Sat Nav Bad Day

In March 1998, High Court Judge Lord Justice Brown threw a claim out of court by the Police against a motorist who was caught using a Radar Detector. The Police claimed that under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949, the motorist was illegally using the device. The Judge ruled that the Radar Detector did not actually receive any intelligible police information and that the Detector was only picking up the presence of radar and not any information within it. This case set a precedent and made the use of Radar Detectors legal in the UK. To over-rule this judgement, the Road Safety Act 2006 specifically bans the use of radar and laser detectors. Most drivers are happy with this situation. They know where cameras are because a fair processing notice is in place (to comply with principle 1 of the DPA) and this is usually a picture of an old fashioned camera recognised by millions. Even the mobile cameras that travel to different locations have their way of delivering an FPN although it is usually found on the web rather than in situ.

So we’re relatively happy. We know where all the speed cameras are and we see them in map books, on the net; We hear about mobile cameras on local radio and TV and we’re cool about it. We buy our TomToms and justify using them saying “it’s just an electronic version of publicly available database”. Then we go to France on holiday.

Since decree n°2012-3 was introduced on 3 January 2012 it has been illegal to be warned about the position of fixed or mobile speed cameras while you are driving in France. If your sat nav has this function and you continue to use the service, you risk a fine of up to €1500. Even if the device is switched off and not operational the possession of such witchcraft is the work of the devil. Ken Russell would have loved to have made a film about it. Good old data subjects from Blighty being thwarted by sneaky foreigners not even bothering to use Schedule 2 (6) just ignoring the rights of individuals and worse disapplying the Subject Information Provisions.

Initially this sounds quite tough. There have been discussions on the web, advice from motoring lobbys and horror stories of motorists having their boot searched by a bold gendarme emerging triumphantly from black plastic sacks of dirty washing with an old device and demanding instant payment of a fine. There is also the other view that the law is unenforceable; that Gendarmes cannot search for satnavs, cannot operate them if they see one as it is technically a computer and their common law powers don’t extend to interrogating them, they cannot check your smart phone for that app you downloaded for free…

The truth naturally lies in the middle. There’s been discussions between french satnav manufacturers and government (one french firm feared 2,000 job losses) and they’ve come up with a concept of danger zones. Instead of listing cameras they list danger zones where there may be a hazard (such as a level crossing or a school or where people might speed) and the satnav can issue a warning of the danger.

The french authorities meanwhile are pushing ahead with a programme of taking down existing signs warning of cameras; they are setting up new cameras and not telling drivers where they are and generally acting very french. Pah! I spit on your schedule 2 requirement.

Other solutions suggested in hyperspace include modifying your satnav camera POIs and labelling them lay bys. (or transport caffs); Registering your car in Lithuania; Buying your next satnav from France and specifying UK maps…(although we did hear that french spoken instructions interpret M25 as Monsieur Vingt Cinq) or exploring Germany which has excellent weissbier and many ancient castles.


A speed camera is un radar (pronounced rad – ah).
A satnav is a GPS (pronounced shay pay ess)
Zones of danger – zits noirs
Breathalyser is un alcooltest (did we forget to tell you that by law you must carry two of these in your car as well as a dayglo yellow vest for each passenger)

Useful phrases

  • Bordelle de merde, espece de radar
  • Fer cryin’ out loud a bloody speed camera
  • Est-ce qu’il y a une brasserie independante dans ce trou a rat, j’ai envie d’une biere?
  • Please direct me to a real ale pub if you have one in this dump of a town.
  • Va te faire cuire un oeuf, sale gendarme.
  • I don’t agree with you officer.

Bonnes Vacances!

About actnowtraining

Act Now Training Ltd specialise in information law. We have been providing training and consultancy services globally for over 16 years. We have an extensive GDPR and FOI course programme from live and recorded webinars, accredited foundation through to higher level certificate courses delivered throughout the country or at your premises.
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