Tag Archives: Gatso

Average Speed Cameras on Busy Roads

I was reading an article about those crazy Dutch people, on the one hand very liberal with the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, Techno, but when it comes to driving they are very much the opposite. The latest idea is to use Average Speed Cameras or SPECS (for us) the type we often see around road works on the motorway with a 50mph limit but on provincial roads. This appears to include UK Equivalent of A-Roads.

SPECS Average Speed Camera

SPECS AVG Speed Camera

I did a little research and it seems the Dutch have a kind of similar system to us, only they have a version of the Autobahn called the Expressway for faster vehicles, along with Highway (Motorway) and Trunk Roads these are supplemented by the Provincial Roads, which which are a mixture of Major A-Roads (2+ Lanes) and Dual Carriageways. We in the UK are already taking this step with the Major A Roads such as the A14 and A40, but there are calls to introduce these on less major A-Roads, such as the A6. There are a few stretches between Manchester and Stockport, and Stockport and Hazel Grove which are of concern. One of them once had 3 speed cameras within 1 mile, which had an interest legal case where someone got hit by all 3 but argued it was a single speeding offence caught 3 times. 

The research has always shown that when people see a speed camera they often dangerously brake increasing the risk of causing a collision. This is part of the reason they are painted yellow, locations are listed, and in general police don’t hide when using speed guns. On a side note its worth noting the police mobile cameras get you up to 1 mile away, and only need an area the size of a door mirror to get you, so by the time you see them, they already have you. It has also been shown that many persistent and deliberate speedsters, will simply slow down for a camera and then leadfoot it right after. 

SPECS Cameras

A new type of camera were created called SPECS which are Network Cameras, oddly SPECS isn’t an acronym or anything and has no meaning, but its a SVDD (Speed Violation Detection and Deterrent) System which uses long range ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) tracking over the network of connected cameras. Specs on the A40 for example the cameras are between 950 meters and 5,198 meters (approx 1km and 5km) apart, so they aren’t always the same distance.

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Its also been suggested that consecutive cameras are not always linked, and they can be randomly linked or clustered into groups. I’ve created a fake average speed zone on the Inner Ring Road in Manchester City Centre. If you imagine Red, Blue and Black are only connected to each other 24/7, and randomly Black Connects to Blue, and sometimes Black to Red and so on. This method is called Alternating Groups in a Many-to-Many Formation. This system I would say is to make it impossible to game the system, but also means its potentially possible you could get away with speeding if a situation like 6-7-8 existed, where 3 consecutive cameras are in  groups so aren’t connected.

There have been people who have used techniques convoys blocking blocking each others number plates at alternate cameras, so the systems evolved and the many-to-many connections makes this impossible. It won’t stop people trying their luck. A freedom of information act request has revealed that around 30% of all traffic cameras are not functional, due to damage or simply being switched off. The actual cameras which are off, are not published for safety reasons. 

This in theory means that on a major A-Road say the A6, if you were travelling from Manchester to Derby, which is about 60 miles with the vast majority being 30mph roads. You could pass 50 SPECS cameras, each one would calculate your speed over the last 1 to 60 miles depending on connections. If you passed Camera 1 in Manchester at 13:01:23 and suddenly you pass camera 2 in Adwick at 13:02:53, the system determins you drove at an average speed of 40mph between Checkpoint 1 and Checkpoint 2.

It also means you could pass camera 1 in Manchester at 12:00, then camera 27, nearly 30 miles away, at 12:50 and the system would know you had speeded. Should this happen, one would hope camera 27 would check your data points between 1-27 since you may have taken a different road which a greater speed limit. However the potential for this sort of system does exist, and the Dutch maybe about to implement it. 

 

SPECS Camera image by DeFacto, Map by Google Image, modified by Steven.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

62 Penalty Points and Still Legally Driving

As a new driver one of the things which bothers me is getting points and losing my license. In the first 2 yrs after a driver passes their test, you are permitted 6 points. This means you basically get 1 strike for many offences before you lose your licence. Unless its using a mobile phone, accidents, drugs, drink, massively over speed limit, all of which are 6 points or more which are instant losses for a new drivers.

There is a list on Driving Ban, about what offences get you what points and fines. The discretionary powers of police officers surprised me, even if the police vehicle camera gets you, the officer can overrule it given sufficient reason. 

In the South East of England alone there are around 10,000 motorists who have more than 12 points on their license, the vast majority have 12-18, but there are a handful who have 30+. This potential means there maybe as many as 70,000 in the whole of the UK, which is a scary statistic. I can’t find FOI requests for the whole UK, and can only find reference to the South East.  

Accidents Happen

More recently on a Friday night when a couple of drunks were messing around and dipping into the road. I spent a little too long watching them to ensure they didn’t come in front of my car or anyone else’s car for that matter. I was also keeping my eye on the road in case I needed to swerve around them, checking for other vehicles, and I wasn’t checking speedo as often as normal. At the time of writing this, I don’t actually know if I got a penalty for that, but it will suck if I do. 

