back to article Jeremy Clarkson tilts at windmills

Following last week’s round-up of road news by El Reg – and a number of reader comments about the new “average speed” cameras that are being rolled out across the UK - it's nice to see Jeremy Clarkson taking up the subject in his column in the Sun. (Just kidding- we know this has been a bugbear of JC since the dawn of time). …


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  1. owen bullock

    technically no, legally yes?

    I read that article at the weekend and chortled to myself as I imagined thousands of motorists getting nabbed after following Clarksons advice.

    I wonder however, if he's referring to the fact that although technically the system can handle as many lanes as you have, I heard that each camera is only type approved for two lanes. So if you switched from lane one to three, it may be a loophole? (He still got it wrong though)

    Anyone more clued up care to add to this?

  2. Mycho Silver badge

    Changing lanes

    The changing lanes rumour was around for the really old speed cameras which relied on road markings. Supposedly some speeders would see the road markings and change into an unmarked lane so as to avoid the cameras.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    In Nottingham there are more specs than Notts Residents! It used to be the case that the Specs Cameras, could only view and process a small 1mx2m (approx road area) box view and would track only one plate at a time passing through the window. hence could only manage 1 Lane, However some Cameras (eg A610) have been upgraded and now have two cameras in one box, they are able to 'watch' both lanes independantly.

    It remains true that it is one camera per lane, but it takes a very sharp eye to spot one or two cameras in the yellow Box. and is unknown if they cross reference.

    Do what the rest of us do; Spray on Mud, Broken Plate, Clone, Or the Very Expensive and night only! IR ReactoLight LCD Cover.

  4. Adrian Jackson

    Another suggestion for driving at a desired average speed...

    Drive at about that speed for the whole section of your journey.

    I'm in favour of replacing all existing speed cameras with this variety - they do away with a lot of the (entirely valid) complaints of those who *really* just think they should have the right to break the law - normally caused by the behaviour of such people in an attempt to get away with breaking the law for as much of their journey as possible. They prevent idiots slowing down drastically and dangerously because they've spotted a speed camera, they avoid the evil trick of placing speed cameras in locations that seem carefully selected to catch people still slowing down from the change from 50 to 30. And they stop people speeding (unless they want the points on their license and the fine, obviously...) Where's the problem?

  5. Paul Hayes


    this myth has been around for a good couple of years now, probably as long as the SPECs cameras themselves which have been used on motorway roadworks for a couple of years.

    I dare say all the cameras on a stretch of road go to one processing unit which doesn't even take lanes into account, just reg numbers at one gantry with times and then a list of numbers at the next one with times. The system would be totally useless if it was as simple as changing lanes to fool it.

  6. Craig Powell

    Equal distances

    To be fair, if you did drive equal distances above and below the speed limit by the same amount, you wouldn't actually do *more* than the legal average speed. Apply that to "120mph for one mile then pull over and stop for one mile" and you're in trouble, though.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    what we need is

    Some kind of turret mounted, auto targetting paint ball gun system, that happens to accurately and effectively spray each camera with a volley of paint balls. (Or a hail of pellets.)

    To generally make our feelings known...

  8. James Duncan

    Simple explaination...

    Jeremy Clarkson is an imbecile. I also recall when he wrote an equally imbecilic column about the low risks of identity theft (complete with his details) resulting in theft from his bank account.


  9. Andy Turner

    Trying to fool the system by speeding then slowing down..'s unlikely to really work once these things are everywhere because you'll never know which gantry is paired with which and they don't even really need to be paired, you could have three cameras A, B and C and it could work out your average speed between A and B, and also B and C, but also A and C.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    J C is the new Alf Garnet !

    Long stretches such as the M1 widening in the Midlands takes intermediate measurements too so better not mess about with speed.

    No plates on the front of bikes tho ;o))

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point?

    "Debate continues as to whether this speed system improves driving – or encourages bad habits. There can be little doubt that Jeremy Clarkson does the latter, as he is alleged to have suggested that the best way to deal with this new technology is to pull over after the first camera: take a five-minute break; and then zoom through the second at 120mph.

