Road Safety News

End of the road for grey speed cameras

Sunday 15th November 2015

The DfT has announced that all working speed cameras will be coloured yellow by October 2016, in what it describes as a “common sense approach to cameras”.

The move, which follows a review of cameras, is intended to “increase the visibility of all speed cameras on the network” and ensure “motorists are not unfairly penalised”.

The announcement has been welcomed by the AA and RAC.

There are approximately 200 camera sites on England’s motorways, some of which contain multiple cameras. Existing guidelines already make clear that where cameras are used on the strategic road network signs must be put up to alert drivers. The DfT says this latest move “will ensure maximum visibility of the cameras themselves”.

The majority of colour changes will take place during standard renewal of speed camera units, alongside other planned work, to minimise the cost.

The government has also taken action on cameras at a local level. Local authorities and the police are required to publish information on the impact of speed cameras on road safety, so that they can be “held accountable locally”.

Guidance for local authorities on speed cameras states that fixed speed camera housings located on lit roads should be coloured yellow either by painting both the front and back of the housing or covering both the front and back of the housing with retro-reflective sheeting. On unlit roads, the camera housing should be treated with yellow retro-reflective sheeting.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “We are on the side of honest motorists. I’ve always been clear that cameras should be visible and used for safety rather than revenue raising.

“This move is about applying common sense to our roads. Speed cameras should make journeys safer rather than lead to dangerous braking.

“I’m delighted Highways England have agreed to meet our timetable to achieve this.”

Highways England will monitor its camera sites to address any impact the change in colour has for drivers.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “While we understand speed cameras are not popular, they play a valuable role in enhancing safety, smoothing traffic flow and reducing congestion.

“We use cameras for safety and traffic management only when other more popular solutions like engineering are not adequate to tackle particular problems on our network.”

Edmund King, AA president, said: “This is something we have campaigned for. Our AA/Populus surveys show that over 70% of drivers accept the use of speed cameras and it is important that the level of trust and transparency is maintained.

“Cameras are most effective when drivers slow down and being visible should make them more effective. Having visible cameras should show that the intention is to slow traffic and safe lives rather than generate cash. Drivers will be delighted by this move.”

Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: “The Government’s reassurance that all motorway speed cameras will be painted yellow by October 2016 is long overdue and brings a welcome degree of consistency which will ensure that the road safety benefits of the varied types of cameras are maximised.

“Yellow speed cameras at the roadside are a familiar feature on the UK road network, both loved and loathed by motorists and road users in equal measure.

“But the proliferation of grey, unmarked motorway gantry cameras has led to confusion for many and accusations that they were there to catch out unsuspecting motorists and to raise revenue rather than improve road safety.

“Clear identification will ensure that the authorities maintain the trust of drivers and dispel any ‘money raising’ suspicions.”

James Gibson, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: “Road Safety GB is supportive of adopting a consistent approach to the colour of speed cameras. This is something that is reflected in the views of the majority of the public.
"It makes good sense to paint all cameras yellow and make them as visible as possible. The roads are a shared space and speed compliance is an important issue for all users, especially ‘vulnerable’ road users.
“On the wider issue of the use of cameras, in our submission to the Transport Committee’s road traffic law enforcement enquiry, we made the point that the minimum distance ‘halo' - that is the distance over which enforcement is effective in deterring offending behaviour - for physical policing is about five times greater than that associated with speed cameras, so technology should be considered as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, police officers."


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My goodness! 7 people wrote in support, and 87 wrote in objecting, clearly the democratic vote would favour the objection? But as 12,906 did not respond, did they get lumped with the nays, or yays? Either way, York council went ahead anyway. Democracy - what democracy?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

I am afraid that Paul Bigg's quote of "7 people in favour of 20mph limits and 13,000 against" shows a woeful misquoting of the actual events concerned.

As part of its roll-out of 20mph limits York City Council, a formal invite to object was sent to 13,000 households. This included the comment in the letter "I do hope you are able to support the proposal but should you wish to object then please write, giving your grounds for objection,..."

Hence there was no invitation to write in and support, only an invitation to write in and object. Even so, 7 people did write in to support, 3 gave neutral responses, 87 wrote in with objections and 12,903 decided not to respond to the invitation to object.

Hence the 7 for and 13,000 against is a figment of Paul's imagination and in the spirit of keeping comments informed and accurate should be withdrawn.

