Car Advice

What’s an average speed camera and how do they work?

With their use becoming more and more widespread, we explain what an average speed camera is and how it works.

These days even the most asthmatic car is capable of creeping well above the speed limit. Indeed, most modern cars make it almost too easy to speed.

This no doubt leads into a debate on speed limits in this country which then usually includes keyboard warriors citing revenue raising and others pointing to driver skill level.

Speed limits, on some sections of road in this country could easily be lifted to 130km/h mirroring the limits on some roads in Europe. But that’s not what this article is about. We want to look at average speed cameras because they’re being introduced in more places to ‘better’ control ‘speeding drivers’.

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The introduction of average speed cameras has come about due to the well-known fact that many drivers will slow down for a fixed or mobile speed camera and then, once out of shot or range, resume their previous, perhaps above the speed limit speed. This led to police officers ‘hiding’ their mobile cameras to catch out ‘speeding’ drivers.

This also lead to the introduction of linked average speed cameras. Only the States differ on their use of average speed cameras. Well, NSW differs. All States and Territories, except for NSW, use average speed cameras to detect speeding cars. In NSW, they’re only used to detect speeding heavy vehicles or those with a trailer with a GVM of 4.5t. We’ll come back to this.

What is a linked average speed camera?

As the name suggests, an average speed camera works by measuring the amount of time it takes a vehicle to travel between two points and then calculates the average speed. If the vehicle’s average speed is higher than the posted speed limit then the driver will be booked and fined.

In NSW, heavy vehicle drivers will receive an extra point deducted from their licence as well as the demerit points for the speed they’ve exceeded the limit by. The Roads and Maritime Services, says, “Average speed enforcement is used to enforce existing speeding laws, however, an additional demerit point will be incurred by heavy vehicle drivers detected speeding using average speed enforcement. This is because offences detected by average speed enforcement demonstrate a continued intention to speed”.

When it comes to determining the length of an average speed camera zone, according to authorities the set distance will always be the minimum ‘practicable’ distance to ensure there isn’t an overestimation of speed. And that a stretch of road is always assessed by a land surveyor to determine the accuracy and practicality of installing an average speed camera zone.

What kind of cameras are used?

In Australia and other countries where average speed cameras are installed the camera type is called a SPECS camera which stands for Speed Checks Services which was the name of the company that created the camera type.

Unlike other speed camera, SPECS cameras are always set up as a pair. Both cameras take an image of a vehicle and have Automatic Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) with infrared illumination to ensure they can work in lowlight and at night.

Do average speed cameras just record average speed?

No. Both cameras can measure the speed a vehicle passes by them at in the same way a usual point speed camera does. The cameras, because they’re also recording the vehicle’s numberplate, allows authorities to fine drivers, not only if they’re speeding, but also if their vehicle is unregistered or uninsured. Indeed, in several States, average speed cameras are being used to detect entry speed, exit speed and average speed and if one or all is above the posted speed limit the driver will be fined not once, but up to three times.

How will I know if I’ve been recorded speeding in an average speed zone?

When a notice of infringement lands in your letterbox. If you’ve travelled through an average speed camera zone then you will have been recorded by it. Average speed cameras don’t require a flash to record a vehicle or capture its numberplate.

How are average speed camera locations determined?

According to the various road services, locations are determined based on the number of accidents, speeding fines issued or road conditions.

Are average speed cameras the same across the country?

The hardware is the same, yes, but the detection priorities are not. As mentioned, in some States you can be fined for exceeding the posted speed limit upon entry and exit of the zone as well as if your average speed exceeds the posted speed limit.

Most States and Territories that use average speed cameras will use them to record all vehicles that travel through the zone, meaning cars and heavy vehicles. But, in NSW, only heavy vehicles are targeted.

Ignore the question of revenue raising if you can…because NSW’s stance is an odd one. Visit the RMS site and look up average speed cameras and it will boldly state that research shows average speed cameras can reduce the risk of serious or fatal crashes by 50 percent, yet, it still only uses them to target heavy vehicles. It justifies this position, “Average speed enforcement targets heavy vehicles because they are often involved in serious road crashes. Heavy vehicles make up only 2.4 percent of vehicle registrations, and 8.3 percent of kilometres travelled by NSW vehicles, however, are involved in about 17 percent of road fatalities. Average speed enforcement is also more suited to the long distances heavy vehicles travel”.

Question: Should NSW include all vehicle types in its infringement priorities for average speed camera zones (of which there are currently 25 around the State).

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.