UK to install clusters of cameras to catch speeders

The UK is going to install camera clusters on hundreds of roads next year to "monitor drivers’ average speed on all routes across a wide area."
It will be impossible to evade detection because the digital cameras will cover every entry and exit point and, unlike the earlier speed cameras, will never run out of film.

Drivers who slow down briefly or who make a detour from the main route will still be caught because up to 50 of the cameras will work together in a network. They can be positioned more than 15 miles apart and will automatically read numberplates and transmit data instantly to a penalty processing centre.

Existing average-speed cameras cover a maximum of six miles, work in pairs and have to be connected by a cable, so their installation is costly and time-consuming. Drivers can also escape detection by turning off the route between the cameras.

If they are going to get this hardcore about it, you'd think they'd require speed-limiters in cars that would physically prevent them from speeding. Of course they won't do that because that'd obviate the need for those wonderfully-named "penalty processing centres."
Drivers will have no escape from new speed cameras


  1. True, I think the aim here is revenue. However! How would a speed-limiter work in an area where the speed maximum is lower than the top speed of the limited car?

  2. The day they install these in Massachusetts is the day I turn in my license. No thanks, Mom.

    I’ll gladly take a pass on that privilege if that’s how we’re going to be about it.

  3. Entirely off-topic, but has anyone else noticed that something (probably a flash animation) on the front page today pings your webcam for a brief second? Mine lights up briefly, then turns back off. Only happens on BB.

  4. So it ‘tracks’ your speed, ‘tracks’ where you enter and exit, then when you get off the highway, it can ‘track’ you through the city, and when you park you can be ‘tracked’ being a pedestrian, to where you go on foot. How nice.

  5. The same type of cameras had been installed in Victoria, Australia but they “were shut down in November 2003 due to faults, with the government forced to refund 120,000 fines worth $17 million.” As I recall the fault that had everyone talking was the stock Datsun 120 fined for doing allegedly doing some unbelievable speed like 180Km/h+…

    But it looks like as of 2007 they are back! Owners of Datsun’s beware!

  6. And the march towards an Orwellian state advances another step.

    I should point out however, that if you really don’t want to get fined…don’t speed.

    It’s pretty simple really.

  7. a techie underground will emerge dedicated to marking and destroying cameras and hacking penalty processing computer centers. When you turn your citizenry into inmates of a vast prison, they will band together in resistance. Or at least apathetic cooperation with the system. Why is it exactly, that Britons wish to live in old soviet Russia?

  8. Takuan @9 – Bog off! We no more want to live in old soviet Russia than you want to live in “The United Fascist States of America” (to quote Nuclearmoose @ “Top Maryland Cops…”), (or indeed the Third Mariana Reich).

    Unfortunately democracy here, as in the US, comes down to voting for the lesser of two bastards…

  9. In this age, it is pretty naive to think that these cameras are being installed only to catch speeders. Like the other cameras, they are being installed to capture biometric data from drivers.

  10. England is going to pass up the Orwellian state, and jump into being the world’s largest camera.

    It will just be a large eye on our planet,
    staring out into space.

  11. Maintaining vast networks of cameras is expensive and stupid. More bang for your buck is single placed cameras. What’s the need for ‘average speed’? I figure…you go over the speed LIMIT…your speeding.

    Penalty Processing Centres…boy…there’s a cover for evil…

  12. Next week’s guest blogger on Boing Boing? Jeremy Clarkson.

    Christ, but this makes me angry. Why? Because every time this issue comes up, the boneheaded, paranoid driving lobby manages to cause huge damage to the arguments against the real surveillance menaces facing British society; CCTV and ID Cards.

    Please stop. Please stop railing against the one area of Britain’s surveillance culture where the phrase “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” MIGHT ACTUALLY BE TRUE. Every time someone starts holding this up as an example of how terrible Britain’s surveillance culture is, the ID card lobby gets a chubby.


  13. I’ll have you know the Third is considered a Good Address in some circles (chalked on cellar floors with bone dust perhaps,but nevertheless)

    Freedom also includes freedom to make the choice to keep or break the law – and take the risk or take the consequences. Can you imagine the hell on earth that would be wrought if a process were to be developed to make everyone “honest”?

    (oh, and I heard Ridley Scott is committed to making Brave New World)

  14. Takuan @17 – ha! I have exercised that freedom, believe me… but the gradual and unremitting attrition of our freedoms since Thatchler came to power in 1979, through the rebranding of Thatcherism as ‘New Labour’ (1997 to present), has been somewhat dispiriting.

