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Drivers can avoid speeding tickets...by changing lanes

15.10.06

A massive flaw in a new generation of speed cameras means motorists can avoid fines and points on their licence simply by changing lanes.
The Home Office admitted last night that drivers can avoid being caught the by hi-tech 'SPECS' cameras which calculate a car's average speed over a long distance.
The astonishing loophole means that millions of speeding drivers around Britain could escape a £60 fine and three points on their licence.The hidden blind-spot - revealed today by the Daily Mail - raises questions about the supposedly foolproof hi-tech camera system which is increasingly used on Britain's roads.
Although designed to improve road safety, the loophole means that drivers may actually increase the risk of accidents by continually switching lanes.
Police chiefs were last night forced to urge drivers not to exploit the shortcoming by trying to evade the cameras.
The flaw affects the controversial SPECS cameras. Unlike standard Gatso cameras which individually flash a car as it passes, these cameras measure a driver's average speed between two fixed points - which can be many miles apart.
If this average speed between cameras is higher than the speed limit, the driver gets a fine through the post and three points on their licence.
The cameras were designed to catch motorists who simply slow down in front of a camera, and then drive above the speed limit until they reach the next one.
But, under Home Office rules governing the camera equipment, prosecutions are only valid if a driver is filmed in the same lane at the start and finish of each section by a linked pair of cameras.
The Home Office admitted yesterday that the hi-tech SPECS cameras - produced by Camberley-based Speed Check Services - are only approved to be used one lane at a time.
That means a three-lane motorway would require three separate sets of cameras - one for each lane. If drivers leave the speed-camera zone via a different lane to the one they entered in, they cannot normally be prosecuted.
The camera's manufacturers - Speed Check Services (SCS) - confirmed that drivers could escape prosecution by lane-hopping but discouraged it on 'safety' grounds.
Sets of the cameras have been installed at 27 sites around the UK at a cost of between £180,000 and £1.5 million per site, according to Geoff Collins, SCS's sales and marketing manager.
Fourteen of the sites are permanent while another 13 are temporary at road works, where their presence has mushroomed in recent years. Sites that run for longer distances cost more because they need more cameras.
They include permanent cameras around Nottingham, a 20mph zone around Tower Bridge in London, the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and at roadworks on the M6 in the West Midlands, the M25, the A1(M) and the M1 in Hertfordshire, the A2 in Kent, and the M56 in Cheshire.
The SPECS cameras work by measuring the time a vehicle takes to pass between two number plate reading cameras set up to 6.2 miles apart.
A computer works out the time it takes to cover the distance, and then calculates the average speed.
If this is higher than the speed limit, a colour photograph taken by a third digital camera is stored for enforcement purposes. Multiple sets of the cameras are installed on stretches of road to make 'enforcement zones'.
But under Home Office 'type approval' rules, each individual set cannot be linked to any of the others. So cars are timed only between sets of number plate readers 'paired' for the same lane.
Most of the time each number plate reader in a pair will be directed at the same single lane of traffic and will therefore not detect lane hoppers, according to Mr Collins. He said:' If it's configured to monitor one particular lane, then it wouldn't pick up a lane changer.'
He added: 'There are configurations when (a speeding vehicle) would not be picked up, if it's gone from lane one to lane three between cameras.'
The company's technical director Graeme Southwood said that when the devices were approved by the Home Office in 1999, they passed strict tests for use in one lane at a time. But there was not enough time or finances to extend Home office approval tests to cover the cameras' use over two or three lanes at a time. This has created the loop-hole.
He still claimed - without spelling out any detail - that this loop-hole was not actually foolproof and that some of those who attempt to use it will still face a speeding prosecution.
And Med Hughes, head of roads policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it would be 'irresponsible' and dangerous for drivers to change lanes in a bid to avoid detection - adding that motorists would 'not be able to guarantee' they could avoid being penalised if they changed lanes.
Mr Hughes, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, said: 'Motorists who change lanes in average speed detection lanes, such as major road works, will not be able to guarantee avoiding detection. Multiple enforcement systems are often used and detection zones will vary depending on the placement of the equipment.'
'Motorists are strongly advised not to seek to evade detection by unnecessarily changing lanes as this would generate a greater risk of collision and may lead to other offences being committed which the police may prosecute.
'These camera systems are designed to make our roads safer by reducing speed and casualties. It is irresponsible for motorists to deliberately seek to evade detection and speed.'
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: 'The manufacturers applied for the camera to be type-approved to measure one lane only. It has been type-approved for this use - this can be either the lane under the camera or a lane to either side of it.'
'A SPECS camera measures a vehicles speed over distance in one lane.'
Motoring groups say police are putting too much reliance on cash-raising speed cameras which can fine a driver a few miles above the speed limit - but are unable to spot a dangerous, drunk, uninsured, or untaxed driver in an unroadworthy or stolen vehicle who is driving under the speed limit.
Last year more than 2 million motorists were caught speeding on camera, raising £120m a year in revenue for so-called 'Safety Camera Partnerships' comprising police, magistrates councils and road safety groups.
Speed cameras have boomed on British roads from a handful a decade ago to 3,300 fixed sites and 3,400 mobile devices today. At the same time there has been an 11 per cent cut in police patrols.
Edmund King, director of the RAC Foundation, said: 'I think the danger might be that you get people playing Russian Roulette and nipping from one lane to another to lessen their odds of being caught. They won't know entirely but they might think there's more chance.'

