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Mobile speed cameras explained

There are many different types of mobile speed cameras in use on UK roads. These include:

‣mini gatso - similar to fixed position Gatso speed cameras
‣safety camera partnership teams
‣random police checks in marked or unmarked cars
‣radar guns - explained below
‣laser guns - explained below
‣DS2 - semi-permanent mobile speed cameras click here to read more.


How does a laser gun work?

Laser handheld speed camera guns use a narrow beam of light about 10cm wide. This laser beam bounces from the target vehicle and provides the police officer with a speed reading. The speed is displayed within 0.5 seconds of use meaning speed camera detectors do not have long to warn you that laser is in use. The range of laser guns is about 1 mile.

Pictured below a vehicle is targeted by a mobile laser speed camera gun. The laser sight is targeted on flat surface of the vehicle, in this case the vehicle's car boot door.

The second photo confirms:

Time: 13:35
Date: 21-04-17
Distance from laser gun to vehicle: 0462.1 metres
Target vehicle speed: 103MPH


How does a radar gun work?

Radar handheld devices use radio waves to target a vehicle. As a vehicle passes the radio waves these are reflected back at the radar receiver allowing the handheld radar gun to work out how fast the vehicle is traveling. The speed reading takes no less than 3 seconds for the police officer to acquire. The range of these systems is about 300 yards.


Marked and unmarked Police cars

Although there are many devices at the Police's disposal to measure and record speed, they can also just use the speedometer fitted in their vehicle. If they suspect a speeding motorist then they can simply follow him or her for a minimum of 2/10 mile or 1056 feet to pull the motorist over and depending on the speed give a warning, issue a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) or for much higher speeds consider court action. This type of speed check is known as a 'follow check' and can be via a marked or unmarked Police cars. However, their speedometer must be certifiably calibrated correctly and regularly tested.

Mobile Speeed Camera Targets Car

5:22am and dark. I was approaching entry to M40 southbound and noticed a police car parked on the motorway bridge (he was facing me parked on the pavement) - the speed limit drops to 40 from 50 there. I think I wasn't over 40 but I thought it was a bit sneaky of him if he was blipping cars coming towards him. He had his headlights on which masked the fact that he was a police car. Very sneaky!! Comment from UK motorist.


Speeding campaigns

Police officers in different counties across the UK often have a 'Speeding Campaign' of some form particularly during festive times when there are more motorists on the road and when people have busier schedules.

Residents of villages and communities are sometimes given laser guns to check the speed of motorists through their town or village. Though they cannot result in a prosecution the information will be passed on the police and could result in a warning letter being sent.


Points and Penalties

The absolute minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK's roads increased 66.7% in July 2013 from £60 to £100 fine. A minimum of 3 penalty points will also be added to your licence.

However, depending on the road speed limit and your actual recorded speed in the speeding offence a court summons may be generated in place of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) through the post. For more information click here.


Mobile locations What's your view and experiences with mobile speed cameras? Tell us here.

Want to know where the UK's mobile speed camera trap are as you drive? Here at SpeedCamerasUK.com we have a UK database of speed camera locations. This database also includes Gatso, SpeedCurb, Truvelo, Truvelo D-Cam, SPECS, Peek, Traffic Light speed cameras and more. To read more about the speed camera types click here.


Mobile Speed Camera Questions and Answers

Question: Is it legal for speed camera vans to operate at night up until 9pm?

Answer: There are no rules or guidelines against it. Speed cameras can and do operate 24/7 in the UK.


Question: I was recently driving around a bend in the road near to where I live, when a few yards further on later, I became aware of a female police officer pointing a camera at me from behind a car parked in front of her (her van was behind her). On looking down at my speedo I noted that I was driving at 36mph (its a 30mph zone)and immediately braked, I was furious with myself for speeding (don't know if I will get NIP notice yet), but thought it very sneaky of her to be hiding behind a parked car, especially as the rules (I believe) regarding speed cameras (not sure if this is for static speed cameras only or mobile and hand held ones as well) mean they should be visible from 60 metres away in 40mph and lower speed areas. If this proves to be the case (not visible from 60 metres away) is it a valid defence against a NIP?

Answer: As long as there were road signs at the side of the road warning to the use of speed cameras, then this would be fully legal prosecution. If you have been caught speeding, a NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution) is normally sent out to the vehicles registered keeper within 14 working days.


Question: I recently got caught on a dual carriageway and the police had a van on an overhead bridge. Would one of your products have prevented this. Also do your products detect a copper with a hand held speed gun?

