Gatso speed cameras explained

Since the introduction of speed cameras on Britains roads in 1992, it's the Gatsometer BV speed camera which has become the most commonly used camera on the UK's roads. Though some counties such as Northamptonshire and Hampshire favour Truvelo cameras instead. Plus, Norfolk are in the process (Autumn 2015) of changing a number of their old Gatso cameras for the new Truvelo D-Cam.

Back in 1992 when Gatsos and other speed cameras were first introduced they were all painted grey, then a change in the law in 2001 saw all speed or "safety" cameras change to be painted bright yellow to ensure visibility at the roadside.

New Digital Gatso Speed Camera

New digital Gatso speed cameras were introduced onto the UK's roads in 2007. These new Gatso cameras are considerable larger than original Gatsometer's and are now completely digital, eliminating the need for film to be retrieved by the Police/camera operator. This means the new digital Gatsometer will no longer run out of film so they will always be active.

This new Gatso has also been designed to "fit and forget." It is described like this because it does not require the speed camera to be lowered for maintenance. These Gatso speed cameras are popular across London and are increasingly replacing old 'wet film' Gatsos across the UK.

Like the original Gatso, the new digital Gatso is rear-facing and uses radar technology, so if you are using a radar detector you will detect these speed cameras. You will also be alerted to these Gatsos using a GPS speed camera detector.

How does Gatso work?

Gatso speed cameras use radar technology to measure how fast a vehicle is traveling. If a motorist is driving above the speed limit for that road then serveral photo are then taken of the vehicle. The Gatso uses a powerful flash to show the rear of the vehicle, its registration plate, and calibration lines on the road. Gatso speed cameras are always rear facing. The reason for this is that the speed cameras 'flash' will not blind oncoming motorists. However, this also means that the speed camera may not be visible until the last second (as pictured above).

It is a legal requirement to have a secondary measurement for speed. This is why at every Gatso speed camera location there are white lines painted on the road. The distance between each line represents 5mph so there can be no dispute over how fast you were driving. If there is any dispute over whether the radar technology captured the correct speed of the vehicle that was speeding the white lines are there as a secondary measurement.

The Gatso can differentiate between different speed limits for different vehicles. For example cars, caravans and HGV's have different speed limits and the camera will measure the vehicles length and impose the correct speed limit for each vehicle.

The fixed Gatso uses a reel of film to record photos to. The film can soon run out in busy areas.

Video of Gatso speed camera

Can Gatsos catch you speeding on the opposite side of the road?

The Gatso meter speed camera is a rear facing camera and as such can only succesfully obtain a vehicles speed when driving past the Gatso. In other words if a Gatso speed camera is on the opposite side of the road and is pointing towards you it cannot record or catch you speeding. However be sure you're driving towards a Gatso and not the forward facing Truvelo camera as these are designed to work as a motorist drives towards them! It's also worth noting that Gatso's which are installation on a central reservation of traffic island can be turned periodically to target motorists traveling in either direction.

Where are Gatsos used?

Gatso speed cameras are mainly in the form of a permanently installed unit. Gatso safety cameras can be installed to poles and existing street furniture. Gatso can also measure the length of vehicles for which there are different speed limits. Each Gatso speed camera costs approximately £20,000 to install. However they can cost as much as £40,000 if they are located in a rural location, as the system requires a 240v power supply.

These include fixed installations at the side of the road, mobile speed camera vehicles (both parked and moving) and overhead gantries on motorways such as the M25.

Gatso can be used in a vehicle too. Speed measurement can be monitored in both directions of travel from a parked or moving vehicle.

Gatso speed cameras are often used in road works. These speed cameras work on a integrated battery which can last up to a week. Gatso can also be used on a tripod as a mini gatso. These systems work on a lightweight battery offering 8 hours of continuous operation.

It used to be the case that speed cameras had to be located in accident black spots. However, since 2007 these requirements have been removed. The Gatsos must be visible and clearly signposted though.

