Ask for a review of speed camera databases, and you are likely to get more than a few sanctimonious answers. It seems that wanting to know where speed cameras are operating, automatically equates to you wanting to speed.
After all, if you ride at a speed under the speed limit then you never need to know where a speed camera is, right?
Errr … no.
A few days back I was out riding on unfamiliar roads. A long stretch of good quality single carriageway road with fields on either side of me. No houses, playgrounds or even street lights to indicate anything other than a national speed limit section of road. Not even a side road to look into for a sneaky check that I’d missed the speed limit change and could get a move on.
Certain that I must have missed the speed limit change, I started to “progress”.
What I also spotted were marks on the road that the GATSO cameras use. Plainly I hadn’t missed the sign; I was still in the lower limit zone.
Despite all the indicators of a higher limit, I had made a mistake. Simple as that – I had got it wrong. Had I not spotted the sign and the GTSO road markings, I would have happily had my mistake immortalised in celluloid and received a copy from the local court. Their fees, for a copy of the photo documenting my cock-up, would be very reasonable, I’m sure.
Knowing that there is a camera around the next corner, isn’t enough. In my situation, I would have been warned about the camera, yet having told myself that I was in a higher limit area, I would have been sure I was OK and ridden through at the wrong speed. Not only do I need to know where the cameras are I also need to know the speed limit they are enforcing.
Luckily most of the databases I looked at, contain this information. It isn’t an exact science though. Most databases give some level of information; others claim to be updated daily from official sources. What is needed is a blend of official data and feedback from users on what is happening in the real world right now.
Speed Camera Database Info
Co-Pilot, one of the smartphone-based navigation program I use, has an option to show me the speed limit. It can even warn me if I exceed it. It also has the option – under points of interest – to warn me about speed camera locations.
If you are wondering why I’m looking for a speed camera database when I already have one, it is because updates to the database within Co-Pilot seem to be slow in arriving when compared to the speed at which the “Safety Cameras” are being installed. As I can add my own “points of interest” database into Co-Pilot, all I need to know is which speed camera database to choose.
Other gaps in the Co-Pilot database are road works and speed limit changes that take time to filter through official channels. Opening your eyes and reading speed limit signs is still the first line of defence from speeding tickets. Temporary changes to limits with equally temporary cameras to enforce them, are perhaps the most likely arrangement to catch you out.
Digging around the internet, I found more than a few databases to chose from. Prices range from free to £20 a year, and most of them claim to be the biggest, best and most up to date. Sadly there was little in the way of reviews for the databases, so I undertook my own research.
Standing out amongst all of the databases I could find is SCDB.Info which you will find at the core of the speed camera information contained in Garmin, TomTom and ALK (manufacturers of Co-Pilot) devices. It is also used by 14 car manufacturers and the clever people who bring us Google Earth.
An outstanding set of references and SCDB.Info is right in the middle of the price bracket at €9.95 euros a year. The database holds (at the time of writing this) a fraction over 70-thousand cameras and speed control sections (average speed zones) dotted around the world. 6,396 of them are located in the UK and the database even lists the truly pitiful 82 that are installed in New Zealand.
Their database includes those countries, where to maintain full compliance with the local laws – yes France I’m talking about you – we will, of course, all be turning off any speed camera warning system we may have.
CamSam – Oh Yes – CamSam!
The perfect result: I pay the €9.95 euros and download the database on a more regular schedule than Co-Pilot does automatically, and I’m good to go. And I would have been content with my solution, but luckily for me, I followed one more link and found CamSam.com, which uses the SCDB.Info database.
CamSam is an outstanding application for Android, Windows and Blackberry phones. Running as either a full-screen application or as a widget overlayed on top whatever program your phone has running. To stay in touch with what is happening in the real world, CamSam blends the information from the SCDB.Info database with updates from active users.
CamSam also distinguishes between Average Speed Zone cameras and fixed “single shot” GATSO cameras. Considering the recent change to one of the main motorways in the UK, where the entire motorway is now one very long average speed zone, this has become an important differential.
I live close to the most profitable Average Speed Zone sections in the UK. Co-Pilot reports this as two separate speed cameras, with no differential between them and any other camera. CamSam reports the same cameras as Section Cameras, gently reminding me that I must continue to pay attention to my speed.
The image on the right shows the CamSam widget working over the top of Calimoto in London. The image below on the left shows CamSam running as a stand-alone app. The 37,471 number at the bottom of the left-hand image is the number of active online users at that time.
Testing CamSam over the past few days, I’ve seen the active user count as high as 60-thousand. Not all of them are going to be in your area and not all of them able to update the speed camera information in real time. I’ll have my eyes forward and my hands on the bars, so real-time updates from me won’t be happening. However, if a friendly car driver, stuck in a traffic jam, can safely press the plus button and add a new mobile camera to the database, then thank you; it is much appreciated.
And how much does this absolute gem of a smart-phone app cost … 0.99 pence. Yes, less than one whole British pound, which at today’s exchange rate comes out at $1.40 USD or €1.13 Euros. I’m sure the local app stores will do some rounding of those numbers, but we are talking less than the cost of a takeaway coffee.
Live updates – assuming you have mobile data enabled – happen every five minutes and include mobile cameras, the back of traffic jams and other possible dangers. To save you from the mischief of others who may have chosen to randomly drive about pressing the button for hazards when none exist, CamSam uses other CamSam users to verify the reported speed cameras and hazards.
If you are looking for a high-quality safety and speed camera database then take a good look at SCDB.Info – it is the backbone of most GPS Safety Camera systems.
If you are smart enough to be using a smartphone for navigation, rather than dropping £400 on a bespoke motorcycle GPS, then you need CamSam which for 99 pence can save you an unwanted donation to the local courts.