Answer: Yes, the Snooper 4ZERO Elite BT includes radar and laser detection and a GPS database for known mobile and fixed speed camera locations. Updates via either a Bluetooth device with data or compatible Windows or MAC PC - FREE updates - no on-going subscription charge to pay to Snooper.

The majority of mobile police speed camera vans and handheld devices are laser based. Using the Snooper 4ZERO Elite BT will alert you to live in use laser and radar based devices.


Question: I have recently been issued with a NIP. The police supplied me photographic evidence of the offence which shows 58mph in a 50mph zone. However, you cannot read the registration plate on the car, a second photo closer to the mobile laser gun shows the registration plate but no speed is registered on the gun. As the only photo showing the speed is to far away to see the reg plate, therefore not being able to prove it was my car, and is partially obscured by the vehicle in front, do I have a case to argue?

Answer: We've had a very similar question to this before. The motorist supplied several photos of the alleged speeding offence. From a long distance photo, although the vehicle registration wasn't visible it was very clear that it was his car. The motorist therefore didn't really have a leg to stand on and accepted the points and fine.

Without seeing your photos I cannot say with certainty the same applies to you, but it does sound like it was a fair cop.

If you wanted to challenge the NIP, you would have to do so through the courts.


Question: Just wondered if there's a type of radar gun that the police can use from a moving police car driving in the opposite direction?

Answer: American police force use a radar device like this from a moving vehicle. We've not know of its use in the UK. Here Police/safety camera teams deploy radar/laser guns from a fixed static point. But there could always be a first?!


Question: On my way to work this morning along a dual carriageway I had just overtaken a lorry, in a 40mph zone doing at least 48mph. I then noticed a mobile speed camera van facing me on the opposite side of the road, I slammed on the brakes straight away, a car then over took me clearly doing above 40mph. Do these vans only concentrate on one car at a time or will it of caught me out?

Answer: Yes, only one vehicle can be targeted at any onetime. However, laser guns are REALLY quick at taking a speed reading - a matter of seconds. So the operator can target lots of vehicles in a very short space of time.


Question: I have recently received a notice that states I was driving at 36mph in a 30mph zone. I happened to stop and park at the side of the road to answer a phone call and while speaking, noticed the van, so on setting off again, kept a close eye on my speedo and am sure it did not go over 30mph. Could the fact that I was accelerating from a parked position opposite the detection can have produced a false reading?

Answer: Accelerating from a parked position opposite the detection would not have produced a false reading?


Question: I think I was caught doing about 38mph slowing to 30mph around the point where the 30mph sign is located. The camera van was about a quarter of a mile away in straight line sight.Above the 30mph signs are power lines. I think I read somewhere that you can contest a ticket as power lines can affect the accuracy of the speed reading. Can this be possible?   

Answer: We've never heard that one before!!


Question: Are there any legal reasons why a Community Group supported by their Parish Council cannot use a hand held radar gun to measure speeds of traffic through a village? I understand the accuracy limitations but we want to get some raw data just to see the size of the problem. We are trying to fund a SID too

Answer: SpeedCamerasUK.com is not connected with any UK Police or other local authority. We don't run, install or operate any speed camera – we just list where they are and information about them.

I would recommend you put your question to the Police authority who Police the road where you intend to use a handheld mobile speed camera. Operating practices will differ from force to force.


Question: I was driving along a 30mph road behind another car when I noticed up ahead a speed camera van. I checked my speed and slowed down to 30mph I didn't think because I was behind another car that I wouldn't have got a fine but I did.. how if I was about 20metres behind the car in front and saw the speed camera van in front from 400metres how did they catch me?

Answer: The laser beam emitted by a mobile speed camera when it hits your vehicle can be as small as 10cm in diameter. As long as the speed camera van operator can see and target your vehicle he/she can get a reading of your speed. Clearly the 20metre gap between you and the vehicle in front was enough to successfully target and record your vehicles speed.


Question: If you are slightly over the speed limit heading towards a mobile speed camera but slow down do you still get prosecuted?

Answer: If the mobile speed camera catches you over the speed limit, then you can expect a NIP/speeding ticket in the post.

Mobile cameras have a knack of seeing you before you see them. The typical range on a straight section of road is 2 miles! They can't record around bends or over brows of hills etc though.


Question: I was just wondering if you could clarify something for me! There was a mobile speed camera along a road which is quite short but has 3 different speed changes. Going from 60 to 40 then to 30. Will the camera be able to operate all 3 at once or will it target one specific one? I believe I went from the 60 into the 40 letting my car slow down itself so probably doing about 45mph a thing the time. Just wanted some help to see if I was at fault and if the camera got me.