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23370879-details/Drivers+can+avoid+speeding+tickets...by+changing+lanes/article.do
 

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I think this is a ploy!! If the camera's can detect a car in lane 3, and a car in lane 1, and the system is designed to recognise number plates, why will it not pick up those who switch from lanes 1 to 3? It simple maths, and the ave. speed equation isn't going to be at all far out for the difference between lanes 1 and 3.

And I hope we won't be encouraging speeding through areas where workmen are in real danger!! [:p]
 

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Always wondered why ive never been done by these average speed cameras, i love changing lanes...it brightens up the wacky motorway experiance.
 

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They loop hole is in the article above "the system is only approved for single lane use i.e 3 lanes = 3 cameras " If i understood. Brave peeps who try though

Jay
 

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Would you have asked for a average speed camera system to be developed and not specified that it must catch drivers regardless of whether they've changed lanes or not? I know I wouldn't!

Or, is it more plausible that the government/speed camera companies forsee a shortfall in revenue due to the human rights example and have leaked a story that the SPECS camera's don't work, therefore setting the whole motoring population free regarding speed, and they rake in a s**t load more. The media will jump all over this, loving it that the motorist is actually getting some sort of justice. Are we??

Will you be able to tell the magistrate that you read somewhere that the camera's didn't work? Of course not. It's awfully amazing, don't you think, that we find this out just after news of the speed camera company bloke saying "you'll have buckets of money, you won't know what to do with it!"

Don't get me wrong, I hate camera's, but for the small inconvenience of being late, or doing 75 instead of 85 I'll stick to the limits and keep my hooning about to the back roads.

Besides, I would prefer a rise in traffic police. I don't mind being stopped, as I have all the necessary docs to allow me to drive. True, I'm a young man with a nice fast-ish car, but there are so many idiots and social vagrants out there driving uninsured cars, with no tax, MOT, NO LICENSE!!! And what's out there to catch them??? A God dammed GATSO. Yeah, fat chance of them ever being caught then.
 

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Police chiefs were last night forced to urge drivers not to exploit the shortcoming by trying to evade the cameras.
I love that line. Okay officer, I've just realised I've been speeding and I'm approaching a camera. I'll just carry on and take the fine eh? [^o)]
 

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LOL at the police chiefs. You wait....next they will have camera's which watch us changing lanes, to make sure we get the fine either for speeding, or for changing lanes!

I'm not looking forward to driving in 10 years time. Will be hell and very very expensive.

