Do speed cameras have tolerances or is that just a driving myth? Going slightly over the limit could land you in a heap of trouble, as Taxi Insurer explains.


It’s a commonly held belief among drivers that speed cameras have ‘tolerances’, which means you can slightly exceed the speed limit without getting penalised. But is this really the case? Taxi Insurer takes a look.


Speed limit enforcement plays an important role in reducing accidents and ensuring safer driving, which could have an impact on insurance for taxis in the future. It makes sense that if there are less accidents, there’ll be less claims and insurance for taxis will inevitably become even better value. 


Speed camera tolerances explained


Over the years, you may well have heard drivers talking about so-called ‘speed camera tolerance’. This is the belief that police speed cameras are set up so you can go 10% +2mph over the legal speed limit without getting into trouble.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is something of a myth and has led many drivers to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Let’s take a closer look at the reality of the situation.

Much of the confusion seems to be based on guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers a few years back. After stating that driving at any speed over the limit is an offence for which a driver can be prosecuted, it goes on to say that prosecution should not be considered when it’s lower than the speeds reached in the following table.



Speed Camera Device Tolerance

Fixed penalty when education is not appropriate

Speed awareness if appropriate


From                To

Summons in all other cases and above

20 mph

22 mph

24 mph

24 mph

31 mph

35 mph

30 mph

32 mph

35 mph

35 mph

42 mph

50 mph

40 mph

42 mph

46 mph

46 mph

53 mph

66 mph

50 mph

52 mph

57 mph

57 mph

64 mph

76 mph

60 mph

62 mph

68 mph

68 mph

75 mph

86 mph

70 mph

73 mph

79 mph

79 mph

86 mph

96 mph


While this seems like good news if you sometimes stray over the limit in your taxi, it’s important to be aware this is only guidance and is open to interpretation by local police forces. For example, in 2019, motor magazine Auto Express conducted an investigation into speed camera tolerance across the country and found some interesting results.


While it found many of the forces that responded had set both fixed and average speed cameras to only activate when a speed in excess of 10% + 2mph was reached, that wasn’t the case for all areas. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire and West Midlands refused to reveal a threshold.


Both Scotland and Nottinghamshire refused to confirm whether a threshold existed in their areas, Essex claimed that it doesn’t use a standard threshold, and both Lancashire and the Met Police revealed a threshold of 10% + 3mph. As you can see, the situation varies greatly across the UK.


Since then, the Met has lowered the threshold to 10% + 2mph, but didn’t publicise this fact to the public. This resulted in thousands of taxi drivers and motorists being caught following the threshold drop.


According to a recent story from reporters at the Daily Mail, the new rules have resulted in over 347,000 drivers being prosecuted for speeding over the last six months. Compared to the 97,000 drivers prosecuted before the new rules came into force, this has resulted in a massive 259% increase.


A recent follow-up investigation by vehicle leasing company Rivervale Leasing shows the threshold situation may also have changed in regard to other police forces. The fact of the matter is that, as a professional driver who relies on their vehicle for a living, you simply can’t take a chance when it comes to speed.


It’s critical to take note of any new or revised limits as they continue to change across the country. For example, as we recently reported, new 20mph speed limits have been proposed for many areas of central London, including large parts of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.


Drivers outside of London also need to stay aware. With smaller cities like Oxford potentially switching from 30mph to 20mph speed limits for some areas where there is local support.


Keeping within the speed limit at all times and finding the right insurance for taxis are just two of the important jobs taxi drivers need to stay on top of. If you fail to do either then you could end up in hot water.


Speed camera 101 – the devices you’re likely to encounter on UK roads


After being introduced all the way back in 1991, there are now so many speed cameras along the country’s roads they probably don’t need any introduction from us. But not all speed cameras work the same and you may encounter a number of different types when going about your daily business.


Here’s a quick guide to some of the speed cameras you might come across. And some of the other common myths about them that need to be debunked.


