Gatso speed cameras explained

Since the introduction of speed cameras on Britains roads in 1992, it's the Gatso meter 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.

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.

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.

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 or get involved with a live debate via our online forum.

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.

Gatso Speed Camera Questions and Answers

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?

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: 17th March 2015