Gatso Speed Camera

Gatso Speed Camera

Its a rubbish situation to be, do I check the speedo more often, while scanning road conditions, my rear, and increase the risk hitting an drunken erratic behaving pedestrian or prioritise I guess situational awareness. In hindsight, as soon as I saw them messing about in the road, I should have slowed way way down and increased my stopping capability. I guess once I’m a more experienced driver I will make better decisions like this. In future this will be my course of action, slow slow slow. Its hard not to “rubber neck” I guess.

This were one situation where C.O.A.S.T. didn’t help me, I was Concentrating on what was happening, Observing other cars, and what the drunks were doing, Awareness of where the cars were and where I could drive to avoid them, making sure I could allow Space for them fooling around and Time to react. What I didn’t do was check my speed often enough, I’m going to modify it to C.O.A.S.T.S. with the final S for Speed. I only noticed I *could* have been speeding because I had hit cruise control button at some point. When I had passed the hazard I checked my speed and it were set 4mph over the limit.  

At the time I was just like Oh My God, how drunk/high do you need to be to pushing each other into the road for a game while there are cars coming. If they walk just a few hundred meters up the same road they are on a 40 mph zone with energy saving in effect so no street lights, its pitch black. There are also road works so the road narrows too. I was debating phoning the police to make them aware, I haven’t heard of any accidents so hopefully they were ok. I keep debating now if I should phone and ask to settle my own mind.

Many Many Risks and Trickery

Speed Camera Consealed on A6 in Stockport

Plant & Forget Digital Speed Camera

Following on from the above its easy to accidentally accrue points, I have to drive through 3 traffic light cameras, 4 speed cameras, a few times per day. Which is 30 potential opportunities to get points every day just on my commute. The worse ones are traffic light cameras, when they are green all the way on approach on I have a little debate about speeding up, or slowing down to let them go red. Many times I have been going 30 mph, about 2-3 car lengths and they have turned Amber, if I have a car tailgating me, stopping is asking for a rear end, so I’ve had to carry on. A few times I’ve chosen to emergency stop, and once the lights actually turned red just as I passed them.

Out of nearly 200x I have had to go through traffic light cameras and/or speed cameras on my daily commute in the few month I’ve been driving, I have had 2 close calls, 1 of them very close. Once were when I had a car very close behind and the lights changed red. In hindsight I should really have stopped since it would have been their fault. I now try to slow down on approach in these circumstances so I can safely stop. 

I recently found out that Traffic Light Cameras can also Speed Cameras and can result in points, so speeding up to get through before they turn red, can be a major hazard. Which makes Traffic Light Speed Cameras all the more problematic. 

Concealed Cameras

Concealed Speed Camera

Concealed Speed Camera

Another situation is concealed cameras, the (right) image shows the speed camera concealed by a yellow sign at the bottom of a long steep hill. You don’t see the camera (Dubbed Stockport’s Scammera) until you are where the black car is, which has its brake lights on. The only way to see it from a safe breaking distance is where this Google image is taken from.

The image (above right), shows this camera is a new style digital speed camera, which means it never runs out of film, and is what they call “plant and forget”, operating 24/7. I assume plant is in relation to its eternal producing of fruit (money). This camera is between 2 steep inclines, directly at the bottom one, before, you go up another steep hill. Its ideally placed to get people who (1), allowed gravity to pick up speed, or (2), gained speed to make the lights, or (3), gaining speed for the upcoming hill. The fact its concealed is just a bonus for the police camera partnership.

There are various reports of this camera catching people for cutting the red light, and for speeding, many many many caught because they speeded up to make the lights before it changed red, and they assumed it were a traffic light camera. Its due to this camera, that I read about the fact traffic light cameras can be used to issue speeding tickets.  

62 Penalty Points 

In saying all the above potential traps, trickery and such hazards there is a driver in West Yorkshire which the BBC reported to have 62 Penalty Points on his license, the last 6 points given for Speeding just a few months ago (according to reports). Further more a driver in Oxfordshire has 51 Points, another in Essex has 42 Points, and one in Norfolk has 39 Points.

Where exactly does the “exceptional circumstance” come in here, how many times can you accidentally get points even  with the above examples. There must be a point where where Mr 62 Points has simply decided the rules don’t apply to him, he can speed, cut red lights, do as he bloody well pleases because the courts won’t take his license away. You only gets 6 points if you are significantly over the speed limit, not just a few miles over which can be an accident. I would really like to know exactly what he got and what his excuses are.

There are circumstances where you could accrue a few points, but surely there can’t be an excuse for getting 15-21 points per year, can there ? I estimate in my (at least) 2,000 Opportunities to accrue points, I have come really close once, which were extraordinary circumstances, and not normal at all. I also think a more experienced driver wouldn’t have made my mistake so where is the limit ?. 

Red Roadster picture by Pixabay, Speed Camera by Andrew Dunn, other images by Google Images. 

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.