Answer: The mobile speed camera operative will be targeting vehicles in full knowledge of the road speed limit. He/she could be targeting in the 60mph, 40mph or 30mph, at different times. In fact as a laser gun only takes 1-3 seconds to produce a speed read out, the operative could be target vehicles as they pass through each speed limit.


Question: Some time ago I was driving on a country road with 50 limit, and came a cross an ANPR cam on a little tripod and approx. a mile down the road was another identical one could this be a new type of average speed trial?

Answer: SpeedCamerasUK.com is not connected with any UK Police or other local authority. We don't run, install or operate any speed camera - we just list where they are and information about them.

Having said that, it could well have been a new type of speed camera. Equally though it may have been used for tax disc checking via vehicle number plates. ANPR has a number of different deployments on UK roads and not just for catching speeding motorists.


Question: Do you know if there is a minimum distance requirement from the camera van position? I saw the van in what I thought was plenty of time, only to have been sent a penalty notice (40mph in a 30mph zone). I found it difficult to understand that a camera could take a picture immediately as you entered the 30mph zone. Surely there must be say 100 yards to enable adjustment from say to 60mph area to a 30mph area.

Answer: The speed changes at the exact point of a speed limit sign e.g. when crossing in line with a 30mph speed limit sign post. There is no grace period. When entering from a previous higher speed limit e.g. 40mph, you need to have reduced your speed down to the new lower speed limit e.g. 30mph before crossing in line with the speed limit signposts.

Mobile speed cameras as you've found can and do target vehicles just as they drive from one speed limit to another.

For future driving you might like to consider buying a speed camera detector, for more information please see Speed Camera Detector Buyer's Guide.


Question: I was driving up the A1 on Tuesday towards Newcastle and there was a highways maintenance van that was parked in the lay by of the A road, with a few cones behind the van and a few cones in front. It wasn't a conventional speed camera van - but as approaching the van I saw a tiny speed camera sign... does this mean this was a speed camera? Or was it a van saying they were maintaining the speed cameras? I'm sick with worry!!! I haven't come across this type of speed camera before.

Answer: SpeedCamerasUK.com is not connected with any UK Police or other local authority. We don't run, install or operate any speed camera - we just list where they are and information about them.

We are therefore unable to say whether the van you encountered was a speed camera van or not.


Question: Am I correct are all safety camera vans are in direct contact with the police whilst parked on the side of the road? Are the police, who ride bicycles, who enforce the speed limit, are they using fixed locations which are on database, or can they use any location? Would my TomTom sat nav give the same info as the detectors being sold?

Answer: The vast majority of mobile speed cameras are managed by local Police forces, this also includes the Safety Camera Partnerships.

Mobile speed cameras should be sited in accident blackspot locations, places where there are history of road traffic incidents over a three year or more.

While sat navs like the TomTom can alert to both fixed and mobile speed camera location via subscription of a GPS database. A dedicated speed camera detector such as the Snooper 4ZERO Elite BT (pictured right) in addition to a GPS database also includes a radar and laser detector. Radar and laser detector enables you to detect live 'in-use' mobile speed camera locations.

For more information relating to dedicated speed camera detectors please see Speed Camera Detector Buyer's Guide.


Question: Can a speed enforcement camera only catch people parked up? Or can the van be driving and still catch people? I think it was a white small van with road safety written on the side.

Answer: Normally, a mobile speed camera is parked up to catch speeding motorists. However, it is also possible to catch motorists from a moving vehicle.


Question: I was driving in darkness and what appeared to be a red dot appeared on my dash could I have been checked for speeding from an unmarked police car. I was on the motorway.

This got me thinking. Do they automatically pull you over if you are speeding.

How visible do Mobile speed cameras; i.e vans, have to be in hours of darkness. Do they need to be lit up?

Answer: Mobile cameras can be operated from the front of the van, back of the van and even side windows and unlike fixed cameras there is NO visible flash. They can also catch speeding motorist on-coming and heading away from their position and also from the other side of the road or an elevated position e.g. a bridge. They can operate at day, at night and the van need not be sign written. In fact, mobile speed cameras are sometimes operated from unmarked Police cars and Police motorbikes. There may be several operators in a single van or at a single location.

They need not stop you at the roadside, instead issuing an NIP in the post. If you have been caught speeding, a NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution) is normally sent out to the vehicles registered keeper within 14 working days.

You might like to consider buying a speed camera detector, for more information please see Speed Camera Detector Buyer's Guide.


Question: I would if acceptable like to suggest a location for a mobile speed camera. That location would be a lay by in Sywell Northampton at the southern most end towards the Overstone Road, the lay by is situated in an area where a national speed limit single carriageway meets a 30mph speed limit. Vehicles frequently travel in excess of the 30mph in both directions along this section of road. I feel a mobile camera would encourage drivers not to exceed the 30mph limit.

