Can overhead motorway cameras still catch you if they’re ‘off’?

motorway camera advice

Speed cameras on overhead motorway gantries are a familiar sight across the UK, with almost all major motorways being upgraded to ‘smart’ motorways. When motorways become congested or there is an accident, the speed limit is altered accordingly to help streamline the flow of traffic. When a speed is shown on the boards, it is not a recommendation, it is a stipulation. If you exceed the speed shown, you’ll be caught by the camera and will receive a fine.

These cameras are not usually recording an average speed taken over a longer distance; they are recording your speed at the exact point that a camera is installed. Average speed cameras tend to be labelled accordingly and are often installed during patches of temporary road works.

The overhead boards are also used to direct motorists to use the hard shoulder when the lanes are very congested, or when an accident or breakdown requires the hard shoulder to be reverted back to a refuge area. The gantries are also used to alert motorists to problems up ahead – particularly bad areas of congestion that you might wish to try and avoid, or the expected time before reaching key junctions.

Smart motorways were first introduced in 2006, and there are now over 200 miles of motorways in the UK that are controlled by smart cameras on overhead gantries. This is set to double in the near future, with plans for another 200 miles of cameras in the pipeline.

If there is no speed shown on the boards, the speed limit is the national limit. In the case of a motorway, this is 70 MPH due to the presence of the central reservation. So what happens if you exceed the national speed limit when the boards look like they’re off? Are they still recording? Will you still risk getting a fine?

Off doesn’t always mean off

The answer is it differs on different motorways. Generally speaking, the cameras are often only recording when the national speed limit has been lowered. However, some are still recording and if you exceed the limit you will indeed receive a speeding penalty.

This is somewhat controversial, with some motorists believing that they should be given fair warning when a camera is recording and when it is not. However, regardless of how you feel about the legitimacy of this, it is definitely not worth taking the risk. Keeping your speed consistent with the national limit is safest for you and for other motorists, and it will mean you don’t risk receiving an unexpected speeding fine in the post.

If you’ve been charged with speeding then we’re available 24/7 at Motoring Defence to advise you on the next steps and how best to fight your case.  Just call us on 0800 612 4859.