'No warning sign is required' - What’s the deal with hidden traffic cameras in SA?

Johannesburg - Behind trees and bushes, disguised as a roadside 'electricity box'... hidden speed-cameras are all too common practice in South Africa.

What does the law say about hiding and trapping drivers? Can officers disguise speed traps? Legal firm, LawForAll, answers these questions and more at the end of this article.

Speed-trapping in SA: Can traffic cops hide in bushes?

Wheels24 reader Ricky De Klerk sent us images of a hidden traffic camera:

De Klerk says: "I took the photos in Meyerton on Pierneef Blouevard between Johan le roux and the AGS church stop.

"Meyerton also has a road block on this street where they intimidate you to pay outstanding fines or be imprisoned. As you can see, the camera was unattended and was not on level ground. Can you perhaps share your opinion about this and also if it is even legal?"

Image: Ricky De Klerk

Image: Ricky De Klerk

What do you think of hidden/disguised speed cameras in SA? Email us

LawForAll responds:

You may have noticed some of the ‘scenery’ changing on your drive to and from the office, but don’t worry, you’re not losing your mind. It’s likely that the disappearing green roadside "electricity box" is in fact a temporary speeding camera trapping motorists who exceed the speed limit. 

In 2015, green "electricity boxes" started popping up on the sides of intersections and roads in Pietermaritzburg, much to the confusion on the motorists. Of course, they learnt later that these were so-called Icam traffic cameras recording speed violators. 

Naturally, the question on everyone’s lips was: Is it legal? 

According to LawForAll’s Managing Director, Jackie Nagtegaal, said: "The hidden cameras are, in fact, legal, and no warning sign is required. Unless it’s for average speed prosecutions, it is well within the rights of traffic authorities to use these disguised devices to enforce the law."

Of course, these hidden cameras are being used across South Africa, and they don’t all resemble the above-mentioned green electricity boxes.

What do the hidden cameras look like?

Firstly, the above-mentioned trap is known as a 'green mamba', and they are portable devices that record speeding motorists by means of radar and laser sensors. 

These cameras are only used during the day as they don’t have flashes for them to be effective during the night or bad weather.  

Then there are the grey utility box speed cameras. Much like the green mambas, these devices starting popping up sporadically in the Nelson Mandela Bay area in 2015. 

In addition to catching speedsters, the camera also uses Itrack technology to track stolen vehicles or single out vehicles with unpaid traffic fines. The camera can apparently alert traffic officials if a suspicious vehicle is approaching.

What’s more, according to Traffic Management Technologies, the device can also sync up with a hand-held mechanism that allows traffic officers to issue tickets on site.  

Speed traps also make use of military-style camouflaging.

The radar guns are disguised in such a way that they blend into the natural environment around them. Again, there is no legal obligation from traffic authorities to warn motorists about the device.

The same goes for the speed traps that are actually controlled by traffic officials. However, as Nagtegaal points out: "The official must be in possession of a valid operator’s certificate and calibration certificate for the device that he or she is using. You also have the right to ask the official to present both documents.

"Understandably, hidden speed cameras in South African have been met with a fair amount of criticism, with many highlighting the fact that motorists aren’t warned about the traps.  What’s more, the jury is still out on whether or not any of these measures actually make South African roads safer."

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