Speed-camera detector laws

There’s a lot of confusion around the legality of using speed-camera detectors in the UK and abroad. Find out what they are, how they work and if they’re legal. 

There’s a lot of confusion around the legality of using speed-camera detectors in the UK and abroad. Find out what they are, how they work and if they’re legal. 

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
4
minute read
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Posted 21 APRIL 2021

What is a speed-camera detector?

A speed-camera detector is a device that can be mounted on the dashboard of your car. It’s designed to help you stay within the legal speed limits by alerting you to fixed and mobile speed cameras while you’re driving. The most modern devices can also detect speed laser guns and traffic light cameras.

Some speed-camera detectors are also available as smartphone apps.

Used correctly, speed-camera detectors can help you monitor your speed, tell you to slow down when you’re going too quickly and encourage generally safer driving habits.

How do speed camera detectors work?

A speed camera detector can be used to help you drive safely by: 

  • Alerting you to nearby speed cameras 
  • Warning you about accident blackspots and congestion zones 
  • Reminding you of the legal speed limit 

Types of speed camera detector

  • GPS Detector – uses a database that contains the locations of fixed speed cameras, accident blackspots and even schools. It will let you know if you’re approaching any of these using your GPS position and warn you of potential dangers.  
     
  • Radar and laser detector – picks up on radar or laser transmissions from police speed-detection devices to warn you of their location.  
     
  • Laser jammer – used to detect and block radar and laser signals from police speed cameras so they won’t be able to register a driver’s speed. Laser jammers are illegal in the UK and most other countries.   

Are speed-camera detectors legal in the UK?

GPS detectors 
GPS-only detectors are legal in the UK because the information they use is widely available to everyone.  
 
Radar/laser detectors 
For now, radar and laser devices are legal in the UK. But there has been debate in Parliament about banning them, mainly because some drivers use them to avoid getting caught for reckless driving. 
 
Radar and laser detectors are banned in most EU countries, and the ongoing conversation in the UK has already led to many retailers, including Halfords, taking radar and laser-only detectors off the shelves.     
 
Laser jammers 
Laser jammers are illegal in the UK and most other countries. If you’re caught using one, you’ll be prosecuted. You could get a heavy fine or even face a prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.   

Are speed-camera detectors legal in Europe?

Speed-camera detection devices are illegal in most EU countries including France, Spain and Italy. You could end up with a heavy fine just for having one in your car.  
 
France, in particular, is very strict about speed-camera detectors. Penalties are high – you risk a fine of up to 1,500 Euros, confiscation of your vehicle, and could even have your UK driving licence confiscated by French police.  
 
If you’re driving to Europe and have a speed-camera detector, our advice would be to leave it at home, even if it’s legal to use in the UK. 

Did you know? 

Even if you do 31mph in a 30mph zone, you’re breaking the law. Although most drivers think they’ll get away with a 10% leeway, it’s up to the police to decide whether to penalise or not.   

Other ways to monitor your speeding

Thanks to car safety technology, it’s easy to monitor your speed without the need for a speed-camera detector.  
 
Dash cams  
A dash cam is an in-car camera which records the road ahead during your journey. This footage can be used as video evidence if you have an accident or need to settle a car insurance claim. Many dash cams also include GPS, which can show your vehicle’s speed and alert you to fixed speed cameras in the area.  
 
Sat navs 
Many modern vehicles are now equipped with sat nav features via smartphone apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Android Auto uses Google Maps, which gives alerts for speed limits and fixed speed cameras.  
 
Black box telematics  
Black box telematics devices or apps are particularly useful for young drivers. The black box monitors how well you drive. If you drive safely, you may get a discount on your car-insurance premium. Monitoring your driving habits can encourage you to stick to the speed limit and improve your general road awareness. 
 
Speed limiters 
A speed limiter, also called Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), is a new safety feature set to become mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the UK from 2022.  
 
Speed-limiter technology uses GPS data and sign-recognition cameras to identify speed limits. If the car is moving too fast, the ISA will sound a warning and automatically slow the vehicle down.  

Speed awareness

Although technology could help you monitor your speeding, the best way to stay safe and avoid a fine and penalty points is to drive responsibly and be aware of your speed at all times. Safe driving habits can also help keep your car insurance premiums down, as there’ll be less risk of you having an accident and making a claim.

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