  15. the morale degradation is obvious and understandable.I don’t know what to to do either so I bait and goad hoping anger will keep the fire smoldering until the way becomes clear.

  16. You bait well, Takuan!
    The anger in the UK seems to have subsided to whinging and grumbling over the last decade or so, but maybe there ~is~ still a spark waiting to ignite…
    Perhaps the problem is, (as with you in the trench?), that most of the discontent has been redirected towards the outsiders: the immigrants, the squid, the muslims, the lampreys, the Man City supporters… ?

  17. Isn’t there already 1 CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK or something? Do they really need more?

  18. not to mention those damnable hagfish… yes, I pride myself on being a master baiter par excellence.

    We have to keep the spark alive. Human adaptability is double edged. We can get used to anything, survive anything – but do we want to?

  19. #16… first off, the privacy concerns are real. It’s virtually impossible to seriously believe that the ANPR logs aren’t going to be forwarded to a central database for realtime tracking and future data mining. The cost of storage is zero: the question isn’t why they’d log the data, the question is why they wouldn’t.

    Second, speeding is a bullshit law and everyone knows it. Everyone also knows that it’s never going to be relaxed or repealed, because it’s a revenue stream and the primary means by which police remind the average law abiding citizen that they’re there and watching.

    The only real respite you’ve ever had from this bullshit law is the practical freedom enabled by imperfect enforcement. You speed, sometimes you get caught, you’re not sorry, you keep doing it. Pay a ticket a year, big deal – just another tax.

    Perfect enforcement, such as that enabled by this network of cameras, is a *practical* loss of freedom.

  20. mandatory weekly drug tests for all elected officials! Random breathalyzers before parliamentary votes!

  21. It’s a given… the Police already have realtime access to the number plate & location data that the Congestion Zone cameras produce in London and they already have the go-ahead for access to the data gathered by this new network… it’s all been done under the guise of detection and prevention of terrorism… That way, suspect vehicles that have been associated with terrorists will trip alarms whenever they pass one of these cameras… In fact, the mobile APNR vehicles already scan the numbers against the databases to catch drivers who’s vehicles are un-insured/untaxed/unsafe (out of date on the MOT inspection).

    Oh and one ticket a year is the quick way to get banned… currently, at 3 points a ticket, it only takes 4 of them to get you banned and they take 5 years to go off your license… and each ticket has to be declared to your car insurance policy issuer and your premiums jump quite a bit… I got one doing 35 in a 30 zone while passing through a small town in Wales 3 years ago… I honestly thought I was still in a 40 zone

    They’re proposing reducing the number of points you get for a low level speeding offence (being less than 10 miles over the limit)… the cynics amongst us know that this is merely a means to keep hitting motorists with penalties for only just being over the limit without them being banned…

  22. meh, speed cameras are no big deal from a privacy PoV; dermoth @16 is right. Unfortunately, we already HAVE the Orwellian car-tracking system that you’d worry these cameras would turn into, in the form of static ANPR cameras on every major road in the country. These have been rolled out either stealthily, or just without major attention from the media. Too late!

  23. They have been around for years, this is just an approval of a new type and doesn’t mean there is a massive rollout planned.

    The thing is that most people in the uk approve of speed cameras, as long as their deployment is open and they are used in an appropiate place. We still have a speeding culture here that needs to be broken.

    Remember though, this isn’t surveillance, the camera only records you if you CHOOSE to have your picture stored.

  24. If it calculates your average speed between two points, all you have to do is pull over for a few minutes, have a smoke, then fang it and not have to worry at all!

  25. @23, who said speeding is a bullshit law and everyone knows it.

    Tell that to the folk whose job it is to scrape the mashed-up bodies from the road. Tell it to the dead and the relatives of the dead, such as these folks.

    I dislike surveillance cameras, but I dislike dangerous lunatics in fast motor vehicles a lot more.

    And similarly with all those CCTV cameras: people don’t seem to get it: a lot of folk don’t object to them because they’re more afraid of street crime than they are of the state.

    All of which ignores the fact that we would have got more bang for our buck, a bigger reduction in crime (if indeed there has been any), with simpler measures such as making the street lights brighter at night, instead of CCTV. But never mind; local councillors were never famous for their intelligence.