    We do not advise you to try this. We also point out that if anyone wishes to achieve a particular average speed, they can do so by driving for equal periods of time by the same amount above and below the desired average. This does not work if you try to drive for equal distances in this manner. ®"

    I think this is exactly the type of statement that The Great JC loves provoke. You do realise that he may just possible have made that comment with tongue firmly inserted in cheek?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Proof of Identity..

    I'd guess that an increase in average speed camera will almost certainly increase the amount of registration-plate cloning that goes on.

    In any case most drivers' instinct is to try and drive AT the limit in an average speed camera zone (which in my experience tends to be positioned somewhere where the 'natural' speed is much higher than the enforced speed; say motorway roadworks with two empty lanes and not a workman in sight) causing the drivers to spend all their time with their eyes glued to their speedometers in paranoid terror lest they stray a mile-per-hour aboev the limit whatever the circumstances and consequently not giving their full attention to the road or the traffic around them.

    Scrap all the cameras both new and old and put more police in cars (and mobile camera units if you absolutely *have* to be that anal about speed limits) - no automatic system can spot the truly dangerous drivers - the inattentive, distracted, incompetant, stupid, careless and aggressive drivers that cause the accidents that a bit of excessive speed only makes worse after the fact. Proper enforcement of laws against careless and dangerous driving would save many, many more lives than speed cameras ever will - but of course proper traffic law enforcement costs, rather than makes, money.

  13. Jamie

    One main gripe with Speed Cameras instead of Police.

    They do not nail stupid drivers.

    Coming back on the M4 on Friday from Reading had this car up my ass while driving down the motorway for about 15 miles. Eventually he weaved in and out of traffic in the middle and outside land to gain the distance of about 3 car lengths on me before getting back into the inside lane and causing a car to have to lock up to avoid hitting this idiots ass.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    re: There can be little doubt that Jeremy Clarkson does the latter

    There can be little doubt - only if you believe people will take Clarkson seriously on such matters - which I doubt even the youngest boy racer would fail to pick out a tongue in cheek comment - even if the author wishes to to try proving a point

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    How about this for a money spinner: Custom Built, Full-HD LCD screen to place over your number plate - will display randomly generated numbe/letter combinations...

    I'm some bod in China would make one for you

    That should free us from a few of Stalin Gordo's oppressive shackles.

  16. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Down

    Why can't they just...

    ... issue speed guidelines to people?

    i.e. 70mph is a sensible speed for this Dual Carriageway. Driving under it is fine, driving over it is only fine if you judge it to be safe.

    You crash over the speed limit and your insurance could be voided or only pay out half as much.

    Or they could even just limit this behaviour to blackbox equipped cars (with a more stringent MOT to keep them safe for higher speeds) driven by Advanced Drivers. Gives more people an incentive to become better drivers (sorely needed) and properly maintain their cars, brings in more money from the government through VAT, extra-strength MOTs and adv driver training so it's not a total loss. AND cuts 3 hours travelling time off going to see my grandparents!

    Have you ever looked into the window of the car next to you in an average speed camera zone? Everyone spends 3/4 their time looking at the speedo, trying to get through this "slow bit" as fast as possible without being clocked. Not a safe behaviour to encourage!

    Thumbs down as I'd have thought Clarkson would have known switching lanes doesn't help.

  17. David FitzGerald

    Drive between the lanes!

    The cameras are trained on the centre of each lane, so straddle two lanes on the exit of the SPECS zone and you won't be spotted.

    I have this on good authority from someone involved in the design of these things.

  18. David Cornes

    Clarkson knows better

    These things are pretty much game-over for those trying to beat the camera I think.