May I suggest that when commenting in future Paul should provide references for any quoted statistics so that readers can follow these up and distinguish between fact and fiction. Even better, check the information before commenting.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

Nick, perhaps you could point out to Hugh the obvious relevance of speed limits to speed cameras, and that I was responding to Rod's 'idea' of how speed limits should be set. Also, nothing ill-informed about the unpopularity of York's 20mph speed limits. Plus, whether or not speed cameras should be yellow is related to their function as stated by the police officers who implemented them from 1992 onwards.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Rather than restrict individuals'comments by number Nick, would it not be better to restrict by relevance (or not) to the current topic? Putting it another way, what has someone's rant (bolstered by mis-information anyway) about a 20mph speed limit in York, got to do with the colour of speed cameras on motorways?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I'm surprised you somehow feel you are being 'censored'. We do have house rules and we don't publish every post we receive, or all of the posts in full. But I don't think this represents censorship. After all, you've had three posts in this discussion thread - which I think is quite sufficient to get across your point of view.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Rod - how do you gauge opinion? 7 people in favour of 20mph limits in York and 13,000 against - so 20mph limits are implemented? Even the local newspaper poll was 80% against. The opinion of the vast majority ignored - your idea of democracy? I don't know who you think you represent - certainly not any community I've ever come across. I think you can see where this is going, so I'll say no more in order to avoid being censored by Road Safety GB's Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth.'
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (2) | Disagree (6)


There is a sound basis and consent for any speed limit. It's the democratic process that a community goes through at local or national level. That takes into account the views of society as whole and not just drivers who may well be flawed in their perception of the hazards ahead or the cumulative effect of higher speeds.

And, no. The idea of cameras is to catch and sentence those driving illegally above the speed limit. That is a deterrent which exists far beyond their location and enhances speed limit compliance across the whole road network.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

First of all Rod, the more appropriate a (maximum) speed limit is in relation to the road layout, the less speeding there will be without the need to install cameras. Any law that expects to command respect should require a sound basis and consent.

As for drivers slowing down for cameras - they often do so even though they aren't travelling above the speed limit - seeing a visible camera makes them lift off the throttle check their speed. That was the idea of cameras wasn't it? First and foremost as a deterrent. Unfortunately, Trafpol have been replaced by speed cameras, so you reap what you sow. Personally, I wouldn't bother making motorway gantry cameras yellow, aside from it being better to remove them altogether along with ATM, they are adequately signed on the gantry and are located on the opposite side of the gantry as you approach anyway.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (2) | Disagree (6)

Speeding is a "strict liability" offence. You are above the speed limit and therefore driving illegally and beyond the conditions of your license. It therefore requires no "due consideration" by police officers and clearly their involvement is an inappropriate use of their time.

I am afraid the the more visible and detectable you make speed cameras then the more you endorse speeding on the rest of the network.

What also troubles me in this article is the language used such as "drivers slowing down for speed cameras". You can't SLOW DOWN to a speed limit unless you are BREAKING the speed limit.

If we can accept that unmarked police cars may be used for speed detection then it seems that there can be no objection to unmarked cameras apart from the obvious one that this could lead to their proliferation, self funding and success in taming the actions of inconsiderate, anti-social and illegal drivers.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (11) | Disagree (6)

The DfT link in the above news item does not appear to have any new rules or laws regarding speed camera deployment, it only has "guidance". Furthermore, the guidance that it links to is dated 2007.

I would be very surprised therefore if any authority were to "publish information on the impact of speed cameras on road safety", not least because they have not performed the necessary evaluations, but also because there doesn't appear to be any requirement that they start doing so.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

I'd be interested to know if the motorway police are told/discouraged from pursuing speeders on the M-way, on the basis that they (the speeders) will be detected by the cameras anyway. This would free-up the police to deal with offences that can't be dealt with automatically through technology and possibly avoid a high-speed pursuit and a stop on the shoulder, both of which carry high risks.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (3)

RSGB might wish that cameras are a supplement to police [patrol] officers but the plain fact, as other submissions make clear, is that the police see them as replacements. Not least because drivers pay for cameras but police budgets pay for patrols.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (5) | Disagree (13)

Cameras on smart motorways are an essential component of a controlled environment that places a high degree of reliance on speed compliance across a wide zone. Each gantry has a camera sign so there is no need to highlight each camera in yellow and what is now likely is mass non compliance between sparsely spaced cameras. As there is no evidence that smart motorway safety is a problem the change can only lead to more problems including the sharp braking that the minister believes he is going to stop.

Where urban spot cameras highlight a risk area yes we want people to see them and so yellow makes sense there. The opposite case applies on smart motorway zones.
Peter, Liverpool

Agree (12) | Disagree (5)

Rod (first post in this thread)
We have added a quote from James Gibson, Road Safety GB comms director, to the story above.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

I fail to see how the cameras can be abused for money, or be cash cows etc. They will not catch the HONEST law abiding driver, just the ones who are either deliberately breaking the law or those who are not paying attention. If anyone does not want to make the donation, they only have to obey the law.
Andy, Warwick

Agree (35) | Disagree (9)

Does this mean that when a camera on the strategic road network fails it will turn grey?
Peter Westminster City

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Ultimately, I would like to see the cameras removed because they have been abused for money.

However, a compromise between the status quo's "Stand and Deliver !" by letter from the ticket office might be to say that in order to begin the prosecution process, a Police Constable dressed in uniform has to deliver the NIP in person to the driver at the time of the offence - or - alternatively IN PERSON to the registered keeper at his registered address. And to clarify the latter, the PC *MUST* give it by hand in person to the RK - not just slip it through the letterbox!

