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Average Speed Cameras

When speed cameras were initially introduced to the UK, drivers of new and used cars soon learned to spot the cameras and road markings. Slowing down through areas covered by cameras breaks the flow of traffic, and can cause accidents when a car slows rapidly, which does little to discourage speeding and road safety.

Speed CamerasThe introduction of average speed cameras, a network of two or more cameras that record vehicle progress over a longer stretch of road to make sure it is keeping to the speed limit, is a more effective way of controlling traffic speed.

Average speed cameras are usually found in traffic black spots on single and dual carriageway A roads, and may be set up temporarily during speed restrictions for roadworks. This camera type may also be used to cover bus lanes, level crossings, and traffic lights, as well as congestion charge or toll zones.

The cameras are set up in a linked series which can cover a lengthy stretch of road. On motorways and dual carriageways, all lanes will be covered. Rather than firing when a car is speeding, the cameras automatically record all traffic.

Number plates are recorded by the first camera in the group, along with the time the car passes. Subsequent cameras also record registration and time, and the average speed is calculated. If the car reaches another camera in the chain too quickly, over a programmed limit, the camera system passes the vehicle details to a database so that action can be taken. Although the system is automatic, enforcement is a matter for the local police, and their policy may vary by region, or even by individual roads.

Unlike forward facing cameras, which only capture the number plate on the front of a vehicle, these cameras can record the rear plates on motorcycles and Trade plates used by drivers in the motor trade.

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The cameras record digitally, rather than on film, so they are always live. Because they use infrared, they can operate after dark, too. You won’t see a flash as with single speed cameras. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) means a car can be traced to its owner quickly.

There are often signs to warn of average speed cameras, especially through roadworks, but not always. So, how can you tell an average speed camera from a fixed, single speed camera?

Average speed cameras tend to be mounted on gantries, although you might spot them on lamp posts or street furniture. They will usually be mounted in bright safety yellow housings. Seeing cameras set at regular intervals, most often 200 metres, is a giveaway that these are average speed cameras.

As with any speeding offence, getting caught by average speed cameras can mean a fine, and points on your driving licence, which is likely to drive up the cost of your car insurance policy. Offenders may have to attend a speed awareness course. It’s better to be safe than sorry!


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