    Can't say I feel too much sympathy: myself I've only seen them to date on stretches of roadworks on the motorways, enforcing lowered limits through contraflows etc, where there's an obvious safety incentive to slowing down the speed freaks. I just set the cruise to 40 sit back and enjoy the ride... ;-)

    My main concern with these things is the rise of Big Brother watching your every move: once the camera's caught your NP, does that get erased later or kept for other potential uses?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "...Geoff Collins, marketing director of Speedcheck Services Ltd, which manufacture the SPECS system..."

    mummy! mummy! - when i grow up i want to start a company that helps the government spy on people and extort money from them!

  20. Alan Parsons

    Need front plates

    The very best way to deal with this technology is to ride a motorbike, which being devoid of forward facing plates, is immune.

    Another trick is to sit in the blind spot of a large HGV such that there is no line of sight from the camera to your plate for one of the sets of cameras. This takes skill but is entirely manageable.

    Another solution would be to replace the two screws in your front plate with high power infra-red LEDs. This would be invisible to the naked eye, day or night, but would likely render your plate as a pair of high intensity circles of light to a camera. This technique has been used to create "anti-papparatzi" sunglasses ( a mere google search away ) for obscuring one's face from digital CCTV.

    For every 'electric thumb' jammer there will be made a 'new electric thumb'

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Just wondering...

    As these things don't use road markings (well, not the ones I've seen), how is the distance(s) from the cameras measured and recorded?

    As it is the time between the two images which is being used rather than the time between the two cameras, any differance could introduce an error in calculated average speed...

  22. Graham Marsden

    The thing is...

    ... these cameras actually *work*!

    Rather than fixed speed cameras making people slow down at a particular point, (usually slamming on their brakes, then accelerating hard once past) or limit signs that get ignored, these do actually make people control their speed.

    They are currently in place on parts of the M27 in Hampshire where there are carriageway widening works underway and you can travel along there without having to worry about Mr Clarkson and his ilk suddenly hooning up behind you way over the limit and then trying to muscle you out of the way because you're stopping them from getting to their destination ten minutes quicker.

    PS Yesterday I saw a perfect number plate for Mr Clarkson, it was on the back of a Ferrari and had been re-spaced to say EGO 2 BIG!

  23. Tom Doggett

    Broken records

    Instead of wasting so much energy complaining about getting caught for doing something illegal, why not lobby to get the speed limits adjusted? I'm not talking about 30mph through built-up areas, but, say, introducing variable motorway speed limits so that if it's not busy and not raining you can do 80/85.

    "you must travel at 37 if you accidentally do 43 for a yard or two."

    Rubbish - a yard or two at 3mph over the speed limit is not going to result in you getting fined.

    I'm not pretending that I drive perfectly and never break the speed limit, but there is a calculated risk with speeding. There are some areas where you are less likely to get caught - open motorways for example - and some where you are more likely to - e.g. around roadworks. You know there are speed cameras around, so if you speed you should accept there is a risk you might be caught.

    Too many people sit around moaning about what's wrong in the world instead of trying to suggest what might be right. How about some give and take? Reduce urban speeds to 25 but increase motorway speeds to 80.

    And in the meantime, if you don't want to get caught by a speed camera, you know what to do - and you might even save some money on petrol too :-)

  24. jubtastic1

    Other safe alternatives

    Tailgate a truck, buy a Motorbike or throw away your number plates as we seem to have retired actual road policing for vastly less effective but very profitable dumb cameras.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still see a problem...

    So, my car gets caught doing an average speed of 45mph between two points in a 30 zone. So how exactly does that prove that I was speeding? Obviously I turned off the road into the field by the side and indulged in my past time of off-road rallying. A quick burst of 100mph off road driving and I return to the road destressed in time for the second camera without ever having exceeded the speed limit.

    The burden of proof is in my favour: it is up to them to _disprove_ it. And of course since the first I hear of it is several weeks later when receive the letter in the post the huge ruts I carved into the field during my rallying have disappeared...

  26. Mo

    There is another way to beat these cameras…

    …stick to the speed limit.

    Shocking, I know.

    You could spend the money you would have spent on a fine on lobbying MPs to call on the DfT to adjust speed limits where you think they're too stringent.

