Cameras for speed limit enforcement

The implementation of cameras for speed limit enforcement is the joint project of the Estonian Road Administration and the Police and Border Guard Board as part of the national road traffic safety programme.

The purpose of installing the cameras is to calm the traffic and reduce the number of accidents. Cameras keep speeding under control and help to make sure that drivers stay within permitted speed limits on dangerous road sections, thus making traffic safer and reducing the number of road accidents. Cameras have a preventive and disciplining effect. Drivers know that there are cameras for speed limit enforcement installed on certain road sections and that exceeding the permitted speed limit will not go undetected.

Based on the experience of other countries, speed cameras help reduce the number of road accidents with human casualties by approximately 20%. High speeds account for about 20% of road deaths, meaning that speeding causes about 8500 deaths per year.

Advantages of automatic speed supervision

Automatic speed supervision has several advantages compared to traditional supervision.

  • Efficiency– the likelihood of discovering vehicles exceeding speed limits is very high.
  • Speed – the penalty decision along with a contestation form is sent to the authorised vehicle user immediately after identification..
  • Economy – work processes have been automated to the maximum and the number of people involved in the processing activities is minimum. The time and labour that can be saved on account of regular processing of speeding can be used to discover and prevent other traffic violations.
  • Trustworthiness – a photo will always be taken of anyone exceeding the speed limit; the possibility of mistakes is minimal.
  • Equal treatment – all cases are recorded. Every kilometre above the limit is always met with the same fixed amount of money determined by the law (1 km/h = 3 euros) for everyone.

Camera locations

Locations have been chosen based on the statistics of road accidents with human casualties in the past five years, traffic volume, the speed of vehicles on that section, access to electricity and local environmental conditions. Traffic signs informing road users of speed cameras will be installed on the appropriate road sections.

As of 04 February 2021, there are 67 measuring booths installed on the state-owned roads of Estonia, and five of these cameras allow measuring from both directions. The Estonian Road Administration also manages 2 booths installed in Tallinn. Altogether there are 69 measuring booths in Estonia.

  • 17 measuring booths between kilometres 41.–150. of the Tallinn–Tartu–Võru–Luhamaa road;
  • 10 measuring booths between kilometres 92.–138. of the Tallinna–Pärnu–Ikla maantee road;
  • 11 measuring booths between kilometres 127.–202. of the Tallinna–Narva maantee road;
  • 5 measuring booths between kilometres 3.–60. of the Ääsmäe–Haapsalu–Rohuküla road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 1. kilometer of the Saku–Laagri road;
  • 4 measuring booths between kilometres 13.–19. of the Tallinna–Rannamõisa–Kloogaranna road;
  • 6 measuring booths between kilometres 7.–26. of the Tallinna–Rapla–Türi road;
  • 5 measuring booths between kilometres 16.–36. of the Tallinna–Paldiski road;
  • 2 measuring booths between kilometres 42.–43. of the Risti–Virtsu–Kuivastu road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 3. kilometer of the Rakvere–Haljala road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 2. kilometer of the Mustla–Võõbu road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 7. kilometer of the Kose–Ardu road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 5. kilometer of the Ojasoo–Ardu road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 4. kilometer of the Kuivajõe–Liiva road;
  • 1 measuring booth on the 7. kilometer of the Tartu–Tiksoja road;
  • 2 measuring booths in Tallinn at the crossroad of Tulika tänav, Endla tänav and Sõpruse puiestee (so called Kristiine cross).

The Estonian Transport Administration can use 46 measuring systems in the boxes. The systems are rearranged from time to time.

Measurement methods, data transmission and penalty fines

Cameras record the speed of all passing vehicles. If some of the vehicles exceed the permitted speed limit, the camera will take a picture of the vehicle and its driver. All recorded data (including the photo) will be sent to the proceedings centre of the police, where the person authorised to use the motor vehicle will be identified based on the licence plate of the car as seen on the photo.

The measuring principle of the measurement system is based on measuring the time difference of light impulses travelling to the object under measurement and back and calculating the speed on the basis of that and comparing that speed to the maximum value of the predetermined speed that activates the camera and preparing the necessary documentation if that value is exceeded.

The speed measurement system is based on LIDAR technology that generates a digital version of the image and emits short light impulses with the measuring beam. The beam covers the surroundings of the road during measuring activities and the system automatically determines the best distance for taking a picture in that particular environment.

