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Speed camera myths BUSTED by Devon & Cornwall Police Officer

speed camera police officer devon cornwall

Ever wondered why speed camera vans are positioned where they are? Do you know what distance they operate from or whether they can detect speeds in both directions?

Well, a Devon and Cornwall Police Officer has made a video to debunk some of the myths surrounding speed cameras and the vans in which they are housed.

Sgt Owen Messenger heads up the Road Casualty Reduction Officers – but he’s also a well-known face in the online world of YouTube and Tiktok.

Sgt Messenger regularly collaborates with the GCM channels to create informative and entertaining videos about roads policing and how it all works.

His videos cover a range of topics including drink and drug driving, car modification, motorbike safety, numberplate laws, tips for towing caravans and road safety around horses.

Sgt Messenger has also recently started a video series with Vision Zero South West featuring the world’s first Police Ford Focus RS in which he looks at how cars can be safely modified and tackles some of the dangerous things he has witnessed on local roads as a police officer.

In one of his most recent videos, Sgt Messenger addresses some of the common misconceptions around police speed camera vans – including how they work, why they exist and what you can and can’t do around them.

Speed Camera Myths Debunked

  • Why do you enforce speeding?

Speed is a major contributory factor in fatal and serious road collisions which we, as part of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, want to eliminate. Travelling too fast gives you less time to react if something happens and significantly increases your chances of sustaining serious or fatal injuries in the event of a collision.

  • Why do you enforce speed at the sites you do?

Enforcement sites are chosen based on data, intelligence and feedback or concerns from the local community – whether it’s residents, councillors or Community Speedwatch teams.

  • Can you stand in front of a speed camera van to block its view?

No, if you stand in front of a camera van, you are obstructing police in the carrying out their duties, which is an offence.

  • Can I flash my lights to warn other cars about a speed camera van?

Warning another driver about a speed camera van is not an offence and could result in other drivers slowing down, which is ultimately the aim. However, as Sgt Messenger points out: “Would you flash a burglar to tell them the police were coming? Probably not, and it’s the same principle.”

  • Do they have to be operated by police officers?

No, the chief constable can designate powers to members of police staff to operate the equipment and carry out speed detection.

  • With modern car technology and improvements to things like brakes, shouldn’t the speed limit be higher?

While driving technology has certainly progressed significantly in recent years, cars are still operated by humans who can mistakes. Sgt Messenger says: “The majority of collisions we attend are down to driver error and your reaction time is exactly the same in a modern car as it would be in a car from 30 years ago.”

  • What are all the CCTV cameras for on speed detection vans?

The cameras are to protect police staff and officers. They give a full 360 degree view around the van and are recording at all times while the van is operational.

  • Do the cameras only work on cars travelling in one direction?

No, the camera technology can accurately detect the speed of vehicles moving towards the camera or away from it.

  • How far away do you have to be from a camera van?

Speed camera vans have a range of around 1,000 metres and can detect offences from this distance.

  • Do you deliberately hide speed camera vans or position them behind bushes?

No, vans cannot be hidden or they would not be able to do their job. If a camera’s view is obstructed by a bush or tree, it cannot detect the speed of a vehicle.

Sgt Messenger adds: “Sometimes people ask why they are positioned near blind bends. If it’s a blind bend, why are you speeding around it? That’s exactly why the cameras are there.”

  • Are speed cameras cash cows or revenue collectors?

Sgt Messenger said: “There is nothing in law that says our speed detection vans have to be marked up – but we choose to make our vans highly visible. If you can’t seem them, perhaps there is an issue with your observation.

“These are not about collecting money. What they are about is slowing people down on the road. It’s important to remember that driving is a privilege, not a right. When you sign up for a driving license, you sign up to follow by the rules – which are all there for your safety.”

Sgt Messenger added: “If you are caught speeding and given penalty points and a fine, we don’t see any of that money. It goes straight to the national Treasury who decide how and where it is spent. “If you are offered a driver education course, a percentage of this money does come back to the local area, but can only be spent on improving road safety.”