Speed cameras in Maryland's highway construction zones are catching far fewer speeders this year, and officials say that's proof that the cameras are working.

Maryland, which issued nearly 500,000 of the $40 tickets to people speeding through construction zones in 2011, is on track this year to issue little more than 365,000 tickets to drivers who were going at least 12 mph over the speed limit, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

"We continue to see real progress inhighway work zone safety across the state," AAA's John Townsend said in a statement. "Simplesafety effortssuch as slowing down, observing posted speed-limit signs, avoiding distractions, such as talking or texting on a cellphone, preparing for unusual driving conditions and practicing patience can reduce a motorist's crash risk in a work zone."

AAA Mid-Atlantic, a frequent critic of speed-camera programs, praises Maryland's work zone cameras because the state gives drivers ample warning that they are entering a camera-monitored zone, Townsend said.

Maryland had fewer major highway construction projects in 2012 than it did in 2011, but Townsend said that's not enough to account for the differences in tickets. The Capital Beltway work zone camera in Silver Spring, for instance, pumped out 31,000 tickets in just four months in 2011, but only 41,000 in twice that time this year, AAA found.

The reduction in speeding apparently has led to fewer crashes in the work zones, as well. The Maryland State Highway Administration found in August that work-zone-related crashes, fatalities and injuries were at an all-time low.

When the speed-camera program was first introduced in 2010, officials said, about 7 out of every 100 drivers were zooming past the speed limit by 12 mph or more. Now fewer than 2 out of 100 drivers do so, said Lora Rakowski, a spokeswoman for the highway agency.

"Statistics are showing that people are heeding the warning of the message signs," she said.