What would this achieve? Manpower & logistics would prevent ACPO issuing thousands of tickets. Either they stop the car at the time of the offence and deliver a verbal NIP - or - they manage their resources so that (for example) the bloke doing 42 past the school during the afternoon gets a visit, the bloke doing 68 down the high street at 2 in the morning gets a visit, the bloke doing 118 on the motorway in the rain gets a visit.... Even the fellow who doesn't exceed the speed limit by much {say 36 or 37} but who ALWAYS exceeds the speed limit by that speed thinking "it's been relaxed - I'm now immune", he too would get a visit.... Whereas the rest of us doing 71 on the M1 in Bedfordshire or momentarily speeding up to overtake someone WON'T get a visit.
Paul from Barking

Agree (8) | Disagree (36)

Richard Owen's comments are interesting. Even the DfT guidance contains provision for the police to carry out covert operations 'unfettered' I understand the exact word used.
Is DfT fettering the police...I hope not.
Alan Stringfellow, Lancaster

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

I am puzzled that Dave again writes that trials of cameras have never been done when it was the (invalid) results of the Eight Area Trial of 2000-02 that launched the Hypothecation Scheme across the country, only to be closed down in 2007 as Richard says.

Dave might be pleased to know that I have now extended his excellent Thames Valley analysis to 19 areas of England plus Wales and Scotland and find as he did - at best no benefit, at worst more crashes than would have occurred.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (8) | Disagree (28)

The only cameras that the announcement affects are those on the Highways England network and applies to the gantry-mounted HADECS systems which (usually) only work when there are temporary speed restrictions in place. As they are mounted directly behind the signs it doesn’t really make much difference whether they are yellow or not as the motorist won’t see them!

The DfT forfeited any control of local deployment of speed cameras over eight years ago when it phased out the direct management project and replaced the ‘rules’ with ‘guidance’. They seem to have got the hump lately though following a deliberately covert police operation in Humberside aimed specifically at motorcyclists.
Richard Owen

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

No matter what you do the lowest common denominator will always brake and cause issues. I recall one driver braking upon seeing a parked police car, and then colliding with it due to a very low nearside tyre pressure! Truth is stranger than fiction.
Olly Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)

I wonder what sort of review the transport secretary has done; has anyone seen it? He mentions "honest motorists", who are they and specifically who are the dishonest ones?
I can imagine that he means motorists who drive faster than the speed limit but who slow down when they perceive a risk of being detected doing so are acting "honestly".

The transport secretary is the government sponsor of traffic laws; it appears that he thinks that the prevailing laws have the effect of creating "honest motorists" who are inconvenienced by enforcement of the law he sponsors, so much that he has deemed it necessary to assist them in acting "honestly".

I find it sickening that a cabinet minister can bring in measures that warn people when laws are being specifically enforced, even more sickening when his cabinet colleague, the Home Secretary, won't insist on marking ANPR and CCTV cameras in highly visible paint so I can honestly go about building my drug dealing and shoplifting empire, behaving honestly by not doing that anywhere near where the police can detect me doing so.

The transport secretary is not all bad though as he may have (but I seriously doubt it) been advised that the best way of deterring excess speed without the use of a huge amount of assets is to do so by deploying a handful of overt systems and a number of moveable covert systems. He would know but I doubt he has read his own guidance that the guidance allows exactly that, the use of unmarked and covert enforcement systems.

Let's hope the police take advantage of that and assist the truly "honest motorist", those who comply with the transport secretary's laws, to drive safely and hopefully remove Patrick McLoughlin's pals from the an honest way of course.
Alan Stringfellow, Lancaster

Agree (32) | Disagree (6)

I've seen drivers/riders brake suddenly when they're virtually 'on top' of a marked police car parked at the side of the road, on an elevated platform at the side of a motorway and on a flyover over a motorway or a dual carriageway or when the police vehicle is patrolling along a road. So much for these drivers/riders observation skills!
Mark - Wiltshire

Agree (34) | Disagree (1)

If the Dft are concerned about 'dangerous braking' when the cameras are only noticed last-second, would it not therefore be better if they were not noticeable at all? Advanced warning signs can still be retained if they feel they have to appease the speeding motorist's lobby. Warning signs stating 'Concealed speed cameras for next 50 km' might actually be more of a deterrent anyway.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (57) | Disagree (8)

If the DfT have been unable to determine "the impact of speed cameras on road safety", how can they expect "Local authorities and the police" to do it? There are 2 ways to comply with the DfT:

1) run simple scientific trials of speed cameras (never been done before)
2) apply my full FTP method to speed camera site data (never been done by any authority before)

The 1st method is the simplest, cheapest and most accurate but, if any authority wishes to perform the 2nd, I would be willing to assist them on the basis that the analysis is unbiased, of the highest standard, and honestly presented to the public.

This is encouraging. With the word "required", the DfT have at last made mandatory a requirement that evidence be acquired such that the effects of speed cameras are identified and published. It's taken over 20 years but let's congratulate the DfT on their new evidence-led approach?
Dave Finney, Slough

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Having heard the views of the AA, the RAC and the Highways Agency, I think it would be useful to know what the position of Road Safety GB is on this important issue.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (13) | Disagree (2)