A former police officer answered some common questions about speed camera myths.
Spotting a fast van and not knowing if you’ve been caught off guard is something many of us have probably experienced and it often makes us fear the worst.
To help differentiate fact from fiction when it comes to speed cameras, North Wales Live spoke to Go Safe loss reduction officer Gareth Thomas to dispel any myths.
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The former North Wales police officer explained exactly how speed cameras work, the truth behind some of the most popular myths and claims and – and how you can avoid being caught speeding.
He said: “After I retired I decided I wanted to make the roads as safe as possible in this area.
“The purpose of the cameras is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.
“Go Safe would rather educate drivers than punish them with fines and penalty points.”
Here, Gareth answers a series of questions that will hopefully save you from being hit with a fine.
Is it true that fast vans should be visible at all times?
No. There are no visibility laws, so nothing prevents an officer from operating in the dark.
But they don’t often choose to do so and argue that being visible has a deterrent effect in itself.
Gareth said: “Legally we don’t have to be visible. I could camouflage myself if I wanted – but it’s about being fair, educating and preventing an accident.
“Even if I parked my van and went for a walk somewhere, it would deter people from speeding up right away.”
Can officers only catch motorists traveling in one direction?
No. Any car that passes a Go Safe van is recorded on the officer’s camera.
So if you go over the speed limit, whether you’re driving in the same direction or the opposite direction of the van, you can expect a speeding ticket.
Is it true that the 10% rule exists?
Yes. You won’t get a ticket provided your speed does not exceed the limit by more than 10 per cent, plus 1 mph on North Wales roads, says Gareth.
So, for example, traveling at 35mph or more in a 30mph zone will be recorded as a speeding offence.
However, Go Safe says thresholds vary and may change without notice. Officially, any speeding violation occurs at 1 mph over the limit, but most forces will allow a swerve.
Are officers revenue collectors for the government?
No. Gareth explained: “We’re not here to get numbers or to make money. We’re just here to catch people who are speeding.
“If I get a day where I get no speeding, then I know I did my job.
“If I worked eight hours, I just hope that at least one person that day escaped injury or an accident was avoided.”
Can I be caught speeding more than once on the same day by the same camera?
The current stance with Go Safe is that if you are caught twice within 20 minutes, it will be treated as one violation.
In theory, a driver with a previously blank license could be stopped multiple times on the same day – and therefore risk being disqualified under the totaling system.
If you are caught speeding several times on the same route and you accept a fixed penalty for each one, you risk a disqualification of the penalty points (totting-up).
Gareth says this can happen more easily than you think, for example when multiple speed cameras are placed on the same road or highway.
However, where the offenses are deemed to have been committed “on the same occasion”, the court has the discretion to impose a single set of points for two or more offences. It is up to the court to decide whether or not the offenses will be considered to have been committed on the same occasion. They need not have been committed simultaneously, but they must be related in some way.
So, if for example the offenses were committed within minutes of each other, it may be possible to persuade the court to impose a single set of points. Each case will depend on its facts.
Is it illegal to obstruct the view of a van on the road?
Yes. Obstructing a GoSafe van’s field of vision during its operational duties is an offense and you can be prosecuted for it.
Do officers enforce anything other than speeding?
Yes. Officers are there to make sure you are wearing a seatbelt and not using your cell phones while driving. Anyone caught breaking these laws will be prosecuted.
This is why you sometimes see a GoSafe van in an area where there are already permanent speed cameras.
Is it forbidden to eat while driving?
No it is not. However, if you get distracted while snacking while driving, the police could prosecute you for reckless driving.
Gareth said: “It’s endorsable. I had a woman in sight once and she was looking in the mirror and putting on lipstick.
“She was rolling over cat’s eyes in the center of the road and veering. I recommended that she be prosecuted for driving without care and attention.”
Is it illegal to flash your headlights to alert motorists of a GoSafe van?
If drivers choose to flash to warn others of a speeding van, they could be breaking the law.
Under Section 89 of the Police Act 1997 it is an offense to “willfully obstruct an officer in the performance of his duties”.
However, Gareth says that even though it is a misdemeanor, it is very difficult to prove. He said: “I don’t mind people flashing them to warn them of van speed – I just want to educate people and the van to act as a speed deterrent.”
How long do GoSafe Speed Vans tend to stay in a particular location?
For technical reasons, a fast van will only stay in a certain location for 90 minutes, Gareth said.
During his average eight-hour shift, he will normally visit three different locations in the area where he was ordered to go.
Who decides where the GoSafe Speed Vans park?
Law enforcement is typically carried out in certain areas for a number of reasons, including:
- One death or serious injury occurred at the scene.
- Speeds in the area were recorded as significantly elevated.
- Speeding concerns were raised by residents and these concerns were substantiated by a traffic speed survey.
- Go Safe supports police enforcement campaign
What happens if I am caught speeding?
It all depends on the circumstances under which you were caught speeding and when you exceeded the limit.
The minimum penalty for speeding on UK roads is a £100 fine.
But Gareth explained that in certain circumstances police may offer the option of attending a speed awareness course – an alternative to a fine and penalty points.
Gareth said: “An accredited course is much more likely to improve driver behavior and therefore make our roads safer.
“Courses are available for drivers who respond quickly to ‘advice’ and were driving no more than 10% plus 9 mph over the posted speed limit.”
So, for example, anyone traveling over 86 mph on a highway would not be offered the awareness course.
Those who do not have a proper license at the time of the office, or if you have taken the course within the last three years, the awareness course is unlikely to be offered to you as an option.
Operation SNAP is a police response to increasing submissions of video and photographic evidence from members of the public regarding driving offenses they have witnessed.
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