Like my dad said the other night. 30 years ago, all he had to look out for when 'testing' his Capri was coppers sitting in escorts, of which there wern't many and in those day's, they would just tell you off. They had better things to be doing. But, also in those days, he said people respected the law. Driving in citites in the fog/smog and people would all look out for wach other etc. Dunno how true that is.
 

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I think I can expand a bit on this for you all.

I work in Highway Maintenance and we occasionally specify the use of Specs cameras in roadworks sites to make them safer for us silly buggers who work the other side of the cones, (not to catch people speeding and make money from fines). We get involved with Speed Check Services who manufacture, install and run these cameras and I can confirm that what is said above is 100% true - At the moment

At present each part of the Specs system comprises of two cameras, one start camera, one end camera and a control box. Both cameras are fitted with ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and one camera has a digital camera built into it aswell. The cameras are linked together by optic fibre cables via a control box located within a compound nearby. The start camera reads the vehicles number plate and logs the time it passes the camera. When the vehicle passes the end camera its number plate is read again and the time it passes the camera is again logged. Either the start or end camera will also take a digital photograph of the car. This information is all passed to the control box which calculates the average speed of the car. If its below the set enforcement limit the images and times etc are discarded, but if its over the set enforcement limit the photograph, times and speed calcs are saved on a hard drive for later prosecution.

The current system is limited in the fact that only one pair of cameras can be linked to one control box, if a second pair of 'live' cameras are used they will have their own separate control box. Neither control box can communicate with each other. In most instances the linked cameras will operate in the same lanes, so one pair of cameras may be monitoring lane 1 and another separate pair will be monitoring lane 2. This means that you can only be prosecuted if you pass both the start and end cameras connected to the same control box (and are speeding!) Hence if you change lanes through the enforcement zone you may pass the start camera in lane 1 and the end camera in lane 2 and as these two cameras are not linked you will not get caught.

This should work for a system with only 2 cameras per lane.

The problems come on long stretches where there may be several cameras in each lane. A certain number of these will be dummy cameras, infact in most roadworks applications over a long distance, the first few and last few cameras are normally dummies with the live start and end cameras placed just before and after the area where the work is being carried out. Those of you who are keeping up with this may see where I am going.

An example of how you could get caught on a system like this is:

Say there are 6 cameras monitoring lane 2 in a Specs setup, with only cameras 3 and 5 being the live ones.

You are speeding, and enter the Specs area in lane 1 and pass cameras 1 and 2, then change lane to lane 2 and pass cameras 3, 4, 5 and 6.

You think you have got away with it as you have passed the first camera in lane 1 and the last camera in lane 2, but in actual fact you were speeding in lane 2 between cameras 3 and 5 which were the live ones and therefore you get caught.

What I'm saying is its very hard to judge which lanes are being monitored by which cameras, and impossible to detect which cameras are the live ones. The only way you may be able to tell is that the live ones may have generators near them to power them and/or you may only see optic fibre cables running from the bases of the poles with the live cameras. This only applies in roadworks setups as they are temporary. On permanent setups you cannot see any of the cabling and therefore cannot tell which are wired up and live. In fact several permanent setups will use real cameras on all poles and only connect one pair to the control box, making them live. The benefit of this is that they can change between pairs of cameras as and when they please.

I wouldn't ecourage speeding through any specs sites, especially roadworks (as you definately see things differently from the other side of the cones) but if you do, be warned that lane changing is not a definate way of avoiding getting caught, especially on multi camera setups!

PLUS Speed Check Services are currently developing a system, smartly named 'Specs 2' which will allow multiple cameras to be run from one control box. This will compare data from all live cameras and will catch all people who speed through the specs zone, regardless of whether or not they change lanes!

I hope this helps shed some more light on the subject and makes some of you think before going out and trying to fool the Specs system. It can be done but just don't come back here whinging when you get caught out trying to do it! [;)]
 

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I am pretty sure that the SPEC cameras on the A2 have three cameras clocking you as you enter the zone and three as you exit. All three cameras are positioned on the same pole and as the A2 has three lanes i would guess that camera 1(left) on the entrance is paired with its mate camera1(left) on the entrance. Then maybe the same set-up for the other two. What you think, its all well and good if the SPEC set-up consits of one camera at the start and one at the exit, but to me it looks as if they have 3 "pairs" of camera to control the three lanes.