Answer: SpeedCamerasUK.com is not connected with any UK Police or other local authority. We don't run, install or operate any speed camera - we just list where they are and information about them.

I would suggest you contact the Police force where the layby and proposed mobile speed camera site would be for their guidance and assistance. It may also be worth your while contacting your local councillor and/or Member of Parliament (MP).


Question: Can an unmarked police car check your speed with follow check camera and issue an NIP later or do they need to stop you to issue a NIP?

Answer: They can follow you recording all the information on their in-car CCTV system. They need not pull you over if they have all the evidence they require of the speeding offence. The NIP can be sent out at a later date/time.


Question: Do speed camera vans have to let the public know what areas they will be operating on,via the Internet and weeks commencing?

Answer: Some Police forces do publish lists on their website, some don't. It is not a legal requirement.


Question: I recently am observing a smallish marked van with what appears to be a camera on the roof front facing travelling along the A1101. Is this some sort of moving speed trap?

Answer: We don't run, install or operate any UK speed camera. We therefore don't know whether what you have spotted is or isn't a mobile speed camera van. I would suggest you direct you question to your local Police force and/or Safety Camera Partnership where the camera van has been spotted.


Question: Can a mobile camera detect your speed on the opposite side of the road going towards it even though traffic is constantly breaking its line of sight?

Answer: Yes, it only takes a matter of seconds to target a vehicle with a laser gun to take a accurate reading of the vehicles exact speed.


Question: You haven't mentioned the LTI 20.20 UltraLyte 1000 laser speed measuring device and the Lastec Ranger Compact Flash Card system used by the police. I have been fined for speeding 36mph on the A525 but was not aware of any signs to say it was a speed camera area also no road signs to state the mph speed limit.

I thought the law was to prevent speeding, so should set in place speed humps or rumble strips etc. Not hidden cameras or a multitude of cameras to catch motorists.


Question: I saw a motorbike police officer hiding round a corner trying to catch speeding drivers with his bike hidden round the corner too (only visible after driving past the officer), there were no signs up of speed cameras in operation either and was wondering if this was allowed and if there are any rules regarding such situations?


Question: If the police are using by the side of the road is it legal for them to use a speed camera in an unmarked car and no visible uniform?

Answer: Many mobile speed cameras operate from unmarked Police vehicles and safety camera vans.


Question: I am planning to buy a camera detector with the primary reason being to warn me to mobile camera vans. My question is with the laser detectors, do the laser speed cameras have to be pointed at your car for it to alert you? If that is the case would it not be too late of a warning?

Answer: For alerts to mobile speed cameras I would recommend the Snooper 4 ZERO Elite BT (pictured right) speed camera detector.

While the 4ZERO Elite BT speed camera detectors feature a built-in laser detector, these alone can't always provide an advanced warning to a live mobile laser site. Why?

1. The laser beam can be as small as 10cm in diameter when it hits your vehicle; the laser detector needs to pick this beam to provide an advanced warning.

2. If you are the only vehicle on the section of road where the mobile laser camera (van) is positioned and the camera operator takes aims and triggers the laser gun. This will effectively be the first time the laser detector will be triggered by the camera operator's laser gun; this may be the only reading he/she uses to make the prosecution if you are speeding.

GPS databases provide advanced warning to known mobile speed camera sites in advance.

Snooper 4ZERO Elite BT updates via a Windows PC or Apple Mac with free lifetime subscription.


Question: Do mobile speed cameras work whislt the van is moving, From the front camera?

Answer: Whilst in North America most mobile cameras operate from a moving vehicle. Here in UK, they normally operate from a static fixed location.


Question: I recently got caught speeding doing 39mph in a 30mph zone, but I was caught 359.4metres away from the mobile unit. Is there a law on distance?

Answer: Mobile speed camera vans can operate from up to 1mile away, depending on the device used - radar is typically 200-300yards, laser devices which are far more popular with Police and Safety Camera Partnerships.


Question: Can a mobile camera van distinguish between two cars travelling along side each other and determine which one is speeding?

Answer: Yes, the operator inside the mobile camera van targets a single car, van (vehicle) at anyone time. In fact to target two vehicles, two operators and two separate radar/laser guns would be required.


Question: I drive a similar size van to the speed camera vans and had my cruise control set at 58mph according to my satnav the digi display was reading 60mph but I got a ticket for 62mph. I later parked at the spot where the van had been parked and noticed that my van rocked with the wind and also as every vehicle passed this meant a sideways movement of about 2 inches at the height of the camera. The movement was a violent sway and any camera in my van would have moved sharply sideways which I would have thought would affect any reading, has this theory ever been investigated?

