be raised from fines levied on drivers breaking Victorian road rules, a large proportion being from speed limit enforcement, in 2011.[76]


Speed limit enforcement cameras were a substantial election issue in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, and were abolished by Premiers Mike Harris in 1995 and Gordon Campbell in 2001.

In February 2006, Edmonton, Alberta, erupted in scandal when it was alleged that two police officers accepted bribes from private contractors who received lucrative contracts to provide speed limit enforcement cameras. The officers and contractor involved now face criminal charges that remain before the courts.[77]

In September 2012, Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht proposed that "excessive speeders" should have their vehicles seized and impounded, after a rash of high speeding drivers were charged, many driving 50 - 100km/hr over the speed limit.[78]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom uses a variety of methods to enforce its road speed limits including average and instantaneous speed cameras, however eight counties are to switch off or remove cameras and a further two counties are considering such action.[79][80][81][82]

There has also been debate as to whether the use of such cameras in order to force a driver to confess to the crime of speeding is in violation of European basic human rights; however, in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights, in O’Halloran and Francis v United Kingdom, found there was no breach of article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in requiring the keepers of cars caught speeding on camera to provide the name of the driver, or to be subject to criminal penalty of an equivalent degree of severity if they failed to do so.[83]

The number of designated traffic officers fell from 15–20% of Police force strength in 1966 to seven per cent of force strength in 1998, and between 1999 and 2004 by 21%.[84] It is an item of debate whether the reduction in traffic accidents per 100 million miles driven over this time[85] has been due to robotic enforcement. In the seven-month period following speed cameras in Oxfordshire being switched off in August 2010, fatalities increased from 12 to 18, a figure not out of line with the variation in fatalities over a ten-year period.[86] Plans had been made to switch the cameras back on by November 2010, on the basis of increased speeds at camera sites,[87] which occurred in April 2011.[88] Oxfordshire had followed the lead of Swindon, which encountered a decline in casualties, serious injuries, and fatalities.[82]

United States

In the U.S. state of Ohio, the issue of whether a city has jurisdiction under the Ohio Constitution to issue citations based on speed cameras was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court on 18 September 2007, in the case of Kelly Mendenhall et al. v. The City of Akron et al.[89][90] The court ruled in favor of Kelly Mendenhall.

Patagonia, Arizona, has been cited on the National Motorists Association's speedtrap.org website [91] as having one of the nation's most active speed traps. City police regularly conceal their patrol cars behind trees along Arizona Highway 82 where motorists enter the city's outskirts. The legal speed limit drops in a short space from 55 mph to 30 mph, leading to some drivers who are not alert to be caught. The minimum fine for exceeding the posted speed limit even by 1 mph is $146.

Initially, Illinois used photo enforcement for construction zones only. There was legislation on the books to expand that throughout the state. However, Chicago has expanded its red light camera program and is planning to put speed cameras in school zones. Some suburbs (e.g. Alsip) already have cameras at various intersections.

Two images from a speed enforcement camera in Mount Rainier, Maryland, documenting a vehicle alleged to be traveling 50 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Speed camera in Mount Rainier, Maryland demonstrating speed violation, photo 1
Speed camera in Mount Rainier, Maryland demonstrating speed violation, photo 2

Some U.S. states that formerly allowed red-light enforcement cameras but not speed limit enforcement cameras ('photo radar'), have now approved, or are considering, the implementation of speed limit enforcement cameras. The Maryland legislature approved such a program in January 2006. In 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 the California legislature considered, but did not pass, bills to implement speed limit enforcement cameras.[92] Tennessee legislators are also considering expanding their speed limit enforcement cameras after successes in Chattanooga such as generating $158,811 in revenue in the first three months.[93][94]

A 2007 study of speed cameras on the Arizona State Route 101 in Scottsdale found a 50% reduction in the total crash frequency, with injuries falling by 40% however rear-end collisions increased by 55%.[95]

As of late 2008, cameras were placed along all Phoenix area freeways capturing drivers doing speeds greater than 11 mph over the posted speed limit. Over 100 new cameras were expected to be up and running by 2009.[96][97]

As of 2009, speed cameras existed in 48 communities in the United States, including in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Washington, D.C.[98]

