The Department of Transport is to commission research to determine whether speed cameras cause as many accidents as they prevent.
Officials have written to universities and research institutes in Wales and England inviting bids for a two-year study, starting in September.
Road safety experts welcomed the news but warned against the study being used for a blanket roll-out of speed cameras.
The probe was prompted by the latest figures which show road deaths fell at 100 camera sites but rose at 77 others.
It comes amid growing warnings from safety experts that at Britain's 6,000 cameras, drivers may simply slow down on approach and put their foot down afterwards.
There are also concerns that motorists may be steering clear of cameras by using alternative routes.
Outlining the research, DoT officials state, 'There is a need to establish the broader effects of speed cameras away from the specific camera sites and, in particular, to investigate whether the use of speed cameras causes a migration of accidents to other locations.
'Research is also needed to demonstrate whether improvements in safety performance at speed camera sites arise from the presence of the cameras or from their deployment at accident cluster locations where safety performance could be expected to improve without treatment.'
The most recent figures for road deaths, from 2003, show a 2% increase in fatalities from 3,431 to 3,508.
And an internal audit by the Department for Transport found the number killed or seriously injured had gone up at one in every seven camera sites.
Motoring groups have welcomed the research project but warned it could be a mixed blessing for drivers.
'This could be a double-edged sword,' said Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA Motoring Trust. 'Speed cameras may drive some of the problems elsewhere, but that could be used as an argument for either no speed cameras or more cameras.'
The RAC said it is also alarmed at the possibility of 'blanket coverage' of cameras and that the Department for Transport should broaden its perspective.