Demystifying average speed cameras: how they keep the roads safe

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#Driver Safety
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Average speed cameras

Speed cameras are now commonplace in the UK with the purpose of slowing drivers down to set speed limits, making the roads safer. Drivers are likely to encounter many types of speed cameras whilst on the move, but research from RAC found that 8 in 10 drivers think average speed cameras are better at slowing traffic than traditional fixed ones.

Although average speed cameras were first introduced many years ago, many drivers still don’t understand how they work and there are many misconceptions about their use. In this blog post, we'll shed light on the workings of average speed cameras, analysing their technology and how they play a vital role in ensuring road safety.

Understanding the technology

Average speed cameras, most commonly SPECS or VECTOR, operate by measuring the time it takes for a vehicle to travel between two or more points on a road. This technology calculates the average speed over a length of road which differs from traditional speed cameras that capture vehicle speed at a specific moment.

The main benefit of average speed cameras is that they prevent drivers from slowing down just before they see a camera and then speeding straight up again after they’ve passed it. This keeps road users at a safer and more consistent speed for longer.  

Installation and locations 

To differentiate them from other speed cameras, average speed cameras are usually mounted on top of long, yellow poles at the side of the road. There’s one camera monitoring each lane to ensure that drivers’ speed is still tracked even if they change lanes.

Average speed cameras are located across the country, but they’re often strategically placed on dual carriageways and motorways to encourage consistent speed compliance or to slow drivers down when roadworks are taking place. Their installation is often promoted by concerns about specific road sections with a history of accidents or speeding issues. To help maintain the safety of all road users, Siemens SafeZone average speed cameras are most commonly found in urban areas, e.g. outside a school or in a town centre where low-speed management is crucial.

Real-time monitoring and accuracy 

Average speed cameras use Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) technology to accurately monitor speeds on the road and the use of infra-red photography allows drivers to be caught speeding at night and in poor weather conditions. The ANPR technology records the average speed of every vehicle and if this is higher than the speed limit then a ticket is automatically issued to the vehicle’s address on the V5C.  

SpeedSpike average speed cameras are slightly different as they fit into a network of up to 1,000 separate cameras linked together by GPRS. This gives them more coverage as they can monitor an area 24 hours a day and catch speeding drivers going in both directions. 

Impact on road safety

The main objective of average speed cameras is to enhance road safety. Brake estimates that one in four deadly crashes involves someone who was driving too fast, so by implementing average speed cameras on roads across the UK, we can ensure that speeds are kept under control and prevent accidents from occurring.

Speed cameras have been proven to directly impact road safety, with road casualties reduced following their introduction. In 2019, speed cameras were estimated to have directly saved 220 lives as they deter drivers from speeding which helps to prevent fatal crashes.

Misconceptions and debunking myths

Despite their intended purpose of improving road safety, there are several misconceptions around average speed cameras and how they work. It’s important to dispel these myths as they can cause complacency amongst drivers, so you’ll be more likely to get caught for speeding. The biggest conceptions of average speed cameras are:

  • The 10% rule – Many drivers believe that you can go over the speed limit by up to 10% without receiving a speeding ticket. Although some police forces will provide discretion, the law states that you’re liable as soon as you go over the limit, so its’ never worth the risk.  
  • Changing lanes stops speeders being detected – Older speed cameras were less accurate and so changing lanes would impact detection, but significant advancements have been made with multiple sets of cameras now used to track all lanes.
  • The only purpose of average speed cameras is profit – When they were first introduced, speed cameras were controversial as they were perceived to be a money-making scheme for authorities. However, the primary goal of speed cameras is to reduce accidents and encourage safer driving habits. The money made from speeding fines is often used to help fund road safety initiatives, so the benefit of speed cameras is two-fold.  
  • Average speed cameras are inaccurate – Some drivers believe that average speed cameras are prone to inaccuracies, especially in adverse weather conditions, but this is not true. As modern average speed cameras utilise advanced technology, including infra-red sensors and digital image processing, accurate speed measurements can be taken under various circumstances.

Compliance and penalty system 

The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 points on your license but this can increase depending on how much you’ve gone over the speed limit by. Drivers that are caught by average speed cameras can be asked to attend a speed awareness course which will educate them on how to be safer on the roads in the future.

You could be disqualified from driving if you receive 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years, so it’s important that you always stick to the speed limits. For newly qualified drivers, the consequences are more severe as your license will automatically be revoked if you receive 6 points during the first two years after passing your test.


Average speed cameras undoubtedly play a crucial role in enhancing road safety as they encourage drivers to slow down and stick to the speed limit. By calculating the average speed of vehicles over a specified distance, they discourage abrupt speed changes and reckless driving, contributing to reduced accident rates.

Developments are constantly being made to speed camera technology in the hope that a wider variety of road offences, such as mobile phone use, could be caught in the future. This will help to tackle road safety at a greater scale which will benefit all road users and prevent many road collisions.

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If you are involved in a collision, it’s important that you understand your rights and have the best legal support as you can be questioned by the police at the roadside. We offer an exclusive service to our customers, so they can access a 24/7 helpline and get specialist legal advice in the event of a traffic accident. Sign up for Right Protect today and give your business the best chance of winning.

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David James
Sales Director

David has worked in the fuel card industry since 2008. His financial insights have been featured in various publications, such as The Sun, the Daily Express and The Yorkshire Times where he provides money-saving tips for motorists. David is passionate about charity work and regularly raises money through running events, including the London Marathon and the Leeds Abbey Dash.