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The speed ​​camera – myths about the Polish driver’s nightmare

The speed ​​camera is a controversial device that is used in virtually all developed countries of the world. On the one hand, it ensures driver safety and compliance with regulations. On the other hand, it is an additional source of income for administrative units. Do speed controls contribute to a real reduction in the number of road offenses? The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. In this article, we will debunk popular myths about speed cameras.

What is a speed camera?

A speed camera is a recording and measurement device that allows you to check the instantaneous speed of vehicles and record exceeded speed limits. In other words, it is an extensive camera placed on a pole whose task is to catch cars and other vehicles that do not adjust their speed to the applicable speed limit on a specific section of road.

What does a speed camera record?

  • vehicle
  • vehicle registration plate
  • speed at which vehicle was traveling
  • date and time of event
  • place where offense was committed
  • image of driver (depends on perspective)
  • radar number
  • speed ​​allowed in given area

      What does a speed camera photo look like?

      A photo from a speed camera is a unique souvenir that no driver wants to receive, however there is nothing unusual about it. In addition to the points mentioned above, the photo also includes the direction of measurement and a simple calculation by how many kilometres the permitted speed was exceeded.

      How does a speed camera work?

      Most often, speed cameras use radar or lidar technology to measure vehicle speeds. Radars send radio waves that bounce off a moving vehicle and return to the device. Based on the change in wave frequency (Doppler effect), the device can calculate the vehicle’s speed. Lidars work in a similar manner, but instead of radio waves they use laser light. 

      When the speed camera detects a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, it activates a camera or video camera. These devices are designed to take clear photos or videos of vehicles in a variety of lighting and weather conditions, often using flash to improve image quality at night or in low light.

      Does the speed camera take a photo from behind?

      The answer to this question is: it depends. As a rule, the speed camera takes a photo from the side it is directed towards. However, this fact was abused by motorcyclists. This is because motorcycles are equipped with only one place for a license plate. Therefore, if the speed camera took a photo “from the front”, it was not sufficient to identify the vehicle, much less the motorcyclist. Therefore, speed cameras are systematically enhanced to include cameras recording images from the other side. The vast majority of speed cameras only record traffic on one side. However, drivers should be careful because cameras on the other side are about to become the norm.

      How to check if a speed camera took a photo

      Unfortunately, there is no way to check whether the speed camera actually took a photo. The operation of the flash may be a certain determinant. However, that is not a perfect method. The flash may not fire on a sunny day. Therefore, all we can do is wait for the speed camera notice.

      Does a speed camera flash always mean a fine?

      The answer is no. If you see a characteristic flash in your eyes, there is a good chance that the vehicle owner will receive a letter from the Chief Road Transport Inspectorate. However, this does not necessarily entail receiving a ticket. It is possible that another driver in the immediate vicinity of your car violated the regulations. What is more, for years drivers have been finding new ways to avoid liability for events recorded by speed cameras. Statistically, only half of the offenses registered by speed cameras result in the imposition and payment of a fine.

      How long does it take for a speed camera ticket to arrive?

      Speed ​​cameras take over 2 million photos in Poland every year. The procedure from taking a photo, through obtaining information about the vehicle owner, to sending a letter to the right address is not fully automated. Therefore, it requires some time. Tickets are sent via Poczta Polska, which may also extend the entire process by a few additional days. As a rule, a speed camera ticket may be received within 180 days from the date of committing the offense. In the vast majority of cases, however, it arrives within several days.

      How to pay a speed camera fine

      Payment for the fine should be made using online banking systems or by traditional transfer to the individual bank account number indicated in the speeding notice. Payment should only be made to the account indicated in the official documentation sent by CANARD.

      MYTH: Municipalities make money from speed cameras

      Since 2016, local governments in Poland do not have the right to use speed cameras. Currently, they belong to the Road Transport Inspection, which has introduced a special CANARD unit responsible for automating road traffic supervision. However, there is a grain of truth to this myth, because in 2011 the “best municipalities” in Poland were able to earn several million zlotys a year from fines issued by the municipal police thanks to the use of speed cameras.

      Summary: do speed cameras have a real impact on safety?

      The last reliable statistical data in this regard comes from 15 years ago. At that time, the Polish police boasted a reduction in the number of accidents by 19%, injuries by 18% and deaths by 36% on routes where speed camera were installed. According to current data, approximately 27% fewer speeding cases were registered in Poland in 2023 than in the previous year. Is this a side effect of improved road safety, or perhaps a result of increasing fines? You may have to draw your own conclusions in this case.