average-speed-camerasI have had my driving licence since the age of 20 – well over 25 years now and think it is far easier to lose it now, than at anytime then. So many different restrictions are in place and sometimes they are downright confusing for the new driver and the old ones, like me.

I live in Southend – Head office location for A Pass 4 U and frequently drive on the A127, which has Average Speed Check cameras along the route. Recently, thinking about the 50 mile an hour road sign, which runs along part of the carriage way from Southend towards Basildon and in the opposite direction. I began to wonder how exactly, if they were signposted 50 miles an hour – could it be an average speed that is assessed.

Bearing this to mind, I thought I would delve a little deeper into the world of the Average Speed Check Camera, to try and make sense of it for all you out there. Some whom are wishing to learn to drive and others, like myself, whom are already driving but don’t really have a clue, what it’s all about. Just keeping to the speed limit to avoid massive thinking about this topic.

How do they do it?

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) read the number plate of each vehicle and the average speed of your vehicle is calculated between the cameras, over the known baseline distance.

ANPR is placed at specific locations: to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.

If you are speeding consistently between each camera, then your vehicle speed will be worked out inbetween the cameras by the technology available and logged. An offence record will be created and images of your vehicle will be kept, if in violation. It may lead to receiving a speeding penalty notice.

Now its use as a more general crime-fighting tool and traffic control technique is spreading around the Western world.

The UK has a national network of ANPR allowing police to track car movements, most notably used to track the getaway car of the killers of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005.

The average speed cameras – or Specs – are produced by Speed Check Services (SCS) in Camberley and are now installed temporarily at many roadworks sites and also permanently in many areas. The town with the most is Nottingham.

What exactly is the Average Speed Check meant to do?

Average speed check cameras used linked video to monitor a particular length of road.

  • Average speed check cameras do not only focus on vehicles which enter and exit on the same lane.

Sudden braking

First used in 1999, each pair of Specs is allowed to be positioned any distance from 200m to 10km apart. In practice, most are a few hundred metres apart, says Paul Davey, managing director of SCS.

“You do need to keep reminding people they are in a speed controlled zone. Too far apart and people forget.”

Also, placed further apart, people could speed up and slow down to keep their average below the limit, while still having broken the law.

But the critics have accused the cameras of allowing a less complicated dodge – changing lanes. Each pair of cameras covers one lane. So in theory, if you are clocked in the fast lane, and you then changed to the middle lane just before the exit camera, you would not be caught.

They are not lane specific.

But Mr Davey says this would be difficult to pull off, as each section covered has a number of cameras and drivers would not be able to see which one was paired with which. You might be picked up by entry camera A, speed down to camera B and change lane only to find that that was also an entry camera and that either exit cameras C or D would get you further down the road. And the cameras slow more people down, Mr Davey suggests, producing a smoother traffic flow and avoiding the tiny go-slows around the old-fashioned spot speed cameras. But Hugh Bladon, of the Association of British Drivers pressure group, says the cameras still cause sudden braking by panicked drivers, but also now cause long stretches of crawling traffic.

“People see a camera and immediately put their foot on the brakes,” he says. “It doesn’t lead to good driving. You get people driving along and their eyes are glued to the speedometer rather than to the road. “In towns people who should be looking for children between the [parked] cars will be looking at their speedometers.”

BBC News

Did you know? 

  • The ANPR was first used in large numbers, to secure the City of London from IRA attacks.
  • Cameras do not use film to lodge the data.

Points and Penalties:

Points and Penalties

The absolute minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK’s roads increased 40% in July 2013 from £60 to £100 fine. A minimum of 3 penalty points will also be added to your licence.

However, depending on the road speed limit and your actual recorded speed in the speeding offence a court summons may be generated in place of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) through the post.


So the next time you need to drive on a road which utilities Average Speed Check Cameras, to keep down the number of road traffic accidents. Remember that it is not just your speed on reaching the camera which is important, but also how quickly you arrive at each camera. Keep to the speed limit requested. Then in both cases, you should be driving penalty free.

If new drivers amass 6 penalty points in the first two years of driving, you will lose your licence and have to go back to being a learner. You will then have to reapply for a provisional licence and take both theory and practical tests again.

Image source: DeFacto / Wiki