  26. Anti-camera flash-sensitive spray.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen an awful lot of stupid driving compounded by speeding in my time on the roads, and I’m very anti-speeding. Nevertheless, I think I’m more worried about the surveillance than the road deaths.

  27. I see life is imitating “The Execution Channel” again.

    There is a solution to this which many of the underclass have discovered. Have no tax, no insurance, a fake or cloned number plate and a car that is registered to somebody else. As always it’s only the relatively law abiding who get caught. Increased automation makes this more true, not less.

    We used to think that what California was doing, the UK would do 10 years later. But in this area at least the UK is breaking new ground and ahead of where the rest of the world will be in 10 years. Only Singapore comes anywhere near us.

  28. The solution to average speed detection is to tear around everywhere at 150mph but stop for coffee every mile and a half…

    In all seriousness, I’m not too concerned about speed cameras. Yes, they’re simply a revenue stream. Yes, they may violate an enshrined legal principle (innocent until proven guilty – the camera takes a picture of your licence plate but who was driving? “I lent my car to a man in the pub… honest.”)

    The fact remains: obey the law and you won’t be recorded or fined. Protest against the law if you want, not the way it’s enforced.

    And to be honest, speed restrictions make sense in a lot of places. Hitting a child at 30mph or 40mph is (as a TV campaign here in the UK points out) the difference between 80% chance of survival and 20%. And 60mph is absolutely fast enough for a winding country road.

    The only place where the limit seems not enough is big open motorways – here travelling 80-90mph feels safe and natural – but the limit at 70mph is applied to stop people doing 100mph. If the limit were 90mph, people would travel at 120mph. Generally there are little to no cameras on these large roads anyway.

    Agree with some of the people above – stop complaining about speed cameras and focus on what’s really wrong with the country.

  29. Sounds like a good idea to me. Speeding in urban areas is anti-social, irresponsible and just plain bad manners. As long as the limits being enforced are sensible and appropriate for the road then this can only be a good thing.

    As for the privacy issues, well I’ve got nothing to hide so it doesn’t bother me.

  30. While I hate the surveillance, I hate the speeding more. I see too many people scraped up and flown into hospital here, too many kids terrified of biking to school because of the rat-run, too much selfish idiocy.

    So thanks, speeding drivers, for being so immature as to call this stuff down on all of us. It’s your fault.

  31. I will support this measure only when all records are made public and all police officers are prosecuted.

  32. Lawyers rejoice! Can you imagine the coniption fits of a police force required to prove the precise calibration of distance and data handling accuracy?

    What if you always stayed on the inner possible edge of your side of the winding road? Or the outer? Who’s to prove?

    Welcome in advance the marginal cases where 1mph over becomes 1mph under, and the police waste more precious resource farting around with this mess.

    In fact – I’m so happy about this, I will re-train as a traffic-fine evasion lawyer.

    Oh yes I will.

  33. By the way – on the topic of democracy. Who voted in the bankers? Who has more impact on our lives – the bankers, or the politicians?

    Just thought I’d ask.

  34. Even in average speed check zones, you still get the mathematically inept speeding, then slamming on the brakes when they see a camera. These people deserve all the fines they get.

  35. @Alxr (#38):
    “Even in average speed check zones, you still get the mathematically inept speeding, then slamming on the brakes when they see a camera. These people deserve all the fines they get.”
    Thank you for that example of a way in which excessive use of speed cameras makes the roads *more* dangerous rather than less, at least for anyone behind such a driver. Even people who are not otherwise driving abnormally will slam on their brakes as soon as the light turns yellow, or suddenly drop to five miles below the limit ‘just to be safe’, because the general impression of the police force in Britain today is one of mistrust and suspicion rather than respect.

    Also, @Takuan (#9):
    Most Britons do not have any desire to live in an authoritarian state. Unfortunately, those presently in authority do not seem keen on giving us a choice in the matter.

  36. re speed cameras
    “Road deaths have fallen to their lowest level since records began in 1928, according to figures published by the Department for Transport.

    Last year a total of 2,946 people died – a 7% reduction on the previous year when 3,172 died. ”

    A connection perhaps.

    nb USA road deaths total around 42,000

  37. Not happy. Unlike regular speed cameras that only record you IF you’re speeding these ones will record everybody, right? Also average speed is never the problem, over even a 10 minute drive I usually have enough junctions and other drivers slowing down to deal with that my average speed in a 30 limit is more like 20. Putting in more speed cameras where the accidents happen would improve safety, this is just more Big Brother.

