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February 2019 witnesses another first in the history of travel on Dorset’s roads – the first permanent ‘average speed’ cameras take their bow!

What is an average speed camera?

As the name suggests, these devices calculate the average (‘mean’) speed of a vehicle between two different speed cameras located at different points. Should the result be an average speed above the relevant speed limit, then it will be established that the vehicle was driving at excess speed at some point between the two camera locations. The consequences for speed limit enforcement are obvious: average speed cameras are able to ensure the conviction of those drivers who exceed the speed limit between camera sites.

This might be despite a vehicle having been travelling beneath the speed limit when passing both of the camera points. Quite simply, a vehicle that has exceeded the speed limit at any point will be shown to have done so unless that vehicle has also driven under the speed limit to a corresponding degree. For example, a vehicle that spends 3 minutes driving at 60 mph along a stretch of road between two average speed cameras where a 50 mph limit is in place, would then need to spend 3 minutes driving at 40 mph in order to reduce its average speed to the legally permissible 50 mph overall. The driver of that vehicle would then derive no time advantage over the driver who had stuck to a steady 50 mph throughout the relevant stretch of road. Thus, the simple question posed is, ‘What is gained by speeding at any point?’

In practice, the driver who speeds at any given point will find it practically impossible to know how much to reduce his speed by in order to reduce his or her average to the highest figure that is still lawful. Inevitably, a driver in such a situation will have to err on the side of caution and reduce speed by a significant extent such as to likely reduce the average speed to a figure less than the lawful average – thereby having actually lost time!

In view of this, average speed cameras are an effective deterrent against speeding and have the effect of easing traffic flow.

At the same time, it is likely that more drivers will be ‘caught on camera,’ having committed speeding offences. Some of those drivers will perhaps have deliberately taken a chance, but many will be drivers who have inadvertently exceeded the speed limit at some stage whilst generally having observed the speed limit. With conventional speed cameras, their errors might have gone undetected, but with average speed cameras, their (perhaps minor) mistakes could still see them before the criminal courts.

Where will these cameras be?

The new cameras are to be located along the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road, sometimes known as the Wessex Way, between the junctions at Cooper Dean and at Blackwater (for Christchurch / Bournemouth Airport).

This part of the road is also subject to a new permanent 50 mph speed limit, although current unrelated roadworks have already seen a temporary 40 mph limit put in place – providing a further peril to the unwary. A total of three cameras will be located in each direction along both the northbound and southbound carriageways. Expect to see more of these cameras installed alongside other Dorset roads in the future.

What if I am caught speeding?

A court conviction for speeding will result in a fine and either points endorsed on your driving licence, or a discretionary disqualification. Either can have significant consequences going beyond the ordeal of having to attend court. For example, an outright disqualification from driving might result in the loss of employment or the inability to assist a loved one or friend reliant upon you to drive them around. Even the imposition of points can have adverse effects on insurance premiums as well as potentially leading to disqualification under the ‘totting-up’ system.

It is therefore important that careful consideration is given to the correct plea to be entered and whether there be any factual, legal or technical defences that might be available to you. In the case of a trial, you may require a specialist lawyer to provide assistance. Even in the event of a guilty plea, steps may be taken to try and minimise the sentence to be imposed. There may be ‘special reasons’ arguments, where the particular circumstances of an offence mean that the court should take particular pity on a defendant, and ‘exceptional hardship’ arguments, where even those who amass 12 points on their licence can, if successful, remain on the road.

Need advice?

Guy Gosheron is a Barrister at Lester Aldridge who specialises in road traffic offences. He can be contacted on 01202 786227 or by e-mail at Guy.Gosheron@LA-law.com. More details about our motoring offences services and pricing can be found here.