Fixed speed cameras


The speed camera you’re most likely to spot when out driving, a fixed speed camera registers your vehicle’s speed as it passes a particular place. Probably the easiest to spot as it tends to be painted bright yellow and fixed to a roadside pole or overhead gantry.


While the square box of a Gatso was the original rear-facing speed camera, there have been a number of other devices since. There’s now a new digital Gatso alongside the forward facing Truvelo Combi, the Truvelo D-Cam and the high-tech HADECS3 speed cameras mostly used on newer smart motorways.


Myth: If you’re speeding but don’t see a flash then you haven’t been caught.


Fact: While that may have been true of the traditional Gatso, there are now many other high-tech fixed cameras that don’t do this.


Mobile speed cameras


Obviously once motorists know where a fixed speed camera is positioned then it can lose some of its impact. That’s why they are complemented by mobile speed cameras found in marked or unmarked cars and vans all over the UK.


Usually operated by local police particularly around accident blackspots, they usually take the form of a mini-Gatso, hand-held radar or laser gun. There’s also a system called DS2 that uses piezo sensors embedded in the road to automatically trigger the cameras without the need for an operator to be present.


Be aware mobile speed cameras are also often used by safety camera partnership teams as part of speed safety campaigns.


Their purpose isn’t to be spotted and dodged. If you come round a bend too fast and are caught by a camera then you can have no complaint - try sticking within the speed limit next time.


Myth: Speed cameras need to be visible in order for the offender to be penalised.


Fact: Just because you didn’t see a speed camera clearly doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted. While many speed cameras are easily spotted, there’s no obligation on the police to make them so.


Average speed cameras


Approved for use on UK roads back in 1999, the average speed camera works by recording your speed at two different points and then working out whether you’ve been speeding or not. ANPR technology is used by the camera to identify the vehicle and its owner and issue a speeding ticket.


Unfortunately for speeding drivers, slowing down just before the camera and speeding up afterwards won’t do anything to fool this high-tech equipment. While SPECS and VECTOR were the first two models to hit our roads, there have been a number of other systems in use since.


Siemens SafeZone and SpeedSpike are the more recent entrants to the market and provide an even bigger challenge to those who flout the speeding laws. They’re becoming an increasingly common sight on UK roads, in a whole variety of areas including on motorways and around roadworks.


Myth: Average speed cameras don’t work if you change lanes.


Fact: While older cameras may have occasionally been fooled by such trickery, modern average speed cameras will still work regardless of whether you’ve sneaked into a different lane. The units now use multiple sets of cameras to take pictures of every lane so you really can’t avoid their gaze.


Speed and traffic cameras


speed camera looking at a traffic jam


The road traffic authorities don’t just want to cut down on speeding. There are a wide range of other offences that cause accidents and hold-ups on the roads every year. SpeedCurb and REDFLEX speed cameras are just two systems that have more than one purpose.


SpeedCurb uses radar to catch speeding motorists but can also catch those committing traffic light offences, too. While the REDFLEX system not only captures multiple offences by a driver in a single vehicle, but also identifies multiple offending vehicles at the same junction!


Myth: A speed camera can only catch you speeding.


Fact: At one time this may have been accurate, but no more. For example, some cameras are equipped with multiple lenses and even night vision, letting them catch many times more motorists breaking speed limits and other traffic laws than traditional cameras.


Why are speed cameras needed on the UK’s roads?


As any professional taxi driver knows, driving at an appropriate speed for the road conditions is essential for safety. However, we all know that when a passenger is in a hurry or our concentration wanders, it’s all too easy to creep over the speed limit.


Indeed, according to recent government research a staggering 56% of car drivers exceed the speed limit on 30mph roads compared to 53% on motorways and 12% on national speed limit single carriageway roads.


And the consequences of doing so can be severe, with road safety charity Brake estimating that someone is killed or seriously injured on UK roads every 16 minutes. Police say that exceeding the speed limit was a contributory factor in 19% of fatal accidents, while travelling too fast or exceeding the speed limit was a contributory factor in 25% of deaths.


