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SPECS average speed cameras explained

SPECS average speed camera systems utilise state of the art video system with Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) digital technology. Each SPECS camera is features infra red illuminators fitted on gantries above the road, so they can work day or night 24/7.

SPECS speed cameras are located in multiple (at least 2 at a minimum of 200 metres apart) locations along a single stretch of road for monitoring your average speed along that particular road. So unlike other fixed speed cameras which capture your speed at a certain point in the road, SPECS average speed camera work and track you speed over a set distance, which may be serveral miles! The shortest average speed check zone in the UK is located on Tower Bridge, London and is just less than a mile in length. While the longest average speed camera zone in the UK can be found on the A9 in Scotland between Dunblane and Inverness and covers some 99 miles!

In 2013, some 127 miles of UK roads were covered by average speed cameras, however by 2016 research obtained by the BBC's The One Show found 51 stretches of road are permanently managed by average speed cameras, covering some 263 miles in total - doubling in 3 years. Average speed cameras are not just made up of SPECS average cameras, but also include VECTOR average speed cameras too. Read more about VECTOR speed cameras.

The rise in popularity of SPECS and VECTOR average speed cameras has come as the cost of installing them has dropped. According to Richard Owen, from Road Safety Analysis the cost of installing a SPECS average speed check zone in the early 2000s was £1.5m per mile, the cost in 2016 is typically about £100,000 per mile.

How do SPECS speed cameras work?

SPECS speed camera systems commonly enforce speed limits on dual carriageways and motorways. SPECS gantry installations can monitor up to four lanes. The SPECS system are located at the side of the road or at central reservations. Cameras are then located at regular intervals to operate a managed speed control zone.

Each SPECS speed camera records a date and time stamp. Then, by ANPR, the computer can then work out your average speed between the cameras with photographic evidence that you were speeding between the SPECS cameras. SPECS speed cameras also record your number plate and issue you a speeding ticket if you were speeding along the average speed controlled stretch of road.

I still find it amazing that travelling along the A40 through the 40mph SPECS average speed check zone I can honestly state I am overtaken by almost every car and van that comes along, very rarely do I see a vehicle travelling the same set speed. After so many years of GATSO's on this road, drivers still only brake for the cameras not realising they are Average Speed Cameras. Comment from UK motorist.

Points and Penalties

The absolute minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK's roads increased 66.7% 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 with the code SP10, SP20, SP30, SP40 or SP50. For more information click here.

A motorist caught by a SPECS average speed camera writes:

I have been prosecuted for speeding at 36mph on the A358 at Henlade by a SpeedCurb camera. However the photographic evidence provided by the police indicated that my speed was less than 34mph over the white lines. As this is below the declared prosecution threshold of 35mph in a 30mph restricted zone, I pleaded not guilty at last week's pre-trial referral hearing.

However at this hearing I was astonished to be told that the photographic evidence was inadmissible, and that full reliance would be placed on the 'infallible' underground piezo cell part of the system, on which the 36mph figure was based. 

I had already submitted questions relating to the operation of the speed camera system, but was told that answers to these questions would be withheld until the trial.  Only then would I have the opportunity to put my questions to an 'expert witness', and if found guilty, I would have to pay the cost of 'perhaps up to £20,000' for the expert witness's testimony.

I simply cannot take the risk of paying such a price for asking for information which I had assumed should have been made available before the trial.

Despite my serious misgivings, it is clear that I have no alternative but to plead guilty. So much for British justice - it is what makes me want to emigrate!

Video of SPECS average speed camera

No film

Unlike other speed cameras SPECS camera don't use film so there is no limit to the number of incriminating motorists it can help to prosecute. Your number plate, date and time stamp are stored by each SPECS camera and then if your average speed between the cameras is above the speed limit you will automatically be issued a speeding fine.

SPECS average speed check zones are becoming more popular

In the past SPECS average speed cameras were used in a minority of counties such as Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire. In more recent ti,es SPECS speed cameras are the favoured choice in motorway roadwork's and road distances covered by average speed cameras (SPECS and VECTOR) have more than doubled between 2013 and 2016.

