Two drivers were clocked at more than 200km/h on 50km/h suburban roads last year but most of us appear to be finally easing off the pedal.

The speeds are revealed in a list of New Zealand's 10 busiest speed cameras. Seven of them are in Auckland but the most prolific - responsible for almost 12,000 tickets last year - is in Manawatu.

New Zealanders enjoyed a record-low road toll last year, and our safer driving habits appear to be reflected in the number of camera tickets.

The total issued from all fixed cameras in 2011 was 63,396, according to figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act. That was in contrast to the 105,403 issued in the year to June 30, 2010.

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Nevertheless, police say the drivers caught at more than 200km/h - on Atkinson Rd, Titirangi, and in Avondale - prove there are still some travelling at unsurvivable speeds.

Waitemata road policing manager Superintendent John Kelly said some motorists thought they were entitled to drive fast and didn't think it dangerous.

"If you figure a car going 200km/h is travelling about 60 metres every second ... when a driver sees a hazard ... they have covered 120 metres in the time before they've even thought to react.

"By the time they've actually stopped, they've covered hundreds of metres. If we're talking about city blocks, anything they do hit they will kill - and if they hit something reasonably solid, they're going to die as well."

Another motorist was clocked at more than 200km/h on State Highway 1 in Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge, where the speed limit is 80km/h because of the high traffic flow and number of serious crashes.

The figures released to the Herald show that the most prolific speed camera, at Sanson in the Manawatu, took 21,667 photographs last year, resulting in 11,815 tickets (down from the 13,593 issued in the year to June 30, 2010).

If each ticket issued in 2011 was for $80 - the fine for travelling at 11-15km/h over the limit - the offenders at Sanson would have been pinged almost $1 million.

Police say the cameras take pictures only when people are speeding, but one commentator believes the Sanson figures prove the devices are not improving road safety.

Mike Noon, of the Automobile Association, said the Sanson site was a failure, because it wasn't slowing traffic down.

He said the AA believed all fixed speed-camera sites should have warning signs and the cameras should be painted brightly so drivers could see them.

New Zealand cameras used to have warning signs, he said, and many overseas still did.

"There's an argument that people would just slow down and then speed up later, but then if that's the intention - to reduce speed - then I'm happy with that."

If motorists continued to speed, they could be picked up later by mobile camera sites.

Mr Noon said he didn't have sympathy for anyone caught speeding when they had been warned there were speed cameras in the area.

He said the cameras should be there to reduce speeds and not simply to catch people.

Mr Kelly said the police had increased the focus on speed this month and reduced the tolerance level to 4km/h over the limit.

"Some people think they should be allowed to drive around at whatever speed they like, and that's not safe for road users."

But attitudes to speeding had changed over the years, Mr Kelly said, in much the same way as it had to drink-driving.

"There has been a seachange in terms of people's acceptance to speed.

"If someone writes a letter to the Herald complaining about getting a speed ticket, the next day two or three appear saying, 'Well don't speed'."

Mr Kelly said most crashes occurred within 5km of the drivers' homes, so if people sped, it was their own community they were putting at risk.

He had a blunt message for speeding motorists: "The cameras only go click when someone is speeding, so if people don't like getting tickets, the first thing to say is, 'Slow down.' If you slow down, they don't click."

TOP 10 BUSIEST SPEED CAMERAS
1. SH1 near Sanson
2. Great North Rd, Glendene
3. SH1 at Ngauranga Gorge, Wellington
4. Remuera Rd
5. Onewa Rd, North Shore
6. Waipuna Rd, Mt Wellington
7. East Coast Rd, Browns Bay
8. Meeanee Quay, Napier
9. Atkinson Rd, Titirangi
10. Great North Rd, Avondale