In 2017, the National Safety Council graded states on road safety measures such as automated enforcement of speeding or red light cameras, interstate speed limits, and lower speed limits in school zones.[99]

In the United States, it is common for all installation, operation, and verification procedures to be carried out by private companies that in some States receive payment based on the number of infringements they issue, and often under no testing regime whatsoever,[100] however these units are required by law to take at least two pictures of each vehicle.[101]

Opposition groups have formed in some locations where automated traffic enforcement has been used. In the US city of Scottsdale Arizona, an activist group CameraFraud was formed and staged sign-wave protests and petition drives to oppose the use of speed limit enforcement cameras ('photo radar').[102][103][104] In the 2008 elections in nearby Pinal County, Paul Babeau won an election for sheriff after making a campaign promise to eliminate speed cameras.[105]

It has been announced that Arizona will not renew its contract with Redflex, the company that operates the cameras.[106] However, many towns in Arizona (e.g. Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Superior) still have red light and/or speed cameras. Photo enforcement is illegal in the town of Gilbert, Arizona. Tempe, Arizona has removed all of their red light cameras. Baker, Louisiana still contracts with Redflex.[107] This association is the subject of legislative action.[108]


In France, the fixed speed cameras on motorways are announced with a sign about half to 2 km before: Pour votre sécurité, contrôles automatiques (For your safety, automatic controls) and marked in French motorway maps.[109] On non-motorway roads, sometimes there is a sign however in other locations an electronic sign showing your speed may indicate a fixed speed camera further along the road. Average speed cameras now operate in some areas.


In Switzerland, it is strictly forbidden to announce speed controls.[110] If the software of navigation equipment includes the locations of fixed speed cameras, the devices can be seized and destroyed. This also applies to mobile phones or handheld devices with the appropriate function.


In Germany, radar detectors are prohibited, however, current mobile controls are mentioned by some radio stations, which is not illegal.


In Italy, the fixed speed cameras on motorways and highways are announced with a sign no less than 250 meters before (no less than 150 meters on urban roads and no less than 80 meters on the other roads): Controllo elettronico della velocità, and marked in Italian road maps.[111][112]


In the Netherlands, red light cameras are often combined with speed cameras in the same unit.

Spain and Portugal

In Spain and Portugal some device detect drivers who run too fast, and consequently close a traffic lights to stop them.[113]

See also


  1. ^ a b Wilson, C; Willis, Hendrikz; Le Brocque, Bellamy (2010). "Speed cameras for the prevention of road traffic injuries and deaths" (PDF). The Cochrane Library (10): CD004607. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004607.pub3. PMID 20927736.
  2. ^ "Speed cameras reduce road accidents and traffic deaths, according to new study".
  3. ^ "MVRUS – Legislation: A summary of important legislation". UK Department of the Environment. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ Wey River "History of Farnham" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Debate on the Royal Commission on Motor Cars". Hansard. 24 May 1906. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  6. ^ "MOTOR CAR LEGISLATION". Hansard. 16 July 1907. Retrieved 17 April 2010. I regard the abolition of the speed limit as the most important recommendation of the Royal Commission... Policemen are not stationed in the villages where there are people about who might be in danger, but are hidden in hedges or ditches by the side of the most open roads in the country... I am entirely in sympathy with what the noble Earl said with regard to police traps. In my opinion they are manifestly absurd as a protection to the public, and they are used in many counties merely as a means of extracting money from the passing traveller in a way which reminds one of the highwaymen of the Middle Ages.
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Captain Gatso

Captain Gatso is a pseudonymous England-based political activist involved in motorists' rights, specifically relating to speed limit enforcement. The name derives from speed cameras, some of which are manufactured by Gatsometer BV and referred to by the abbreviation Gatso.Gatso styles himself as the Campaign Director or Operations Director of Motorists Against Detection (MAD), a group which reportedly claims responsibility for speed camera destruction and damage.

Chevy Chase Village, Maryland

Chevy Chase Village, Maryland is an incorporated municipality in Montgomery County, Maryland, bordering Washington, D.C. It is made up of sections 1, 1a, and 2 of Chevy Chase, Maryland, as originally designated by The Chevy Chase Land Company. The United States Census Bureau estimates its population to be 2,062 as of July 1, 2016. The town is the richest in Maryland, with a median income of "over $250,000", the highest income bracket listed by the census bureau, and a median home value of $1,823,800.Chevy Chase Village includes 721 homes. It is known for its speed limit enforcement actions, which produce 24% of its annual revenue. The population has historically been over 95% white, while the non-white residents are mostly transient. Chevy Chase Village also includes Chevy Chase Club, a private country club with an initiation fee of over $50,000.