TBH i would never chance flying through these bloody things its the same as when your mate goes "you see that speed camera coming up well they aint got no film in it and they dont work cause me Uncle Stanley went through it in his transit and he was going well fast" My license is worth too much to me to do that and i would hate to get three points on it!......

Carl [:D]
 

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All three cameras are positioned on the same pole and as the A2 has three lanes i would guess that camera 1(left) on the entrance is paired with its mate camera1(left) at the exit

[:$]
 

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Old School UkMkivs Member
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All three cameras are positioned on the same pole and as the A2 has three lanes i would guess that camera 1(left) on the entrance is paired with its mate camera1(left) at the exit

[:$]
That being the case it would be sensible to assume that the start camera in lane 1 is paired with the end camera in lane 1, and similar for both lanes 2 and 3. Thats sensible to assume not safe to assume!

As you said its best not to risk these things [;)]

The case I was trying to put forward above about not knowing which cameras are live is if for example you have 6 cameras, 1 on each of 6 poles over a long section of roadworks, not 2 poles with 3 cameras on each.

As the setup you describe only has two poles (one with start cameras and the other with end cameras) its safe to say that that is the timing zone, but not safe to assume that lane 1 start is paired with lane 1 end if you see what I mean.
 

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TBH I dont agree with disregarding spec s most of the specs I have seen are in road works (in fact I have never seeen them elsehwre) and getting people to slow down in conttraflows and roadworks is eriously important... its the one time this governement have got it right when it comes to technology and monitoring of traffic
 

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TBH I dont agree with disregarding spec s most of the specs I have seen are in road works (in fact I have never seeen them elsehwre) and getting people to slow down in conttraflows and roadworks is eriously important... its the one time this governement have got it right when it comes to technology and monitoring of traffic
Agreed [Y]

I work on the highways quite regularly as I carry out bridge inspections and maintenance for the Highways Agency. It is quite daunting at first when you walk around in a coned off lane of a dual carriageway with cars passing you in the live lane at 70mph+ It makes you realise how vulnerable you are with just a plastic cone between you and the them!

With the number of fatalities of roadworkers always so high due to being struck by vehicles veering into roadworks I am definately all for a way of enforcing speed restrictions through roadworks that works.

On a 6 yearly inspection of a big bridge near where I live (Orwell Bridge) we had single lane closures on 24hrs a day for about 3 months so as to protect us working on the bridge carrying out the inspection. Specs was used in both directions to monitor speeds of the traffic in the live lane over the full length of the bridge (nearly a mile). With the speed limit set at 40mph and the enforcement limit set at 46mph average, over the entire 3 months, NO people were caught speeding!! In fact at all times of day and night vehicles speeds rarely rose over 35mph! A big plus for those of us working there and a big [Y] to the Specs system.

6 years earlier Gastso's were used to cover a smiliar inspection and due to the nature of the bridge these could only be sited at each end of the bridge. Several hundred people were caught then with speeds noted between the two cameras, where everbody was working, averaging 60-70mph with a 40mph limit in place.

Just goes to show Specs really does work.
 

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Agree with that aswell, having them installed at roadworks/motorway sites is a really good idea and they seem to be working well on the a2 aswell. Was just driving through a min ago and all cars were cruising at a reasonable speed. I get what you were explaining mate about the set up of the six or so cameras. Bet you can work a bit easier knowing the SPEC is giving you a little more protection.

Carl [:D]
 

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If an Artic wipes out at 40 or 60, it makes little difference.

What should happen is that far more attention should be given to physically protecting the workforce. Roadworks lengths should be reduced to reasonable lengths and works carried out on a rolling basis, there is no need to have seven miles of motorway under cones at anyone time.

It wouldn't be a problem then and people would not mind slowing down.
 
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