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Driving is a common and necessary part of our daily lives. Whether it be professionally for their own transporting needs, or just for fun, drivers out there need to know the different types of cameras that police authorities use in order to monitor any wrongdoings when it comes to driving and adhering to traffic rules. 

In this article we will lay out the basic features and point out the differences between traffic camera and red light camera, so that next time you take a ride with your car, you feel more at ease with the monitoring systems that are in place.

We will also go over other types of cameras that can be found on the streets, as well as the difference between automatic enforcement type cameras as and non-enforcement type cameras. All this information will prove valuable and of practical use to you, but bear in mind that regardless of the cameras found on the streets, you should always drive responsibly and within the traffic rules. 

Red-Light Camera (Enforcement Type)

The first type of camera that we will explain is the red-light camera. The red-light camera looks rather big and bulky, and has a rectangular shape. Near the camera itself, there usually are two separately mounted flashlights, pointing in two different directions.

This is a type of camera that automatically detects and records vehicles (and their license plates) that have violated the stop-at-red-light rule in traffic. The authorities most often have the tendency to place these cameras near busy intersections, where they cover as wide a traffic light area as possible.

Oftentimes there will be at least three or four red-light cameras at a particular intersection, to ensure that all angles are covered. This type of camera ensures that the drivers obey the red light rule because otherwise they are likely to get automatically fined. The automatic red-light camera fine-issuing practice has caused a lot of controversy.

This is mostly because accused people want to be able to ask the court ‘who is my accuser’? The answer to this question confuses many, since it is not a person (e.g. a police officer), but an automated video monitoring system based on artificial intelligence and image recognition that ‘issues’ the fine.

However, the legal explanation for this is that these violations are defined as administrative violations, so therefore they need not be caught in the act by a police officer in order to be enforced. 

Speed Camera (Enforcement Type)

The function and the appliance of the speed camera is quite similar to that of the red-light camera, with the difference being that the speed camera detects speeding vehicles, and automatically records them, along with their license plate details. This footage will later most likely be used to issue a fine for the responsible driver. 


When it comes to location, these cameras can be found on less frequent roads, most often away from busy central parts of cities, and more towards smaller streets where there have been speeding complaints. It could happen however, that a speeding camera is placed at a larger street as well, if there have been complaints.

Another interesting thing to notice about speed cameras is that there are two basic types: fixed and mobile speeding cameras. Mobile speeding cameras are moved often, and can usually be temporarily located inside a van or a different vehicle, or even on tripods at random places along speeding-related streets. 

A particularly notable feature with the mobile speed cameras is that the type of radar they use is one that can rarely be detected by radar detectors. They use a low powered K-band or MRCD (also known as Multaradar).

The trick with these types of radar is that they cannot be identified by most commercially used radar detectors, so if you want to be able to detect this type of radar, you would need to install a special hardware just specifically for this use.

The mobile speed cameras are moved frequently, which significantly lowers the accuracy of apps and databases usually found in radar detectors. So, you should always keep in mind that speeding is not a good idea, not only because it is dangerous for yourself and for other participants in traffic, but also because no apps can tell you with exact certainty where mobile speed cameras are located at a particular point in time.

On the other hand, fixed speed cameras are significantly easier to spot. They will ever so often be mounted on elevated poles right next to the road. The appearance of these cameras somewhat resembles that of the red-light cameras, as they are also often placed inside large rectangular protective boxes, with a flashlight sticking out next to the camera, on a separate pole. 

Traffic Sensor Camera (Non-Enforcement Type)

Another type of camera that can be found on the streets is the traffic sensor camera. This camera is the least talked about, yet it is the one that is most commonly found out there. You can notice this camera installed on top of traffic signals. But that is not the only place where the traffic sensor camera can be spotted.

Another place where you can notice this camera is high up on lighting poles above streets. If you ever notice a camera on top of a traffic light, you can be sure that it is not a red-light camera or a speed camera. The very location of it gives away the fact that it is a traffic sensor camera.

As for the purpose of the traffic sensor cameras, their main use involves measuring traffic flow and determining traffic light duration and timing. Other than this, footage from these cameras may be used for analyzing other traffic parameters, such as rush-hours, rush-hour patterns, and general traffic strategic planning by local authorities.

The footage of these cameras is not recorded and archived, so it is also not used for incident reconstruction. Besides its location, this camera can be recognized by its appearance, which is often a small and waterproof cylinder-shaped box wherein the camera is stored. 

Automated Number Plate Recognition Camera (Non-Enforcement Type)

Although the automated number plate recognition cameras (ANPR cameras) are not used for any automated ticket issuing system, the use of these cameras is probably the one that stirs the most controversy. These cameras are used primarily for tracking the movement of drivers, a feature which is combined with AI based license plate reading mode.

This has caused a considerable number of citizens to raise their voice in dissatisfaction and disapproval. These cameras can be both fixed and mobile. If they are fixed, they are always located on poles near roadways. If they are mobile, then they are most often placed inside a police vehicle.  

The ethical issue that arose with the introduction and implementation of the automated number plate recognition cameras in everyday police work is that this may be deemed as a government overreach. The fact that these cameras are always recording and can notify police officers if a certain license plate has a warrant on the driver, does not amend the situation either.

While a fraction of the public opinion sides on this being a positive thing, as it warns police officers of possible danger, and assists them in carrying out their duty, there is also a considerable lot of people that are starkly opposed to this type of use of the ANPR cameras.

Perhaps this is mostly because there are examples of authorities using these cameras for things such as impounding vehicles due to a high number of outstanding parking tickets. Whichever side one might take on this issue, one thing is for certain: authorities should strive to use the ANPR cameras for serious issues, while making sure they do not overreach citizens’ freedoms during this process.

Similar discussions have also been taking place in countries such as India, Russia and China, as the authorities there have been experimenting with a different surveillance practice – drones flying over highways, recording the activity and sending automatic fines to violators.

While it may be true that this helps authorities maintain law and order, it is also an infringement on people’s liberties as they are constantly being monitored, and therefore deprived of their privacy. 

To be able to recognize the difference between this camera and, say, a traffic sensor camera, keep an eye on a few things. One notable difference is that the ANPR cameras have infrared cluster-like LEDs right next to the lens. This is because the ANPR camera works even when light is very low.

So, if you notice some LED clusters, you know that this is an ANPR camera, as opposed to it being a traffic sensor camera. 

Conclusion


Driving safely is a responsibility to any and every driver that participates in traffic. Whether driving professionally, to get to work, or purely for the joy of it, we need to follow the rules strictly and make sure that we do not jeopardize our safety or that of any other traffic participant.

Camera surveillance on the roads is here to stay, so it’s good to be acquainted with the types of cameras that can be found out there. There are two main types of cameras (enforcement type and non-enforcement type). We should always respect the traffic rules, and we shouldn’t require cameras to make us abide by the rules.

But in the meantime, cameras are here, and their presence is only growing bigger. There is no denying that society is moving towards modernisation, so it won’t be any different with this particular issue.

Cameras on the roads can be very helpful, in that they will provide necessary video footage for various situations in traffic, and they, combined with use of artificial intelligence can also help local authorities plan out traffic strategies in order to reduce traffic jams and better manage the rush hours in big cities.

Perhaps the only thing that authorities and citizens need to be vigilant of is that the camera monitoring systems do not overreach people’s right to privacy. If we as a society make sure authorities do not misuse the monitoring systems that are in place, then we should be good to go. In order for us to do so, we need to be well acquainted with the intricacies of the varying cameras out there and to keep an eye on how authorities use them.