Pictured below new digital Gatsometer speed camera. The camera pictured below replaced an old (orignal) Gatso camera on Longden Road, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Gatso Speed Camera Questions and Answers

Question: I had a camera flash once from the front while I was driving on Gateshead Road towards South Shields and the speed limit is 40mph and I was driving about 38mph. Now my concern is, was this flash for me? If it is how much will be the fine? I have attached an image of the camera type. Hope I will get a reply soon. Thanks you.

Answer: Gatso speed cameras target and capture motorists when driving away from the camera, they capture the rear number plate.

If you were driving towards the camera, flash from the front, you have nothing to worry about.

Gatso cameras have been known to flash by themselves for no apparent reason.

Watch the video below for another example:

Question: I've received a speed fine from a speed camera location in Telford, Shropshire (pictured below), however although I could have only gone through 2 or 4 of the little white lines before turning right where the red mini is. Could it be that I was caught when parked in the layby that someone else activated the camera, as I can't see how I would be doing 35mph when slowing to turn so close to the speed camera?

Answer: I don't believe that would be the case. However I would voice your concerns to the Police force/Safety Camera Partnership that has issued the speeding fine.

Follow up: Just to let you know I rang up the safer road partnership I was in the layby when a biker went past and the ANPR took my registration they have cancelled the speeding ticket.

Subsequent reply: I'm really surprised to read that you were caught falsely by a Gatso speed
camera. Gatso's use two methods to record the speed of a passing vehicle - 1. radar
technology to trigger the camera and 2. the lines in the road confirm the
passing vehicles speed. If however your vehicle was static then they'd know you weren't speeding.

Media coverage: I've had lots of coverage from all the papers and radio stations as well as
news associations ring, it's obviously good news for them. Read ITV 's coverage of the story.

Question: I was caught driving past a Fixed Gatso speed camera which was half way down its column during the calibration process. The light flashed so I turned and took photos of the camera with the service technician. I was issued with a speeding fine for traveling at 46MPH in a 40MPH zone. Can you advise me if the camera has to be at the top of the column in its intended height to give an accurate speed reading?

Ask your own question and read comments in general about speed cameras in the UK.

Question: I was driving on the A1 going towards Berwick upon Tweed when the GATSO speed Camera on the other side of the road flashed. I have received a fixed penalty notice. Is this correct?

Answer: Gatos speed cameras use two methods to capture and record speeding motorists.

The first is via the speed cameras technology, which in the case of Gatso is via radar. When a motorist/vehicle passes the camera too fast the speed camera is set off or triggered to take the necessary photo(s).

The second is to use the white markings on the road. In the case of a Gatso camera two photos in quick succession are taken. Using the white markings on the road, the vehicles speed can also be calculated.

So evidence would be available proving or disproving that you were speeding at the time you passed the Gatso speed camera on the A1 near Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

Ask your own question and read comments in general about speed cameras in the UK.

Points and Penalties

The absolute minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK's roads increased 66.7% in July 2013 from £60 to £100 fine. A minimum of 3 penalty points will also be added to your licence.

However, depending on the road speed limit and your actual recorded speed in the speeding offence a court summons may be generated in place of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) through the post. For more information click here.

Gatso locations

What's your view and experiences with GATSO speed cameras? Tell us here.

Want to know where the UK's Gatso speed cameras are as you drive? Here at we have a UK database of speed camera locations. This database also includes SpeedCurb, Truvelo, New Truvelo, SPECS, Peek, Traffic Light speed cameras and more. To read more about the speed camera types click here.

Speed camera alerts as you drive

Did you know you can be alerted to where Gatso and other speed cameras are along UK roads via in car devices? These systems include dedicated speed camera detectors, sat navs with speed camera locations and various apps for smartphones. To read more view our buyers guide which talks you through the various features and different technology the different systems use. We also have dedicated reviews for each product with user comments.

We also sell a range of speed camera detectors which you can browse via our online shop. We only stock systems that we consider will give you the best, most accurate, reliable and frequently updated speed camera databases. So whether you are a motorist, truck driver or caravanist you can rest assured you have the best speed camera warning system.

Click here to visit our online detector shop.

Last updated: 18th March 2016