Gooseneck, Isle of Man

Gooseneck, Isle of Man (in Manx: Roan – the reddish land), is an acute uphill right-bend on the Snaefell Mountain Course used for the TT motorcycle races between the 25th and 26th Milestone racing road-side markers, on the 37+ mile circuitous-course, measured from the startline at the TT Grandstand.

It is situated on the Snaefell Mountain Road, designated A18, a main two-way thoughfare from Ramsey to Douglas with an adjacent side-road junction for the minor D28 Hibernia Road, in the parish of Maughold in the Isle of Man.

An historic location on the TT race course after the climb up from Ramsey demarking the end of the tree-line and start of the Mountain section with a height of 550 feet (168 metres) above sea level, the Gooseneck is a popular vantage point for the spectators and a traditional signalling point for TT riders' intermediate race timings from their own back-up crews, one of a number of points around the course where the race machines slow enough to get a good look at the signal boards on the exit. For the same reason, the location has always been popular with professional photographers and film-crews.

The Gooseneck is surrounded by open moorland and uncultivated grazing land of Park Mooar, the Rhowin and North Barrule in the Northern Uplands in the Isle of Man.

LIDAR traffic enforcement

Lidar has a wide range of applications; one use is in traffic enforcement and in particular speed limit enforcement, gradually replacing radar after 2000. Current devices are designed to automate the entire process of speed detection, vehicle identification, driver identification and evidentiary documentation.

Mobile speed camera

A mobile speed camera is speed limit enforcement device used in the United Kingdom, Australia and India to refer to a road vehicle fitted with speed camera equipment which can park at the side of the road, or on overbridges to monitor the speed of passing traffic.

Mobile speed cameras come in many shapes, sizes, and colour schemes. Generally there are two types, a white van with the camera equipment poking out of the rear (for layby based vans) or out of the sliding side panel (for overbridge based vans) They are not required by law to carry a 'speed camera warning' logo, (although government guidelines state they should) although by the time motorist has seen it, their speed has been recorded anyway.Introduced over the last year or so are mobile speed traps based on motorbikes to allow speed monitoring in areas where it is impossible to park a van.

National Maximum Speed Law

The National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL) was a provision of the federal government of the United States 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act that prohibited speed limits higher than 55 miles per hour (89 km/h). It was drafted in response to oil price spikes and supply disruptions during the 1973 oil crisis and remained the law until 1995.

While federal officials hoped gasoline consumption would fall by 2.2%, the actual savings were estimated at between 0.5% and 1%.

The law was widely disregarded by motorists nationwide, and some states opposed the law, but many jurisdictions discovered it to be a major source of revenue. Actions ranged from proposing deals for an exemption to de-emphasizing speed limit enforcement. The NMSL was modified in 1987 and 1988 to allow up to 65 mph (105 km/h) limits on certain limited-access rural roads. Congress repealed the NMSL in 1995, fully returning speed limit-setting authority to the individual states.

The law's safety benefit is disputed as research found conflicting results.

The power to set speed limits historically belonged to the states. Prior to the NMSL, the sole exception to this occurred during World War II, when the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation established a national maximum "Victory Speed Limit" of 35 mph to conserve gasoline and rubber for the American war effort. The Victory Speed Limit lasted from May 1942 to August 14, 1945, when the war ended. Immediately before the National Maximum Speed Law became effective, speed limits were as high as 75 mph (121 km/h). (Kansas had lowered its turnpike speed limit from 80 mph (130 km/h) before 1974.) Montana and Nevada generally posted no speed limits on highways, limiting drivers to only whatever was safe for conditions.


ProVida is a series of mobile surveillance and speed limit enforcement systems produced by UK-based Petards Group. It was originally developed in 1986 by Danish company JaiVISION. Its first user was Rigspolitiet Denmark, the Danish national police force. Today ProVida recordings are accepted as proof in various jurisdictions including the United Kingdom.

