Drivers making cars ‘invisible’ to speed and bus lane cameras

A shot of bus stop yellow sign on road pavement after rain

According to officials, drivers are putting unique number plates that make them invisible to speed cameras. Authorities from the police and council are attempting to put a stop to the fitting of “ghost plates” on cars.

The unique reflective number plates are prohibited and cannot be read by speed and bus lane cameras. Known as 3D and 4D plates, police are now outfitting themselves with specialised cameras to spot people breaking the law.

The head of the country’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition programme said last year that one in fifteen drivers were “gaming” the system, which he called “staggeringly simple” and “easy to fool.” As he resigned from his position as Commissioner of Biometrics and Surveillance Cameras, Professor Fraser Sampson wrote to Transport Secretary Mark Harper to express his dissatisfaction with the lack of action taken to resolve the issue.

Councils now have access to modern cameras that are able to “see” the plates. Among those receiving the cameras as part of the operation are Wolverhampton council wardens. A £100 fine is awaiting anyone found using the unlawful plates.

Councillor Craig Collingswood, cabinet member for environment and climate change at Wolverhampton City Council, told BirminghamLive: “Wolverhampton is leading the way as the first council investing in this state-of-the-art technology to deter and detect offenders.

“Bus lanes are essential for the public transport network to operate efficiently and speed cameras help to keep the public safe from speeding vehicles and reduce the likelihood of a crash. All motorists can expect to pay a fine if found to be using these illegal methods to avoid cameras and taxi drivers licensed by Wolverhampton may have their licence suspended or revoked.”

Prof. Sampson wrote to Mark Harper to explain that anyone may avoid paying for speeding fines or entering low-emission zones by just copying their licence plates, using reflective tape, and purchasing “stealth plates.”

Additionally, he stated that the accuracy rate for reading number plates was only 97%, which translates to an astounding 2.4 million incorrect number plates being reported every day and fines being imposed on innocent vehicles. According to statistics, there are about 15,400 traffic lanes that are covered by cameras that regularly submit between 75 and 80 million reads every day, and occasionally more than 80 million. Prof. Sampson continued, “By the end of 2024, it could reach 100 million reads daily.”

Prof Sampson said: “For all its technological advancement and operational indispensability, the ANPR system still relies ultimately on a piece of plastic affixed to either end of a vehicle. Served by a wholly unregulated market, what my predecessor termed the humble number plate represents a single and readily assailable point of failure with the ANPR network being easily defeated by the manufacture and sale of stealth plates, cloned registration marks and other rudimentary obscurant tactics.

“The result is that the ability to frustrate the ANPR system remains staggeringly simple at a time when proper reliance on it for key public services such as policing, law enforcement and traffic management is increasing daily. Emission zones and other strategic traffic enforcement schemes put motorists in situations where they have to make significant financial choices and it is at least arguable that the incentives for some to ‘game’ the ANPR systems have never been greater.

“Merely by applying reflective tape to distort part of a registration plate or purchasing stealth plates from online vendors, motorists can confuse and confound current number plate recognition technology and both of these are easily obtainable. One recent estimate suggested that one in fifteen drivers may already be using anti-ANPR technology; it is reasonable to expect this conduct to increase as the reliance on ANPR for new traffic management schemes continues.”


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top