  38. All police cars to have GPS locators and full data black box recorders of speed, braking, signals etc. All police communications stored permanently on harddrive. All police weapons to have gun cameras. All police cars to have 360 degree witness camera domes and internal front and back seat cameras. All paddy wagons to be similarly monitored. All stations, holding areas and jails too be monitored with data uploaded continually off site. All police weapons to be RFID chipped wiht random readers hidden throughout jurisdiction. All police personnel to be finger printed, iris scanned,DNA sampled, gait recorded and scent mapped. All police personnel at every level to be drug tested weekly. All police families to be included in program. All police political involvements to be recorded. All police religious affiliations to be recorded.

    It’s a start. It is the only way to be safe.

  39. It would be a start and should be the bare minimum – all of that to be public record and produceable on demand.
    It may go some way to avoiding situations whereby the police could turn a blind eye to offences committed by ‘one their own’.
    Such as this recent case:

    There have been many cases of speeding police drivers getting let off on technicalities.

  40. We’ve had these cameras in the UK for a couple of years at least now – I drive through a set just outside Manchester most weeks.
    The funniest thing was with the first versions, they were set on a lane per lane basis so you could drive through at whatever speed you liked as long as you’d changed lanes before you went past the next camera – they’ve fixed that with better cameras now as I found out to my cost :(

  41. The aim here is surveillance, with a side order of revenue. Already, here in the States, the two vendors of the street intersection cameras have proposed networking together with the police and other cameras and equipping the system with license plate recognition. And in Illinois, the governor has stated we shall have “speeding” cameras installed on all the interstate highways to catch “speeders”. In less than two years, I predict those cameras will be networked to the new city surveillance cameras, and all with license plate recognition. In five years, or MUCH less, expect mandatory GPS trackers installed in all new vehicles, just as they are now mandated in cell phones. Funny how there aren’t any pay phones left, at least not without a camera trained on them.

    It’s happening all over, on your dime, and it will be used against you. You can’t beat the secret cops; they have you anytime they like, manufacture any evidence they like, and frankly everyone breaks laws. There will be not a single adult or teenager in the western world that will not be subject to arrest at the whim of those behind the cameras. We’ll all be criminals on demand.

  42. #40: Neither of us can prove our theories, but I would bet money that the reduction was due to the increase in fuel prices, not the increase in speed enforcement.

    Speed limits are a scam. Especially on multi-lane highways. They’re set below the safe speed for travel in the lowest common denominator vehicles. They don’t take conditions into account. They’re frequently artificially lowered for a stretch of road for the sole purpose of setting up speed traps… They’re a revenue generating tool, and safety theater. It’s too hard to catch people doing things on the roads that are truly unsafe because they stop doing them when they see a cop.

    We’d be better off training our drivers sufficiently to allow them to use good judgment when choosing how fast they drive. Cops have the ability to ticket you for excessive speed regardless of the speed limit anyway.

    If you ask me, surveillance cameras are all the justification that is needed for allowing civilian ownership of high powered sniper rifles.

  43. #8 SEB: I should point out however, that if you really don’t want to get fined…don’t speed.

    And I should point out that if you really want to fine me for speeding… then I demand the right to face my accuser in a court of law.

  44. In the UK we have these things called “pedestrians”, I don’t think you have them in the US.

    I generally feel safe walking round where I live (inner London), but there’s the occasional man who drives his sports car at 60mph in a quiet, residential 30mph area. If these cameras detect this kind of driver, that’s worthwhile.

    I would like to see the current 30mph limit on roads in built up areas reduced to 20mph — at most it would add one minute to a journey, since most people only drive from their house to the main road in such areas. But lots of people, particularly the young and old, walk round them.

  45. #40 Trieste Last year a total of 2,946 people died – a 7% reduction on the previous year when 3,172 died. ” A connection perhaps.

    Do they teach kids to compare fractions by their numerators in the UK?

  46. Does anybody know the difference in fuel used if the 30mph limit is dropped to 20 globally?

    Also, the motorway speed limit has not changes for a very long time but the car technology has, I drive a 7 seater that handles like a sports car of the 60s, but the speed limits haven’t changed.

    Personally I support a low speed limit in built up areas but would like to see the motorway speed limit raised and enforced.

    But then again, its all about extracting the most money from the middle class so nothing will change.

  47. We had a speed camera’s flash nearly BLIND us in Scotland a few years ago.
    (no pun intended ^_^)

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