Furthermore, a number of local authorities are now adopting average speed cameras in favour of the traditional fixed point speed check cameras. For example a number of years ago Cambridgeshire replaced their fixed point Gatso and Truvelo speed cameras along the A14 with a SPECS speed-controlled zone instead. More recently, Lincolnshire have replaced their fixed Gatso cameras on the A15 (just south of Lincoln) with a three camera VECTOR average speed check.

In addition in Cambridgeshire on a very rural road and a notorious accident blackspot location a SPECS average speed system was installed in July 2010. Helping to ensure that motorists keep to the 50mph speed limit along the entire section of road and not just at a speed cameras location. Expect to see more SPECS average speed cameras right across the UK.

The map below depicts the UK's five longest average speed check routes in 2016 - these routes includes both VECTOR and SPECS average speed cameras.

Map depicts the UK's five longest average speed check routes in 2016

What are VECTOR average speed cameras?

In 2014 a new average speed camera named VECTOR also using ANPR technology was launched by the same company behind SPECS - that company named Vysionics. To learn more about VECTOR average speed cameras click here.

SPECS Questions and Answers

Read below questions and answers relating to SPECS average speed cameras. To ask your own question please use our online form. If you'd like to read more general questions and answers relating to average speed cameras read them online here.

Question: If there is five SPECS cameras down a road, how many do you have to pass over the limit to get a ticket? For example if I go through the first two at 36mph in a 30mph but then turn off the road would I get a ticket or if I went through first two at 36mph but went 27mph past the next three?

Answer: It depends which average speed cameras are paired together.

If the first two are paired together and you drive at an average speed of 36mph in a 30mph between them, then that alone will generate the NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution). NIPs are normally sent out to the vehicles registered keeper within 14 working days.

The camera pairings are only known by the Police and camera installer.

Our advice is to drive at or below the enforced road speed limit from the very first camera to the very last camera in a series of average speed cameras. That is the only way you be certain of not receiving a NIP with attached points and/or fine.

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Question: I am wondering if SPECS cameras only pick up a registration plate, or do they take a picture of the vehicle and can differentiate if a car is towing a trailer or not?

Answer: It depends on the camera set up as this will differ from location to location and Police force to Police force. However, it possible for several images to be captured by a SPECS average speed camera, these can include:

‣The complete vehicle, including road behind - so a trailer would be visible.
‣A photo of the driver of said vehicle - so there is no dispute who was driving at the time of the speeding offence.
‣The vehicles number plate.

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Question: If you brake and slow down at the last minute when passing the first camera in a series of SPECs and continue staying within the speed limit will a fine be issued or will the cameras detect you are going under the speed limit?

Answer: As long as you drive at or below the posted road speed limit e.g. 50mph between SPECS speed camera locations, then you will be complying with the law.

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Read below questions and answers relating to SPECS average speed cameras. To ask your own question please use our online form. If you'd like to read more general questions and answers relating to average speed cameras read them online here.

Question: When passing a SPECS camera if you accelerate quickly but do not break the speed limit would the camera think you are going faster due to the ground being covered quicker without speeding?

Answer: A SPECS camera does not record your speed when passing a single camera location. It requires two or more camera points to calculate your average speed between points.

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Question: Just a quick question regarding SPECS average speed cameras. A car and/or motorbike can do 0-60mph in 2 seconds. But never went above the speed limit, would it look like you have been speeding due to covering the allocated distance quicker!

Answer: Short answer; yes.

Longer answer; if you drive or ride on average faster than the posted road speed limit between two paired SPECS camera sites then you would have broken the law and exceeded the enforced road speed limit. You can then expect to receive a speeding ticket through the post.

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Question: I was driving along a section of the A13 over the last two days which is principally a 50mph road. Between the A406/A13 junction and Canning town there are a series of SPECS. Yesterday I was driving consistently at around 45mph, and then suddenly the speed limit dropped to 30mph on my side of the road only. Unfortunately I did not drop my speed in time and the two sets of SPECS in the 30mph zone were only 100 metres or so apart. I drove 30mph for the rest of the journey. I am worried that I will get caught for speeding now. How would everything work based on what I told you?

