New info reveals UK speed camera tolerances

Just how lenient are Britain’s speed cameras, and can you rely on your car’s speedometer?

Earlier this year, you might have heard rumours that speed cameras in the United Kingdom have such low tolerances that just 1mph over the speed limit could have a ticket coming your way. Our sister magazine, Auto Express, did some digging to bring the truth to light.

Through Freedom of Information requests, the real thresholds for most of the UK’s 45 police forces have been revealed, giving us an idea of just how wary we should be when passing one of our 3224 speed cameras. Thankfully, the dreaded ‘1mph-over speed ticket’ rumour was proved to be false.

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> UK speeding convictions vary wildly between regions

Although some police forces failed to respond, the vast majority that did stated that cameras would only flash if drivers exceeded the limit by ten per cent plus 2mph, following guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers – in a 30mph zone, you’d have to do 35mph to trigger a camera, or 79mph in a 70mph zone. All police forces told Auto Express that thresholds applied to both fixed and average speed cameras.

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The most relaxed cameras can be found within the reach of Lancashire and Metropolitan police forces, with their cameras allowing ten per cent plus 3mph. The Metropolitan Police said the more lenient system was ‘a proportional response to the high volumes of traffic’ in the capital, with Lancashire Police stating it had been done ‘to ensure greater tolerance or discretion’. A number of forces were reluctant to disclose camera thresholds, stating that it would encourage drivers to speed.

Speed camera thresholds across the UK

Police forceNumber of camerasCamera activation threshold
Avon and Somerset4110% + 2mph
Bedfordshire38Would not reveal threshold
Cambridgeshire32Would not reveal threshold
Cheshire1510% + 2mph
Cleveland410% + 2mph
Derbyshire1810% + 2mph
Devon and Cornwall9810% + 2mph
Durham0 fixed10% + 2mph
Essex63Doesn't use a standard threshold
Greater Manchester235Would not reveal threshold
Gwent2110% + 2mph
Hampshire3610% + 2mph
Hertfordshire53Would not reveal threshold
Kent10910% + 2mph
Lancashire3410% + 3mph
Leicestershire3010% + 2mph
Merseyside1810% + 2mph
Metropolitan Police/TfL80510% + 3mph
Norfolk2610% + 2mph
North Wales2810% + 2mph
Northumbria5510% + 2mph
Nottinghamshire48Refused to confirm if threshold exists
Police Service of Northern Ireland1210% + 2mph
Scotland173Refused to confirm if threshold exists
South Wales13710% + 2mph
South Yorkshire2510% + 2mph
Staffordshire286Would not reveal threshold
Suffolk410% + 2mph
Thames Valley29410% + 2mph
Warwickshire2810% + 2mph
West Mercia2310% + 2mph
West Midlands33Would not reveal threshold
West Yorkshire40210% + 2mph

How accurate is your car's speedo?

Auto Express also ran tests to determine the accuracy of car speedometers, finding that all cars tested fell within the 10 per cent plus 6.25mph over-read allowed by law. A VBox recorder showed that when set to various speeds via cruise control, the least accurate model read just 3mph below the actual speed.

Commenting on the investigation, AA president Edmund King said it was ‘sensible to have some flexibility’ with speed limit enforcement, ‘as the last thing we need is drivers concentrating solely on the speedo and not the road’.

ModelTrue speed at indicated 30mphTrue speed at indicated 50mphTrue speed at indicated 60mphTrue speed at indicated 70mph
Kia e-Niro First Edition27mph47mph57mph67mph
BMW i3s28mph48mph58mph68mph
SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 11529mph49mph60mph69mph
SEAT Tarraco 2.0 TDI 150 manual29mph49mph59mph68mph
Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 150 manual28mph48mph57mph67mph
Peugeot 5008 BlueHDi 130 manual28mph48mph57mph68mph
Volvo XC40 D4 auto R-Design30mph49mph59mph69mph
Mazda MX-5 2.027mph48mph58mph68mph
Dacia Duster dCi 115 28mph48mph58mph68mph
BMW 330i M Sport28mph48mph57mph67mph
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