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Mobile speed camera operator lifts the lid on secrets and myths

There are many myths surrounding mobile speed cameras and all sorts of opinions from drivers about avoiding possible punishment for straying over the limit.

Some motorists think they can get away with travelling up to 10 per above the limit, while others are under the misapprehension they can only be snared on one side of the road.

But Gareth Thomas, a speed reduction officer for the last seven years, allowed NorthWalesLive inside his van to dispel some motoring myths.

Gareth is a Casualty Reduction Officer for the Go Safe campaign in North Wales and former police officer. He said: “The aim of cameras is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

READ MORE: All you need to know about speed cameras

The officer also answered questions about the mobile speed vans and how they operate.

Do speed vans have to be visible at all times?

There are no laws about visibility, but being visible acts as a deterrent in its own right.

Gareth said: “Legally, we don’t have to be visible. I could camouflage myself if I wanted to – but it’s all about being fair, education and preventing an accident. Even if I parked my van and went for a walk somewhere, it would deter people speeding right away.”

Can motorists only be caught travelling in one direction?

Any car that passes a Go Safe van is recorded on the officer’s camera.

So if you’re exceeding the speed limit whether you’re driving in the same or opposite direction to the van, you can expect a speeding ticket.

Speed camera van stationed on the roadside

Does the so-called 10 per cent rule exist?

Each police is different, but in North Wales, drivers will not get a ticket provided their speed does not exceed the limit by more than 10 per cent, plus 1mph.

However, thresholds vary and can change without notice. Officially, any speeding offence occurs at 1mph above the limit, but most forces will allow a variance.

Are officers a revenue collector for the Government?

Gareth said: “We’re not here to get figures or to make money. We’re just here to catch the people who are speeding. If I get a day where I don’t get any drivers speeding, then I know I’ve done my job.

“If I’ve been working an eight hour shift, I just hope at least one person that day has escaped injury or a crash has been avoided.”

READ MORE: How to avoid being over the speed limit

Can I get caught speeding more than once on the same day by the same camera?

The current position with Go Safe is that if you are caught twice in 20 minutes, it will be treated as one offence.

In theory, a driver with a previously clean licence could be caught several times on the same day – and as a result be at risk of disqualification under the totting-up system.

If you are caught speeding several times on the same journey and accept a fixed penalty for each, you could be at risk of a penalty points disqualification (totting-up).

However, where offences are deemed to have been committed “on the same occasion”, any court has discretion to impose only the one set of points for two or more offences.

Is it illegal to obstruct a van’s view?

Obstructing a van’s field of view during its operational duties is an offence and you can be prosecuted for it.

View of the screen used to identify speeding motorists
View of the screen used to identify speeding motorists

Do officers enforce anything other than speeding?

Officers are there to make sure motorists are wearing a seatbelt and not using mobile phones behind the wheel. Anyone caught breaking these laws will be prosecuted.

Is it illegal to alert other motorists of a speed van?

If drivers choose to flash to warn others about a speed van, they could be in breach of the law.

Under section 89 of the Police Act 1997 it is an offence to “wilfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his/her duty”.

However, Gareth added: “It doesn’t bother me that people flash to warn them of the speed van – I just want to educate people and the van to act as a speed deterrent.”

A speed camera van in action
A speed camera van in action

Who decides where speed vans park up?

Enforcement is usually carried out in certain areas for a number of reasons, including:

  • Death or serious injury has occurred at the location.
  • Speeds in the area have been recorded as significantly high.
  • Speeding concerns have been raised by residents and those concerns have been corroborated by a traffic speed survey.
  • Go Safe are supporting a police enforcement campaign

What happens if a driver is caught speeding?

The minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK’s roads is a £100 fine, but there is the option of attending a speed awareness course – an alternative to a fine and penalty points.

Courses are available to drivers who respond quickly to the ‘notices’ and who were driving at no more than 10 per cent, plus 9 mph above the posted speed limit.”

So for example, anyone travelling over 86mph on a motorway would not be offered the awareness course.

Those who don’t have a clean licence at the time of the offence, or have been on a course in the past three years, will not be offered the awareness course as an option.

For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.

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