  27. Evil Graham

    If you believe what you read in the Sun

    Then you deserve to be fined.

  28. Mick Sheppard
    Black Helicopters


    Based on the figures from TRL595 road works with cameras have more personal injury accidents in them, per km driven, that road works without cameras.

    Based on talking with friends and colleagues they feel that they spend more time looking at the speedo when driven through average speed camera zones than they normally do. This would seem, antecdotally, to provide a reason for the results. If you are driving a car that doesn't have cruise control along a road monitored by average speed cameras you pay less attention to the road than normal. Seems obvious that this would increase the accident rate, but that would be common sense something that governments don't have.

  29. Stuart

    what if...

    you "change lane" onto the hard shoulder....will the cameras be covering that area of the road?

    Mine is the one with the blurred number plates....

  30. James

    Hard to believe

    that JC or El Reg managed to tackle this subject without having more to say about the fact these cameras capture *every* passing car.

    Why not roll out the satellite tracking now & be done with it?

    Mine's the bike jacket for the vehicle with no plate on the front!

  31. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    Clarkson == tosser;

    The problem with other speed cameras (Gatso, Truvelo, etc) is that they measure the instantaneous speed of a vehicle, their locations are well known and they are highly visible. The upshot of this is that the only people these cameras catch are the unwary. Speed twunts, like Clarkson, merely slow down for them, then speed up again and, they make bloody sure their GPS has its camera database up to date and their laser/radar detector is in good working order.

    In other words, *traditional* speed cameras do nothing to deter aggressive driving and may even encourage it for those who think the best way to give a speed camera 'the finger' (as if the camera actually cares) is to creep past it at 5mph below the limit and then floor it once past.

    Now, along comes a speed camera system (SPECS) that cannot be avoided. You *have* to drive at an average speed <= the limit. Clarkson's reaction? Toys get lobbed out of his gas guzzling baby buggy.

  32. Steve



    Drivers who pull close in behind trucks at the cameras are proof these things improve road safety!

    Mine's the one hidden underneath another!

  33. Tim Jenkins

    It's not a game

    You could just OBEY THE LIMIT, and, possibly, save a life. The child running out into the road as you 'zoom through the second at 120mph' will not be in a position to debate the matter...

  34. michael

    mr clarckson dose have a point

    I rember one set of these had a servies in them of I would pull of at it have lunch and then not give a toss how fast I went

    of corse given the fact it was down to 2 lanes from 4 ment I could bearlty make the 50mph speed anyway

  35. Nick Askew

    They work

    "Debate continues as to whether this speed system improves driving – or encourages bad habits."

    Debate no more. The Dutch have had these installed for some years and generally the traffic does seem to obey the limit through the zone.

    Tailgating is also very rare because there is no point. Actually, Jeremy, here is a way that could work. As you enter the zone you get yourself in front of a huge lorry, then slam on your brakes at the right moment so that the lorry is right on your tail. Should not be too hard after all most lorries love nothing better than to spend the day sitting a couple of feet of the arse of the lorry in front. Now you will know that the first camera has not seen you and you can go as fast as you like towards the second camera.

    I'm sure the possibility of death under the wheels of a lorry is only a small price to pay if it means getting away with a speeding fine.

  36. AF
    Thumb Up

    I'm loving my speed limiter

    I got a new car recently, and in addition to the cruise control it also has a speed limiter. When I'm going through an average speed section (or even just around town) set the limiter to whatever the limit is and job done - unless I kickdown, I can't accidentally accelerate over that speed.

    It doesn't brake for you, though, so you still have to keep an eye out going downhill, but otherwise I fear neither speed cameras or hitting kiddiewinks with too much force.

  37. Jerome

    Problem solved

    Forget about changing lanes just the once. If you weave around from lane to lane sufficiently often, the extra distance traveled will mean you can go at an average speed of well over 70 MPH without getting nabbed.