But these figures only provide a snapshot of the impact that speed has on accidents. After all, if you’re driving too close to the vehicle in front or driving when tired or distracted then excessive speed is more likely to lead to a serious collision, injuries and even fatalities.


So, it’s easy to see why speed cameras are so important to road safety. But what about other potentially positive impacts?


As a taxi driver, you could benefit from increased traffic calming, a reduction in the costs of insurance for taxis, higher fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. A win-win situation for someone like you who spends so much of their working life behind the wheel.


What happens if you’re caught by a speed camera?


Even the most careful of drivers can slip over the speed limit at times and while we have seen there is some leeway about this, that isn’t always the case. Particularly if it’s more than a slight slip!


If a speed camera catches you speeding then the owner of the vehicle will be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) in the post. This is a document that provides you with details of the offence and what you must do next. It should be received by you within 14 days of the offence.


You’ll also be sent something called a section 172 notice. You must complete and return this within 28 days, telling the police who was driving the car at the time.


You’ll then receive either a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or a letter summoning you to court. Drivers who receive an FPN have a choice, they can either plead guilty or not guilty.


Pleading guilty to an FPN


A plea of guilty will land you with a £100 fine and three penalty points added to your licence. Alternatively, if it’s a minor speeding offence the police may offer the option for you to attend a speed awareness course.


Be aware you’ll only be offered a speed awareness course if:


  • You haven’t been on a speed awareness course in the previous three years.
  • The police decide it’s appropriate for your offence.


You’ll also need to pay for the course. And as a taxi driver you obviously won’t be earning when you do it.


However, a fine and points on your licence is a far more unattractive alternative for taxi drivers. As well as the effect on your licence, it could also result in a rise in premiums when it comes to taking out insurance for taxis.


Pleading not guilty to a FPN


If you plead not guilty, then you’ll have to go to court to argue your case. But remember, if the court decides you are, in fact, guilty then you could receive an even higher fine and more penalty points on your licence.


How large could the fine be? Well, that depends on what the speed limit was and how much you went over it. Usually, it will be calculated as a percentage of your weekly earnings up to a maximum of £1,000 (or £2,500 if you were speeding on a motorway).


In a worst-case scenario, you might even be disqualified from driving or have your licence suspended. Disastrous for someone who needs to drive for a living.


3 top tips for staying out of trouble


30mph sign 


Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has produced a great little road safety fact sheet to help drivers stay within speed limits and out of danger. Highlights include:


  1. Lamp posts usually mean a 30mph limit, but it could be less.
  2. 20mph is plenty when children are around.
  3. In a 30mph zone, stay below third gear in a manual car.


They also suggest recognising the triggers that make you speed, so you can avoid or manage them better when you’re behind the wheel.


If you’re in charge of a taxi fleet then it’s a good idea to send round the RoSPA factsheet as a regular reminder to all drivers. Alongside these tips, there’s lots more information that could prove useful.


It could even save lives as well as livelihoods. Read more of their top tips elsewhere on our blog.


A further tip worth considering


Following those hints should help keep you on the right side of the law. But if you’re buying a new vehicle for your taxi business then there’s another piece of advice that’s worth keeping in mind when visiting showrooms.


Although the vast majority of vehicles currently on our roads are capable of going far beyond the speed limit, one of the new driving laws introduced in 2022 means that in future this may not be possible.


The government has now made it law that all new cars are to be fitted with an Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA) device. This clever device works out the speed limit where you’re driving and sends you an alert if you go over it.


While you can override the speed limiter, it will be reactivated the next time you start the car. According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), speed limiters could potentially save countless road users from death and injury.


For more on this recent technological development read our ultimate guide to speed limiters.


Buying a new taxi is always exciting. Just remember to speak to the specialists at Taxi Insurer when looking for insurance for taxis.


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