UK speeding fines and penalties: what drivers need to know

Close News by Jonathan Bryce 8 mins read 12 June 2023 Follow @jonny_bryce_ Share

There was a time when fixed and average speed cameras didn’t exist, and the most likely way of accruing endorsements (now better known as penalty points) on your licence was to miss seeing the local policeman pointing a ‘speed gun’ at your car as you edged above the posted limit.

Those days have long since passed, and the rise in digital technology now means that drivers are faced with a plethora of different roadside devices.

How can I be caught speeding?

There are a variety of different speed-detecting technologies on British roads today. Here are the most common.

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All speed cameras have to be coloured bright yellow by law and the Truvelo is no exception. Most commonly mounted on a pole at the side of a single or dual carriageway, the Truvelo uses a front-facing camera to record your speed, backed up by a matrix of small squares painted on the road. (Secondary evidence of speed is required with all fixed-position cameras.) While images of motorcycle numberplates can be tricky to capture, due to their lack of front registrations, the Truvelo can identify drivers of other vehicles, adding a further layer of evidence if a prosecution is disputed. More recently, a Truvelo D-Cam has been launched for motorway applications, with front- and rear-facing capabilities.


The name that most of us are familiar with, the Gatso first graced our road scene in 1991 and is a rear-facing camera, meaning that it records your vehicle after it’s passed the camera unit, with two images taken in quick succession. Like the Travelo, the images are supported by secondary evidence of speed provided by painted ‘dashes’ on the road surface. These dashes may be found on both sides of the road next to the camera, but the Gatso will only record your speed in the direction in which it is facing.


SPECS (average speed check cameras and speed enforcement) units measure your speed over a set distance, via two banks of cameras. Most commonly found through roadworks, or where there is a lower than normal speed limit, they use automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) to identify vehicles. As you pass the first set of cameras, your vehicle’s details are recorded, and if your average speed before reaching the second cameras is above a set threshold, a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) will be automatically generated. (See below.)


The catchily named Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3, or HADECS 3 for short, is most commonly found on smart motorways, mounted on the overhead gantries that carry variable speed limit alerts. The camera’s limited use of yellow cladding and the fact that it is a fraction of a Gatso/Travelo’s size mean that it can be easily missed, especially if you’re travelling at 70mph. HADECS 3 is rear facing, and once again it uses painted dashes on the road as secondary evidence of a vehicle’s speed. It also adapts to posted, mandatory speed limits that can vary depending on road conditions.


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Mobile speed camera units

It’s not uncommon for the police to monitor vehicle speeds at known accident hotspots using mobile units – quite literally, vehicles with miniature Gatso cameras pointing through their rear windows. These are often found parked in laybys or above dual-carriageway or motorway bridges and have a range of up to one mile. The police also have access to handheld radar- and laser-controlled devices that can be used at a variety of locations.

How will I know if I’ve been caught speeding?

If you’ve been caught speeding with a hand-held device, or one installed in a moving police car, you could be asked to stop there and then. In this case, the police have two options: they can either give you a verbal warning and send you on your way, or they can issue you with a fixed penalty notice (FPN). But if you’ve been caught speeding by a remote device, the registered keeper of the vehicle will receive a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) and section 172 notice by post within 14 days of the offence. The section 172 notice then has to be returned within 28 days, providing details of the driver who committed the offence. A fixed penalty notice (FPN) will then be issued to the driver, or if the offence is deemed serious enough, a court summons.

How much is a speeding penalty?

If you receive an FPN, you can either plead guilty or not guilty to the offence, with each decision triggering its own process. A guilty plea will generally carry a fixed £100 fine and three points added to your licence. Depending upon where you were caught speeding, there will be different ways to pay the fine, which can be found here.

However, you may be offered the option of paying instead for a speed awareness course (typically costing a similar amount to the fine itself), which will avoid the addition of points to your licence. Certain caveats exist, though. The police will decide if it’s appropriate to your offence (so it tends to be offered for more minor transgressions). And it will only be offered if you’ve not been on such a course in the past three years. It’s also worth noting that not all police authorities run speed awareness courses, so this option is by no means a given.

The situation becomes more complex if you plead not guilty, though. Of course, if you’re convinced of your innocence, then it’s the right and proper course of action and it will probably involve a trip to court. But if you lose your case, you could be fined more and receive more penalty points.

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