The latest iteration of the system, ProVida 4000, is available in more than ten languages. It consists of four components:

ProVida Surveillance

ProVida Speed Measurement

ProVida Mobile ANPR

Specialist Cameras

Radar gun

A radar speed gun (also radar gun and speed gun) is a device used to measure the speed of moving objects. It is used in law-enforcement to measure the speed of moving vehicles and is often used in professional spectator sport, for things such as the measurement of bowling speeds in cricket, speed of pitched baseballs, athletes and tennis serves.

A radar speed gun is a Doppler radar unit that may be hand-held, vehicle-mounted or static. It measures the speed of the objects at which it is pointed by detecting a change in frequency of the returned radar signal caused by the Doppler effect, whereby the frequency of the returned signal is increased in proportion to the object's speed of approach if the object is approaching, and lowered if the object is receding. Such devices are frequently used for speed limit enforcement, although more modern LIDAR speed gun instruments, which use pulsed laser light instead of radar, began to replace radar guns during the first decade of the twenty-first century, because of limitations associated with small radar systems.

Road speed limit enforcement in Australia

Road speed limit enforcement in Australia constitutes the actions taken by the authorities to force road users to comply with the speed limits in force on Australia's roads. Speed limit enforcement equipment such as speed cameras and other technologies such as radar and LIDAR are widely used by the authorities. In some regions, aircraft equipped with VASCAR devices are also used.Each of the Australian states have their own speed limit enforcement policies and strategies and approved enforcement devices.

Road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom

Road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom is the action taken by appropriately empowered authorities to attempt to persuade road vehicle users to comply with the speed limits in force on the UK's roads. Methods used include those for detection and prosecution of contraventions such as roadside fixed speed cameras, average speed cameras, and police-operated LIDAR speed guns or older radar speed guns. Vehicle activated signs and Community Speed Watch schemes are used to encourage compliance. Some classes of vehicles are fitted with speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation is being trialled in some places on a voluntary basis.

During 2006/7 a total of 1.75 million drivers had their licenses endorsed with 3 penalty points and £114 million was raised from fines; an 'e-petition' to ban speed cameras during 2007 received 28,000 signatures. The Department for Transport estimated that cameras had led to a 22% reduction in personal injury collisions and 42% fewer people being killed or seriously injured at camera sites. The British Medical Journal recently reported that speed cameras were effective at reducing accidents and injuries in their vicinity and recommended wider deployment. An LSE study in 2017 found that "adding another 1,000 cameras to British roads could save up to 190 lives annually, reduce up to 1,130 collisions and mitigate 330 serious injuries."In May 2010 the new Coalition government pledged to scrap public funding for speed cameras and cut the Road Safety Grant from £95 million to £57 million. Opposition politicians and some road safety campaigners claimed that lives were being put at risk. A survey conducted by The Automobile Association said that use of speed cameras was supported by 75% of their members.

SPECS (speed camera)

SPECS is an average speed measuring speed camera system introduced in 1999. It is one of the systems used for speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom.

SPECS was originally manufactured by Speed Check Services Limited, from which it takes its name. The company was acquired by Vysionics in 2010, which in turn was acquired by Jenoptik in 2014.

Speed limits in Lebanon

Speed limits in Lebanon, unless otherwise indicated, are:

50 km/h in the city

100 km/h on "major highways"Since November 1, 2010, speed limit enforcement in Lebanon has become more stringent, and the number of tickets issued has dramatically increased.

Speed limits in the Netherlands

The default speed limits in the Netherlands are 50 km/h (31 mph) inside built-up areas, 80 km/h (50 mph) outside built-up areas, 100 km/h (62 mph) on expressways (autowegen), and 130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways (autosnelwegen). On September 1, 2012, the motorway default speed limit was raised from 120 km/h (75 mph) to 130 km/h (81 mph)

, but it applies to only 48% of all motorways with the intent of 60% of motorways.Additionally, lower speed limits may apply in speed zones. Motorways passing through urban areas are usually limited to 100 km/h and narrow regional roads may have 60 km/h (37 mph) speed limits. Starting in May 2002, 80 km/h zones have been introduced on some motorways that had daily traffic congestion and air pollution issues; however, most of these zones have been or will be abolished, with the exception of short stretches of the A20 ring road near Rotterdam and the A10 ring road near Amsterdam.