Answer: SPECS average speed check cameras are paired with other SPECS cameras in the enforced speed check zone. So if the speed limit within the average speed check was 30mph and you drove in excess of this speed limit between SPECS camera positions, then you have exceeded the enforced speed limit.

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Question: SPECS average speed cameras are located over each lane on motorways and dual carriageways. If I change lanes say between the first and last cameras would my car and average speed still be detected?

Answer: Yes, your vehicle average speed is recorded between two or more SPECS average speed cameras positions. Changing lanes between will have no bearing as SPECS cameras are not paired on Individual lanes, but between different sets of SPECS cameras.

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Question: Just a quick question regarding specs camera. Today I passed 7 SPECS cameras, if my average speed was above the speed limit shown past each camera would I get a ticket for every camera apart from the first camera? Meaning I could potentially get a £600 fine and loss of licence (18 points) over a 4 mile stretch.

Answer: SPECS average speed cameras are not normally paired between each and every camera. Average cameras are often paired between say the second and last camera in the sequence. Of course the actual pairings will ONLY be known by the camera operator and/or Police authority. I certainly would be very surprised to hear that you or any motorist was prosecuted multiple times at a single SPECS average speed check zone. If however the average speed check zone ends and then starts again within the 4 mile stretch and thus becoming a new SPECS speed check, then in this instance you may be prosecuted more than once.

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Question: Are the SPECS average speed cameras the most common form of the average speed cameras? Are there any speed cameras these detectors do not detect?

Answer: SPECS average speed cameras are often used in roadwork's on motorways. However a new alternative average speed camera named VECTOR are now popping up across the country and increasingly in urban areas too. So average speed cameras are on the increase and in time VECTOR cameras may out number SPECS cameras?

A GPS based speed camera detector such as the Snooper 4 ZERO Elite BT features a GPS database of fixed and mobile speed camera locations. As long as the location is in the GPS database, you will receive advanced warning. If they have just been installed and are not in an updated database, then they will be completely undetectable.

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Question: I have a question about SPECS I understand how they work, that they monitor average speed across part of the road and those who go above get a ticket. My question is does the threshold of 10% + 1mph still apply like they do for most cameras, so for example in a 50mph zone the threshold would be anyone traveling 56mph would get a ticket, or is it anyone who's average speed was over 50mph exactly ?

Answer: I'm afraid we don't have the answer to your question. It will only be known by the camera operator(s).

While the ACPO guidelines say 10% + 2mph, we have had reports from motorists that the threshold with some Police forces is much lower than that. So it would very much depend on the Police force where the camera system is located and will ONLY been known by them.

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Question: I've looked everywhere I can't believe no one has asked this question: the average speed check cameras SPECS and even new VECTOR etc, that are now popping up in many locations across London with more to come no doubt. Do they only take images of the front of the vehicle. The front number plate not rear. It seems that way to me. So if say someone is riding a motorcycle which does not require a front facing number plate; are they unable to be prosecuted by these average speed cameras?

Answer: Motorcyclists number plate is not recorded via a forward facing Truvelo, Truvelo D-Cam, VECTOR or SPECS speed camera system.

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Question: I often travel along various stretches of the M1 that currently have an average speed check (50mph). I of course travel at 50mph judged by my sat nav and in-car speedometer but am regularly overtaken by other cars going significantly faster. How can this be? Are they perhaps counting on the % leniency? I can't believe that ALL of these people are receiving fines otherwise surely there would be fewer people doing it.

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Question: How are the timing clocks synchronised in SPECS average speed cameras. If camera 1, 2, 3, and 4 positioned monitoring a 20 mile stretch of carriageway have clocks set at different times when monitoring traffic average speed surely this would provide incorrect speed results over the measured distance between each camera section. If camera clocks were not synchronised this could mean that drivers average speed is more than it actually is and issue a speeding ticket.

