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Revealed: secrets of the speed-camera vans

NOBODY loves them… everybody hates the feeling of shock when the white speed-camera van suddenly appears, as if by magic, alongside the road.

This month, the joint road-safety campaign between the police and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate is targeting speeding.

While typically around 25,000 infringements will be issued annually, independent of the white vans, police say they have already issued more than 1900 speeding fines this year including 34 for exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres an hour.

In an exclusive interview with “CityNews”, one of the ACT’s eight mobile speed vans agreed to kiss and tell on the promise of anonymity.

In a frank Q&A, we learnt that speed-camera vans can see you coming a kilometre away and they can monitor six lanes of traffic at a time in both directions and they never take a day off!

So here it is, everything you wanted to know about white-van speed cameras but were too afraid to ask:

Q. How far away can a mobile speed van detect a speeding car

One kilometre.

Q. Does the operator have any discretion in who gets booked?


Q. Does a person decide if I’m to be fined or am I automatically sent a ticket?

A person, not the camera operator, will adjudicate if an offence has occurred and issue an infringement notice.

Q. How many lanes does a mobile speed van monitor at one time?


Q. What technology does a speed camera use?

Cameras use laser-scanning technology to determine the speed of a vehicle and to take several images of vehicles that are exceeding the speed limit for that stretch of road.

Q. Can a driver get a speeding fine if the mobile speed van is on the opposite side of the road?


Q. Can I ask the operator if the camera got me?

No. For safety reasons motorists are requested not to approach camera vans and staff are instructed not to open the vehicle doors or windows to speak with motorists. Under normal circumstances a motorist will receive an infringement within seven days of the offence.

Inside the white van, the speeding camera is set by an operator and left to silently do its job, free of human intervention. Photo by Ana Stuart

Q. Does a mobile speed van ever get it wrong?


Q. What if someone else is driving my car at the time of the incident?

The infringement will be posted to the registered operator of the vehicle. If the operator was not driving the vehicle at the time of the offence they are required to submit a statutory declaration declaring who was driving. A new infringement will then be issued to the person responsible for the offence.

Q. Can I contest a ticket?

Yes, details are included on all infringement and reminder notices.

Q. How many people are typically caught speeding by a mobile speed van a year?

Around 25,000 infringements will be issued annually.

Q. How many mobile speed vans are there operating in the ACT?

8 mobile vans

Q. How is it decided where to locate the white vans?

Decisions on where to place vans are based on rotation across the network, road safety trouble spots and sometimes based on complaints from the public. There are 310 streets and 1284 locations.

Q. Do they ever have a day off?

No, the vans are on the road every day of the week on a daily roster covering both day and night shifts.

Q. They’re even out there at night. What sort of technology is used to identify number plates in the dark?

The mobile speed cameras utilise infrared flash technology and Optical Character Recognition software.

Q. Given the presence of mobile cameras at night, how are the vans utilised? Do you work them in shifts?

As part of the ACT road safety program, the mobile speed-camera vans are utilised in shifts to cover day and night patrols.

Revealed: how the mobile-detection cameras work


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14 Responses to Revealed: secrets of the speed-camera vans

scott says: July 21, 2018 at 8:08 pm

Great for making easy cash, not really doing much to stop drug drivers, defective cars (1 headlight etc) and road deaths, which go on and on and on…. Meanwhile real police write just 6% of speed tickets and very little else… This is ‘policing for pay’… every day of every week… if it really was about safety, they wouldn’t keep doing the exact same thing year after year and expect a lower road toll hey…? its failed at safety, excelled at revenue…

Adam says: December 20, 2019 at 11:44 am

Take them away and watch the other stats rise. Just because a balance has been achieved does not reduce the impact of the community service. That’s right, speed vans serve the community.

Bern says: December 21, 2019 at 5:00 pm

It is not revenue raising, by speeding you are breaking the law. Would you prefer to go to gaol rather than pay a fine. Premeditated speeding in Canberra is absurd and prolific, people slow down for speed cameras and then when past revert to driving 20+ kms over the speed limit whilst tailgating! Idiots. Apparently ACT licenses are the easiest to obtain in the nation and it shows!

Jim says: December 19, 2019 at 10:58 pm

If vans were a serious part of road safety why not have 50 instead of 8, even if there are only 8 functioning, setup another 40 dummy ones on the side of the road so you never know which ones are active… if I saw them every day in different places there is no way I would risk it anymore!!!

CP says: December 20, 2019 at 9:56 am

“Is it ever wrong? No” BULLPOOP! There is always Human and Technology errors and bugs that can occur, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens more often than not!

Brian Conway says: December 20, 2019 at 10:33 am

If you obey the road rules and speed limits you have nothing to worry about. I haven’t seen a speed camera in rush hour especially in the morning. Why is this or did I not just see them?

Vince says: February 27, 2020 at 9:02 am

With the technology we have today . There is speed limiters, WIfi and GPS instruments. This system calculates your speed from point A to point B. If all Vehicles were fitted with this device. Then know-one would be speeding.. Your vehicle will an ID signature with your wifi which is registered to department of transport . This technology will Identify your speeding and the speeding ticket will be sent to your mail address. So my question is why hasn’t the department of transport made this mandatory?
Reason 1 know-one will speed!
Reason 2 no revenue .
Reason 3 because this is revenue raising.
Majority of road accidents is People don’t know how to drive . Then you have idiots that drive so slow which causes accidents while trying to overtake slow driver

Steven Ly says: July 22, 2020 at 6:58 pm

I have an infringement notice for speeding but the picture shown multiple cars in the lane. How do they know which one is speeding ? Why they fine me but not other?

Deborah says: August 26, 2021 at 4:46 am

Can anyone tell me if speed camera vans are legally allowed to sit within 1km of each other..maybe even 500m..both be working same stretch of road..seems very tricky as u pass one then up ahead suddenly another..hmmm..?

Dan P says: November 6, 2021 at 9:58 am

All mobile vans are equipped with orange flashing lights front and rear, yet I’ve only seen 1 van with lights flashing in the past 2 years. If this isn’t entrapment then I don’t know what is.

Toby says: June 15, 2022 at 1:54 am

They only use those lights when the operator is walking around the vehicle setting up the signs. It’s for his safety, not helping you avoid a fine.


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