Answer from a physics teacher of 30 years: when a mobile speed camera van rocks from side to side in a van at the side of road... the time that it takes for the laser beam to pulse out several times and back is so short that it might be likened to taking a picture at 1/1000 second... no blur would be seen... so using the analogy I would say using Doppler theory and the cosine rule that it would not result in an error which would be viable as a defence against speeding. It would be longitudinal rocking that would be required rather than transverse if one wanted to even begin to consider such an error. Read up on how laser cameras work and all is realised. Hope this helps.

Many thanks for the answer :-)


Question: I spotted a bike officer with a laser (unfortunately not before he saw me). Further on were three more on bikes but I wasn't pulled over. Does a team like this normally stop and issue a notice?

Answer: If you were speeding, then yes quite possibly you were caught. Depending on the equipment that the Police used they do not need to stop motorist, but instead gather vide and/or /photographic evidence and then issue a NIP through the post. A NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution) is normally sent out to the vehicles registered keeper within 14 working days.


Question: I would like to ask your advice, I think I was caught by a mobile van yesterday but the windows were not open, I even captured it on my dashboard cam (photo below). Do the windows need to be open for it operate?

Mobile Speeed Camera Targets Car

Answer: It is possible for the camera equipment in the van to operate while the windows are closed. This is a common question that we are asked.

Subsequent message from the person asking the questions, confirms that he/she was caught speeding on this section of the road by the mobile Police speed camera van through the CLOSED WINDOW. It is a myth that you will not be caught speeding if the windows on a mobile speed camera are closed, as this motorist has confirmed.


Question: Can a mobile bike officer catch you speed on the side in a lay-by? Or does it have to be in front?

Answer: It would all depend how the Police officer is monitoring and recording the speeding of passing motorists. He/she could be using a device such as handheld radar or laser gun, or could simply be using painted lines on the road. Painted lines are marked over a set distance e.g. 1 mile. These need to be visible to road safety officer who will simply need to time, it takes for a car, van, motorbike, etc to drive/ride from line 1 to line 2.


Question: Can a mobile unit still send a speeding ticket in the post or do they stop you on the spot?

Answer: If the Police/Safety Camera team have the means to record the offence e.g. via video, then they need not stop you at the side of the road on the spot.


Question: I have received a NIP. Speed limit 60mph. NIP States speed 86mph. Van on opposite side of road to me with camera pointing in direction I was travelling. Can the camera record my speed as I am driving away from the camera?

Answer: Yes, mobile speed cameras can accurately record/capture speeding motorists from the front, side and rear of both sides of a road or carriageway and from elevated spots e.g. a bridge.


Question: I have today received a NIP for doing 35mph in a 30mph fair cop or was it. The mobile unit was screened by a wall and was only visible as I was along side it as it was pointing down the road in the same direction I was travelling, I have read that the vehicle should be visible from 60metres this was the case as it was behind me once I passed it and at best was visible from 20metres before I passed it. Should I challenge it?


Question: Can a mobile unit still send a speeding ticket in the post or do they stop you on the spot?

Answer: If the Police/Safety Camera team have the means to record the offence e.g. via video, then they need not stop you at the side of the road on the spot.


Question: I was travelling South on the M40 today. I saw a police camera van on a bridge. It was positioned on the opposite side of the carriageway and on the far side of the bridge. It seemed it was filming traffic on the opposite carriageway. The black side window was visible to me and I wondered if there is a chance it would also be filming my side of the motorway? There was no cameras showing and the window I could see was closed. I'd be grateful for your opinion. (I was probably travelling at 81mph)

Answer: Yes, it is possibly that the operator was recording/capturing speeding motorists on your side of the motorway.

Mobile speed camera vans can and do operate from various locations including:

‣Same side of carriageway
‣Opposite side of carriageway
‣On-coming
‣Heading away

Ask your own question and read comments in general about speed cameras in the UK.


Mobile speed camera alerts as you drive

Did you know you can be alerted to where Mobile and other speed cameras are along UK roads via in car devices? These systems include dedicated speed camera detectors, sat navs with speed camera locations and various apps for smartphones. To read more view our buyers guide which talks you through the various features and different technology the different systems use. We also have dedicated reviews for each product with user comments.

We also sell a range of speed camera detectors which you can browse via our online shop. We only stock systems that we consider will give you the best, most accurate, reliable and frequently updated speed camera databases. So whether you are a motorist, truck driver or caravanist you can rest assured you have the best speed camera warning system.

Click here to visit our online detector shop.

Last updated: 21st February 2018