In urban residential areas, 30 km/h (19 mph) zones are found, as well as home zones (woonerven), in which vehicles must adhere to a walking pace (15 km/h (9 mph) is tolerated). Contrarily, some four-lane urban arterial roads have a posted 70 km/h (44 mph) speed limit.

Unlike neighbouring countries such as Belgium, there is no minimum speed on Dutch motorways. However, only motorized vehicles capable of driving at least 50 km/h and 60 km/h are allowed to enter Dutch national roads and motorways, respectively.The Netherlands does not have specific night speed limits. Nevertheless many motorways have a posted speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph) between 7am and 7pm, which automatically allows a higher speed on night times with a lower traffic density.


TASCAR stands for Temporary Automatic Speed Camera at Road works, and is the term used by the Highways Agency and other relevant organisations for speed enforcement at works carried out by or on behalf of the agency on the UK road network.Different rules apply for the placement of these cameras than for cameras used for general enforcement elsewhere.

Traffic calming

Traffic calming uses physical design and other measures to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. It aims to encourage safer, more responsible driving and potentially reduce traffic flow. Urban planners and traffic engineers have many strategies for traffic calming, including narrowed roads and speed humps. Such measures are common in Australia and Europe (especially Northern Europe), but less so in North America. Traffic calming is a calque (literal translation) of the German word Verkehrsberuhigung – the term's first published use in English was in 1985 by Carmen Hass-Klau.

Traffic count

A traffic count is a count of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, which is conducted along a particular road, path, or intersection. A traffic count is commonly undertaken either automatically (with the installation of a temporary or permanent electronic traffic recording device), or manually by observers who visually count and record traffic on a hand-held electronic device or tally sheet. Traffic counts can be used by local councils to identify which routes are used most, and to either improve that road or provide an alternative if there is an excessive amount of traffic. Also, some geography fieldwork involves a traffic count. Traffic counts provide the source data used to calculate the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT), which is the common indicator used to represent traffic volume. Traffic counts are useful for comparing two or more roads, and can also be used alongside other methods to find out where the central business district (CBD) of a settlement is located. Traffic counts that include speeds are used in speed limit enforcement efforts, highlighting peak speeding periods to optimise speed camera use and educational efforts.

Traffic enforcement camera

A traffic enforcement camera (also red light camera, road safety camera, road rule camera, photo radar, photo enforcement, speed camera, Gatso, safety camera, bus lane camera, flash for cash, Safe-T-Cam, depending on use) is a camera which may be mounted beside or over a road or installed in an enforcement vehicle to detect motoring offenses, including speeding, vehicles going through a red traffic light, vehicles going through a toll booth without paying, unauthorized use of a bus lane, or for recording vehicles inside a congestion charge area. It may be linked to an automated ticketing system.

A worldwide review of studies found that speed cameras led to a reduction of "11% to 44% for fatal and serious injury crashes". The UK Department for Transport estimated that cameras had led to a 22% reduction in personal injury collisions and 42% fewer people being killed or seriously injured at camera sites. The British Medical Journal recently reported that speed cameras were effective at reducing accidents and injuries in their vicinity and recommended wider deployment. An LSE study in 2017 found that "adding another 1,000 cameras to British roads could save up to 190 lives annually, reduce up to 1,130 collisions and mitigate 330 serious injuries."The latest automatic number plate recognition systems can be used for the detection of average speeds and raise concerns over loss of privacy and the potential for governments to establish mass surveillance of vehicle movements and therefore by association also the movement of the vehicle's owner. Vehicles owners are often required by law to identify the driver of the vehicle and a case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights which found that human rights were not being breached. Some groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union in the USA, claim that "the common use of speed traps as a revenue source also undercuts the legitimacy of safety efforts."

Traffic violations reciprocity

Under traffic violations reciprocity agreements, non-resident drivers are treated like residents when they are stopped for a traffic offense that occurs in another jurisdiction. They also ensure that punishments such as penalty points on one's license and the ensuing increase in insurance premiums follow the driver home. The general principle of such interstate, interprovincial, and/or international compacts is to guarantee the rule "one license, one record."

West Virginia Public Service Commission

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is the Public Utilities Commission of the State of West Virginia, U.S.A.

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Traffic violations reciprocity
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