The DfT has announced that all working speed cameras will be coloured yellow by October 2016, in what it describes as a “common sense approach to cameras”.
The move, which follows a review of cameras, is intended to “increase the visibility of all speed cameras on the network” and ensure “motorists are not unfairly penalised”.
The announcement has been welcomed by the AA and RAC.
There are approximately 200 camera sites on England’s motorways, some of which contain multiple cameras. Existing guidelines already make clear that where cameras are used on the strategic road network signs must be put up to alert drivers. The DfT says this latest move “will ensure maximum visibility of the cameras themselves”.
The majority of colour changes will take place during standard renewal of speed camera units, alongside other planned work, to minimise the cost.
The government has also taken action on cameras at a local level. Local authorities and the police are required to publish information on the impact of speed cameras on road safety, so that they can be “held accountable locally”.
Guidance for local authorities on speed cameras states that fixed speed camera housings located on lit roads should be coloured yellow either by painting both the front and back of the housing or covering both the front and back of the housing with retro-reflective sheeting. On unlit roads, the camera housing should be treated with yellow retro-reflective sheeting.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “We are on the side of honest motorists. I’ve always been clear that cameras should be visible and used for safety rather than revenue raising.
“This move is about applying common sense to our roads. Speed cameras should make journeys safer rather than lead to dangerous braking.
“I’m delighted Highways England have agreed to meet our timetable to achieve this.”
Highways England will monitor its camera sites to address any impact the change in colour has for drivers.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “While we understand speed cameras are not popular, they play a valuable role in enhancing safety, smoothing traffic flow and reducing congestion.
“We use cameras for safety and traffic management only when other more popular solutions like engineering are not adequate to tackle particular problems on our network.”
Edmund King, AA president, said: “This is something we have campaigned for. Our AA/Populus surveys show that over 70% of drivers accept the use of speed cameras and it is important that the level of trust and transparency is maintained.
“Cameras are most effective when drivers slow down and being visible should make them more effective. Having visible cameras should show that the intention is to slow traffic and safe lives rather than generate cash. Drivers will be delighted by this move.”
Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: “The Government’s reassurance that all motorway speed cameras will be painted yellow by October 2016 is long overdue and brings a welcome degree of consistency which will ensure that the road safety benefits of the varied types of cameras are maximised.
“Yellow speed cameras at the roadside are a familiar feature on the UK road network, both loved and loathed by motorists and road users in equal measure.
“But the proliferation of grey, unmarked motorway gantry cameras has led to confusion for many and accusations that they were there to catch out unsuspecting motorists and to raise revenue rather than improve road safety.
“Clear identification will ensure that the authorities maintain the trust of drivers and dispel any ‘money raising’ suspicions.”
James Gibson, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: “Road Safety GB is supportive of adopting a consistent approach to the colour of speed cameras. This is something that is reflected in the views of the majority of the public.
"It makes good sense to paint all cameras yellow and make them as visible as possible. The roads are a shared space and speed compliance is an important issue for all users, especially ‘vulnerable’ road users.
“On the wider issue of the use of cameras, in our submission to the Transport Committee’s road traffic law enforcement enquiry, we made the point that the minimum distance ‘halo’ – that is the distance over which enforcement is effective in deterring offending behaviour – for physical policing is about five times greater than that associated with speed cameras, so technology should be considered as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, police officers."