The Gatso first appeared on UK roads back in 1991 and it’s still the most common speed camera in service today. Short for Gatsometer (the Dutch firm that makes them), the Gatso points the same way as the traffic flow. So it senses a speeding car after its past the device, then snaps a picture of the rear of the speeding vehicle – which means it can nab speeding motorbikes too, which have no front plate. Gatsos take two time-stamped pictures of a vehicle, and together with the white makers painted on the road, these can be used as evidence to prove a driver’s speed.
Just like the Gatso, the Truvelo is named after the company that makes it – in this case, a South African firm. But unlike the Gatso, this device faces towards the oncoming traffic. The photograph is accompanied by a flash to illuminate the speeding car, so a special filter is used to prevent drivers from being dazzled. The downside of taking a photo from the front is that the Truvelo can’t snap the number plates of speeding motorcycles. But a frontal image usually includes the driver’s face, so it can provide solid evidence in cases where the driver denies being at the wheel.
The Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3 (or HADECS 3 for short) is a new arrival in the armoury of speed enforcement and is currently being rolled out on new stretches of smart motorway. The HADECS 3 is smaller than a Gatso or a Truvelo, and not as conspicuous, which has led some people to label them ‘stealth speed cameras’. HADECS 3’s are rear-facing like Gatsos, but they’re smarter than their aged cousins because they can vary their detection speed according to the limit in place at the time. So when you see a motorway gantry signal switch to 60mph, you should take note and comply, because the HADECS 3 will instantly follow suit.
Mobile speed camera vans
The law requires all Gatsos and Truvelos to be painted yellow, making them highly visible to drivers. And if you have a sat nav system which alerts you to fixed traffic cameras, then it’s even easier to avoid them. But that’s really the whole point of them being there – to slow drivers down, particularly in areas where there’s a high accident risk. But even savvy drivers can be caught out by mobile camera vans and hand-held radar guns. These can appear pretty much anywhere and at any time, although operators usually select those routes notorious for speed-related accidents.