Average speed cameras and motorbikes
There is a misconception that motorbikes can’t be caught by average speed cameras and that slowing down just for the cameras will help you escape a fine.
We look at the facts and give you tips on how to avoid a getting a dreaded penalty notice.
How do they work?
For a start, they don’t flash. So there’s no handy warning when the idiot in the Renault in front goes through one.
Average speed cameras time-stamp the point at which your vehicle passes the camera. Using the ANPR database (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), your number plate is then recorded at two points and the time taken between these points calculates your average speed.
If you slow down for the cameras only, like fixed speed cameras, you will get a fine if you have gone higher than the indicated speed limit between those two cameras. You have to maintain an even speed along the entire stretch of speed controlled road.
What if you change lanes?
The rumour is, because each camera is trained on a specific lane, if you change lanes then your fixed speed points can’t be cross-referenced against the other lane’s cameras.
According to Wikipedia: “The system design is such that the cameras can only operate in pairs, each pair can only monitor one lane of a multi-lane road. It is, therefore, at least in theory, possible to escape detection by changing lanes between the entry and exit cameras since the exit will be captured by the exit camera of a different pair. However, in reality, the authorities are able to easily defeat this tactic by arranging for two or more sets of pairs of cameras to have overlapping areas of monitoring. Since the driver cannot tell which cameras are ‘entry’ and which are ‘exit’, as they look identical, they cannot tell where to change lane to escape detection.”
We wouldn’t be so sure that a local authority would ‘easily’ work out which combination of cameras on a three-lane stretch of road need to be linked, especially when there are a limited number of cameras, so our jury is definitely out.
Let us know if you have tested out the theory and have hard data to share: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do average speed cameras catch motorbikes?
Theoretically, the front-facing cameras can’t catch bikes, who obviously only have a rear numberplate.
But we have heard at least one report of a supplementary rear-facing fixed speed camera being used, specifically to catch out bikers. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
With the rear-facing cameras, obviously, you are fair game. If you’re interested in the technology behind the two different types of system fill your boots here.
Why do they even have front-facing cameras if they don’t catch motorbikes?
Because front-facing camera can also capture the driver’s face as well as the number plate – important in court cases where the driver may claim someone else was in charge of the vehicle.
How far over the limit do I need to be to get a speeding fine?
Not much, it turns out. So be careful on your 180mph superbike, mate.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) recommend that local police authorities set their cameras at the speed limit, plus 10% + 2mph. So in a 40 MPH zone that would be 40+4+2 = 46mph.
However, inside information says that the majority are actually set at a much simpler speed limit plus 10%, giving you an extra 4mph breathing room on the ACPO recommendation.
Why not just stick with the actual speed limit?
The guidelines take into account possible variances between motorist’s speedometers in each vehicle. Theoretically, this makes the acceptable degree of inaccuracy +/- 10%. Not sure I’d be happy with that on my bike. We’ve pulled together some tips on checking your speedo’s calibration here.
Can you check to see if you’ve been caught?
Not as far as we are aware but there are a number of apps and websites that claim to be able to check to see if a penalty notice is in the system but has not been issued. We haven’t checked them all but the ones we have seen are either scams to try and get your email address (so they can sell it to spammers) or they are ‘simply for fun.’ Don’t bother with them, in our opinion.
What if you have been sent a fixed penalty notice?
If you knew you were speeding and it’s a fair cop, pay the penalty and suck up the points.
If you think there are mitigating circumstances then take a look at our article on How to avoid paying speeding fines.
Forearmed is forewarned
How can you prevent an average speed camera from spoiling your ride?
Frankly, average speed cameras tend to be very well signposted, but if you feel you might manage to miss the big signs and yellow cameras then the Cyclops real-time speed camera app for iPhone claims to be ‘the world’s first intelligent real-time speed camera alert system’ with a promise to tell you about ‘currently active mobile camera sites that are in operation right now! Even those hard-to-see ones that hide in lay-bys and gateways. And of course for all other fixed camera types.’
The app, which has been highly rated by Auto Express and Carbuyer amongst others, uses GPS alerts. The app has an Audio Voice setting for alerts so you don’t have to have your iPhone in view.
The app also has a speed limiter alert – handy if you are prone to creeping over the limit. But you’ll probably switch that off…
How to get yourself sorted:
Stick to the speed limit, matey. It’s only for a few miles. Failing that the Cyclops app seems like a winner.