  38. Tom

    MythBusters did a good episode about the US versions a while back

    While over here they focus strictly on the speeders and the instantaneous bit, it was possible to beat the cameras.... with a jet car going in excess of 300 MPH. Seems the relevant question is whether or not the vehicle traverses the image field more quickly than the detect and click mechanism on the camera takes.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nothing to be achieved... driving above then below the enforced speed limit.

    "We also point out that if anyone wishes to achieve a particular average speed, they can do so by driving for equal periods of time by the same amount above and below the desired average"

    if you time it right you'll still get to the second camera at the same time as you would if you'd maintained a constant speed.

    average speed cameras are easy to get through if you stick it in cruise

  40. Matt Eagles

    PC Brigade are at it again.

    Once again Clarkson and the PC Brigade are whining about the Government breaching motorist's human rights. The right to drive as fast as you possibly can may well be in the Human Rights Act but that doesn't make it something that right minded individuals in Britain should be doing. As soon as Clarkson and his Leftie cronies are removed from TV the better.

  41. Elmer Phud Silver badge


    Clarkson has newspaper columns to fill and a reputation to uphold, without constant mutterings he can't upset those who bleat the loudest and give him the opportunity to respond.

    He can pretty much pre-write the responses at the same time as writing bits for the Sky/Fox/Sun (Murdoch). Job for life, all he needs to do is stir the pot now and then.

    We used to call it 'trolling' - the 'merkin term for trailing a bright lure in the water to attract fish to the hook. Works a treat, pick your target and work it correctly and there's plenty of thrashing around.

    Older people would call it 'setting up Aunt Sallys'

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  43. Rick Eastwood

    You get what you deserve

    I love Top Gear but If you follow the advice of Clarkson then frankly you need to be taken off the road. He's there to sell the papers, tv programme, dvd, books etc etc hes currently trying to flog.

    Im no anti speed nazi but come on clarkson isnt the paragon of all virtue when it comes to advice on speeding.

  44. John Curry

    Apparently, all you have to do to beat them is... at or below the speed limit. Novel idea isn't it. Apparently it'll also give you a much better MPG ratio, will spare you a fine, and miraculously prevent people being killed by your lack of courtesy for those around you.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Handbrake turn

    I believe the current recommendation amongst boy-racers is to pull a handbrake turn just before the 2nd camera, race back to the first, pull another handbrake turn and then go flat out down the straight. Max speed say 150, average 50.... sorted!

    Mines the one with flame-retardant lining and kevlar inserts.

  46. Richard Cartledge

    Nottingham SPECS

    The SPECS in Nottingham have two different types of camera in the box, one is for ANPR and the other is HD CCTV for images used to identify people etc.....

    The same camera hardware cover both lanes now as were originally installed. The only update was the software after HOTA was given about 18 months ago.

    The software is also learning how to recognise vehicle make and models and colour by analysing the image and comparing them to DVLA records.

  47. Paul

    The square on the hypotenuse or something like that

    If changing lanes you would cover a different distance than the straight line distance between cameras. Loophole?

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Diplimatic amunity

    Do like I have seen in London and get an Arabic numebber plate.

    Read them digits you over stuffed robocop.

    I wonder if they are embasy cars?

  49. Saucerhead Tharpe

    A great way to avoid getting done

    Is not to speed, or am I missing something here?

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: What's the problem

    Personally I'd do away with all speed cameras AND speed limits and replace them with advisory maximum limits. I would also encourage all drivers to take a sliding scale of advanced driving courses which they would be encouraged to maintain on an ongoing basis. The encouragement would perhaps be in the form of much lower insurance or tax rebates (better still do away with tax and increase the cost of fuel and just have skill rebates).

    With any camera system people will learn the process to game the camera, eg Gatso camera, hit the brakes, and that's not safe per se. Also they don't help when people are "legally speeding", ie travelling under the posted limit at a speed which is too fast for the overall conditions, and this is dangerous, compared with travelling at 100mph on an empty, dry motorway with good weather, for example.

    Stephen Haley's excellent book "Mind Driving" is recommended, along with getting along to your nearest RoADAR group (see for local clubs)


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