Speed camera detectors to be banned under crackdown on drivers who escape penalties
Last updated at 18:05pm on 24th July 2007
Motorists caught using popular gadgets which detect speed cameras are set to face stiff fines and penalty points under tough new laws.
Tens of thousands of in-car devices which use laser or radar technology will be banned to stop speeding drivers outwitting traffic police with mobile traps.
Although the expensive gadgets are still on sale from scores of motoring accessory retailers, they will become illegal within a matter of months.
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Tens of thousands of in-car devices which use laser or radar technology will be banned
Satellite navigation systems and other devices which warn drivers about the location of fixed speed cameras or mobile speed trap zones will still be legal to use on UK roads.
But any radar or laser detection products which can alert motorists to exact positions of mobile speed traps will be outlawed under new legislation.
Punishment for using the gadgets has yet to be decided, but the Department for Transport today warned that motorists could face penalty points and fines.
Offending drivers could also risk having the devices, worth several hundred pounds, confiscated by police, the DfT said.
The gadgets are to be outlawed under provisions of the Road Safety Act 2006 - the same legislation which recently introduced new penalties for motorists using mobile phones.
The provisions relating to speed camera detectors are not yet in force but are expected to be introduced within the next few months, or by early 2008 at the latest.
Campaigners today blasted the new legislation branding it a 'shocking and spiteful' attack on motorists.
Paul Smith, founder of road safety campaign group Safe Speed, said: "I think this is a complete waste of time.
"There's no evidence that banning these devices will provide any road safety improvements whatsoever. It seems to me more spiteful than sensible.
"The DfT is creating a nation of motorists who are more concerned with not breaking the law and watching their speedometers rather than the road.
"In doing this they are not promoting safer driving at all and the policy seems based on flawed evidence." He added that he found the suggested penalties 'utterly shocking'.
A DfT spokesman said: "The penalty is yet to be decided. There is likely to be a consultation process as to what the penalty would be.
"What is being looked at, is imposing the same penalty on people using detection devices as if they had been convicted of a speeding offence.
"This means that the level of penalties could vary but the starting point would be the standard three-point penalty and 60 pounds fine.
"The aim is that this would remove the incentive of using them. Confiscation of such devices is also a possibility.
"While these devices are still legal there is nothing to stop people going out and buying them.
"But people ought to be aware that they will become illegal in the near future and they will no longer be able to use them."
The DfT said that the new law specifically aims to protect the deterrent posed by randomly positioned mobile speed traps.
The spokesman said: "Some sat navs can give the position of fixed speed camera sites and we don't have a problem with that.
"The locations of fixed speed cameras are something that we want to be available.
"If people know where fixed cameras are then it will make them drive more safely through that stretch of road and therefore the cameras are still doing their job.
"Detection devices differ in that they inform drivers of the position of mobile speed cameras. Mobile speed traps provide a deterrent by their random nature.
"We are bringing in legislation to ban these kind of devices because we want to protect that deterrent."
He added that suppliers and manufacturers of speed camera detection devices have been consulted on the legislation and will be involved in further discussions.
Road law expert Nick Cotter, a solicitor partner at Darbys legal firm in Oxford, said: "I think the DfT's argument on this is nonsensical.
"If their ultimate objective is to slow people down on the roads, then it is irrelevant whether people know the locations of either stationary or mobile speed cameras.
"I suspect the bottom line is they realise they're losing out on revenue from mobile cameras when people use detectors and they want to see some of that money back.
"What I find remarkable is that these devices are still on sale in many stores and yet it is not widely known that they will be illegal very soon.
"I think it's important that people are aware, before they go out and spend a lot of money on one of these devices, that they will be outlawed within a matter of months."
Products likely to be affected by the ban include Road Angel and Snooper devices.
Road Angel Group Ltd spokesman, Graham Mackie, said that any of their products affected by the ban could be made legal by deactivating certain features.
He said: "It is possible that passive laser detection, which some Road Angel products utilise, may fall under this ban.
"On the New Road Angel and Road Angel Plus, the laser alert is built in, but can be disabled in many cases on the unit by the owner using the menus.
"For Road Angels with external Laser Detection, these can simply be removed to make the unit comply with the new laws as they come into force.
"Road Angel will be fully legal to use in the UK, regardless of the changes proposed."
Petrol-head TV presenter Tiff Needell, has endorsed the New Road Angel, claiming that its camera detection technology promotes better road safety.
In a review, Mr Needell who formerly worked on BBC's Top Gear and now presents Five's 5th Gear show, said: "Every now and again a significant advance is made in road safety.
"After using Road Angel in my car for a couple of days I began to think how good it would be if such a device was standard equipment in all vehicles.
"Rather than relying on 'cure', Road Angel's sole purpose is one of prevention, warning me of hazardous areas and keeping me advised of my speed.
He adds: "Road Angel has surpassed every expectation, it does the business, will help keep your licence clean and provide essential safety information."