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Question: What standards are your SPEC's cameras taking images of vehicles to? Are they in conformance with BS ISO 16505:2015?

Answer: We don't have the foggiest. Your best bet would be to contract either your local Police/Authority or the manufacturer of the SPECS average speed check cameras.

SpeedCamerasUK.com is not connected with any UK Police or other local authority. We don't run, install or operate any speed camera - we just list where they are and information about them.

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Question: On several motorway and trunk roads, with Specs Cameras and with the speed limit signs all along the road. I have on many occasions, been overtaken by vehicles at very high speed, many at the legal limit on a motorway. I have had lorries almost touching my rear bumper at 40mph or 50mph as the limit was showing, flashing lights and blowing horns. Surely if the cameras were actually working units lorries would know and keep to the speed limit? It appears to me that regular road users have found that no summons have been issued and that there is no need to follow speed limit signs, and cameras are dummies. Have you had this query before?

Answer: No, this is the first we've heard of this. Although I can say that not all motorists understand how SPECS average speed cameras work. A lot of motorists wrongly think that it's only at the camera point that you need to be driving at the speed limit, which is far from the reality. It could be that it's known that the cameras aren't (yet) live, but I'd personally not chance it and stick to the posted speed limit on the road.

From our terms of use page we say "Average speed camera zones: these cameras check your speed over several miles and often between several cameras. It is no good slowing down at each camera and then speeding up and overtaking every other car and slowing down at the next camera. If you have driven at 70mph in any part of an average speed zone, despite slowing to 30, 40 or 50mph for a camera, then it is highly likely that you will be prosecuted."

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Question: Roadwork's on the A14 on the Histon to Milton area. The first SPECS average speed camera is sat in the 50mph zone by the Histon exit and then the second is then set on the Milton Exit which is then a 70mph road. If a car is doing 60mph, then 50mph then it goes to 70mph, will the speed cameras catch the car for speeding even though the signs state 50mph then the national speed limit? Will it do an average speed check and then determine the average speed the car was travelling?

Answer: SPECS average speed check zones are controlled by a single speed limit e.g. 50mph throughout the complete section of road covered by the overhead cameras.

The A14 normally has a speed limit of 70mph, however during the current roadwork's it has been reported to us that the speed limit has been reduced to 50mph. Therefore the average speed you need to maintain to be within the correct speed limit is 50mph. If as you say you've seen a national speed limit, this could be a) in error i.e. not covered up, or b) after the 50mph SPECS controlled average speed check zone ends.

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Question: This morning I joined from the slip road onto A180 and went through the last average speed camera - slightly over the limit. However I didn't drive through the two average speed cameras before it (they are on the stretch of road prior to the slip road). Do you have to drive through all three average speed cameras to be caught speeding or will I be fined for going through only one of the SPECS average cameras too fast?

Answer: SPECS average speed cameras need to be paired with at least two cameras. If you only drove through a single SPECS camera, then there will be no average speed data captured/available for your vehicle.

Normally though SPECS cameras are positioned at all entrance and exit slip roads and then at the end of the average speed enforced zone, to record your vehicles average speed through the zone. Could you have missed a SPECS camera?

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SPECS locations

What's your view and experiences with SPECS speed cameras? Tell us here.

We also have a UK database of speed camera locations. This database also includes Gatso, SpeedCurb, Truvelo, Truvelo D-Cam, Peek, Traffic Light safety cameras and more.

To read more about other speed camera types click here.

Speed camera alerts as you drive

Did you know you can be alerted to where SPECS and other speed cameras are along UK roads via in car devices? These systems include dedicated speed camera detectors, sat navs with speed camera locations and various apps for smartphones. To read more view our buyers guide which talks you through the various features and different technology the different systems use. We also have dedicated reviews for each product with user comments.

We also sell a range of speed camera detectors which you can browse via our online shop. We only stock systems that we consider will give you the best, most accurate, reliable and frequently updated speed camera databases. So whether you are a motorist, truck driver or caravanist you can rest assured you have the best speed camera warning system.

Click here to visit our online detector shop.

Last updated: 20th February 2018