Automated enforcement curbs dangerous driving

We all speed, almost continuously when we aren’t limited by slower traffic, yet most of us complain about other drivers speeding. Furthermore, it’s pretty common to observe other drivers running red lights immediately after they have changed to red.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), speed is one of the biggest dangers on the road. In 2019, 9,478 deaths — more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities — occurred in speed-related crashes. Higher speeds make crashes more likely and make the crashes that happen more severe. Even as states have raised speed limits in recent years, drivers have continued to exceed those limits. The promotion of speed cameras comes amid a growing awareness of the role speed plays in traffic deaths. As U.S. roads emptied out during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who remained on the road began speeding more frequently, resulting in more fatalities even amid a decrease in driving.

“After a year in which excessive speeding became commonplace nationwide and in the midst of a historic surge in pedestrian fatalities, we need to be considering all options to get drivers to slow down,” says Governors Highway Safety Association Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “States and communities should use this new resource to integrate automated enforcement into a comprehensive strategy to combat dangerous speeding.”

Red light running, meanwhile, kills hundreds of people and injures tens of thousands every year. In 2019, 846 people were killed and an estimated 143,000 were injured in red light running crashes. Most of those killed were pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles and not the red light runners or passengers riding with them.

“Research by IIHS and others has shown consistently that automated enforcement curbs dangerous driving behaviors and reduces crashes,” says IIHS President David Harkey.

“Red light running and speeding are known killers on our roads,” says Advocates President Cathy Chase. “Well-designed and implemented automated enforcement programs can deter these hazardous driving behaviors and reduce crash deaths and injuries. They can also provide an equitable, neutral option for upgrading safety.” States and localities are urged by traffic safety advocates to use automated enforcement together with road safety infrastructure improvements to help protect motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Despite the large body of research showing the effectiveness of camera enforcement, the devices are not as widely used as they could be. Some 340 U.S. communities currently operate red light cameras, down from more than 500 during 2011-14. Speed cameras are less widespread, but their use has been going up slowly. Currently, 159 communities have automated speed enforcement programs, according to the IIHS.

In New York State, speed camera enforcement is limited to school speed zones, and red light running cameras are only allowed in certain cities and are often limited to a specific number of intersections in these cities.

Automated enforcement should be viewed as one tool among many that can be used to make roads and intersections safer.


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