Beams reflecting back from the object under measurement is received and processed by the LIDAR receiver. The system automatically calculates the distance between the measuring system and the object covered, using the readings determined by measuring the time it takes for light impulses to travel to the object under measurement and back. The speed of the vehicle is then calculated based on the estimated time derived from the readings acquired while measuring the distance.

Measuring speed is characterised by measurement uncertainty, which is caused by:

  • imperfections in the measurement system;
  • imperfections in the measuring method (meaning that the speed of the vehicle is not measured directly, but indirectly by calculating the distance and changes in the angle and measuring time);
  • environmental conditions at the measuring site during the measuring;
  • the object being measured (the vehicle).

Measurement uncertainty is taken into account when measuring the speed of vehicles – it is considered an admissible deviation, so to speak.

Cameras can measure the speed of vehicles driving on up to three parallel lanes, but pictures are only ever taken of vehicles that exceed the permitted speed limit. If there are more than one vehicle exceeding the permitted speed limit, each vehicle will be recorded separately. Taking a picture will allow the speeding vehicle to be identified regardless of which lane it is in. However, bear in mind that we are still subject to the rules of physics. If the vehicle exceeding the permitted speed limit happens to be fully behind a bus at the exact moment the picture is taken, the camera cannot look through the bus.

Cameras also work at night. The technical solutions of the cameras take into account any lighting conditions, allowing the vehicles’ registration plates to be identified in the dark. A flash is used both day and night. The flash on the cameras is equipped with a red filter to make sure the flash does not blind drivers. Drivers can see the red flash as the pictures are taken and will always know if the camera has recorded their speeding.

The intervention threshold of cameras for speed limit enforcement is the speed starting from which a picture is taken of the vehicle and a cautionary fine is sent to the driver. The intervention threshold includes both the expanded measurement uncertainty of the camera and the agreed permissible error allowed for the driver.

Violations will be processed starting from speeds:

  • 50 km/h area: 53 km/h (camera configuration with expanded measurement uncertainty 57 km/h)
  • 70 km/h area: 73 km/h (camera configuration with expanded measurement uncertainty 77 km/h)
  • 90 km/h area: 93 km/h (camera configuration with expanded measurement uncertainty 97 km/h)
  • 100 km/h area: 103 km/h (camera configuration with expanded measurement uncertainty 108 km/h)
  • 110 km/h area: 113 km/h (camera configuration with expanded measurement uncertainty 118 km/h)

Cameras for speed limit enforcement create an encrypted recording of the speeding incident, which contains relevant data and a photo of the vehicle under question. Encrypted recordings are sent to the data centre of the Estonian Transport Administration using secure data channels. There the automatic recording is decrypted and authenticated, the measurement results presented with expanded measurement uncertainty and the licence plate automatically identified.

Following that, the specially processed case data are sent to the Police and Border Guard Board through the data exchange layer (X-Road) of the national data system to be processed. Original recordings are kept in the information system for cameras for speed limit enforcement (in the data centre of the Estonian Transport Administration).


How do the police process exceeding the speed limit?

Exceeding the permitted speed limit is not always the reason for seeing a flash of light from the camera. It could also mean that the camera for speed limit enforcement is momentarily turning off prior to sending data. This takes place three times in 24 h.

If a speeding camera has automatically detected someone exceeding the permitted speed limit, a penalty notice will be put together for the person authorised to use the motor vehicle. The notice is usually signed digitally. The penalty notice includes a payment order and a pre-filled contestation form.

The notice does not include a copy of the photo. A copy of the photo used to identify the speeding will be sent to the person authorised to use the motor vehicle upon if the latter submits an appropriate application. The application must be validated with a signature or digital signature. Sending an application to receive the photo does not stop the 30-day deadline for paying the fine. The photo will be sent by post or electronically to the address of the authorised user. If the photo taken by the speed camera reveals other persons in addition to the driver in the car salon, the images of all other persons (except the driver) will be blurred for personal data protection.

Pursuant of the Traffic Act, the penalty for exceeding the speed limit is a cautionary fine the amount of which in euros is calculated by multiplying the number of kilometres above the speed limit by 3. The cautionary fine can be up to 190 euros.

Last updated: 15.02.2021