Speed and Red Light Cameras
Automated enforcement uses cameras to capture images of vehicles committing traffic violations – most commonly, speeding and red light running. Citations are mailed to the vehicle owner. Many state laws specify when, where and how automated enforcement can be carried out.
Automated enforcement is intended to augment – not replace – traditional traffic enforcement activities and addresses the public perception of the risk of "getting caught."
Learn More About Speed and Red Light Cameras
Critics of speed and red light cameras argue that they exist to make money for law enforcement agencies. However, the objective is to deter violators, not to catch them. Signs and publicity campaigns typically warn drivers that photo enforcement is in use. Revenue is generated from fines paid, but this is a fundamental component of all traffic enforcement programs.
GHSA supports the use of automated enforcement in efforts to enforce speeding, red light running and other traffic violations and urges states to enact legislation allowing the use of these technologies by the law enforcement community. Currently, fewer than half of the states have laws explicitly allowing red light cameras or speeding cameras.
In 2010, GHSA wrote a letter [1.1 MB, 3 pgs.] in support of automated enforcement to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Transit and Highways.
In 2008, there were more than 2.3 million intersection-related crashes, resulting in more than 7,770 fatalities and approximately 733,000 injury crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is difficult to get a clear picture of the problem, because red light running may not be collected or categorized as such on crash report forms.
While education and engineering solutions are important in preventing red light running, automated enforcement is another effective tool. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) maintains a list of resources on red light cameras.
Despite progress in so many other areas of highway safety, speeding remains a significant highway safety challenge. Speeding-related fatalities continue to be a serious highway safety problem, accounting for roughly a third of all traffic fatalities. Speed cameras have become more prevalent as a way to address this problem.
The 2005 Report from the National Forum on Speeding [564 KB, 29 pgs.] advocates for speed camera programs when they are in place for safety and not for revenue purposes and when they are in areas with demonstrated need and public support. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report [896 KB, 8 pgs.] demonstrates the effectiveness of speed cameras in reducing highway speeds.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of jurisdictions in our country use speed cameras in their enforcement efforts. That must be greatly increased if we are to make any progress at reducing speed-related fatalities.
Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities [115 KB, 27 pgs.]
F. Speed, Speeding and Aggressive Driving
F.4 Use of Speed Detection Devices
GHSA supports state and national efforts to prohibit the sale and/or use of speed detection devices (e.g. radar and laser detectors) by the public because such devices undermine law enforcement efforts to control motor vehicle speeds and enhance highway safety.
F.5 Automated Traffic Enforcement Technologies
Advanced technologies, such as Lidar and speed cameras, have proven to be effective tools in ensuring compliance with speed limits and other traffic laws. GHSA supports the use of automated enforcement technology in efforts to enforce speed, red light running and other traffic laws and urges states to enact legislation allowing the use of these technologies by the law enforcement community.
GHSA supports the use of automated enforcement technologies, in combination with engineering analyses and public information campaigns, as part of the coordinated implementation of state Strategic Highway Safety Plans to reduce the number of deaths resulting from traffic law violations.
M. Roadway Safety
M.5 Red Light Running
The Association urges states to utilize automated enforcement to address the problem of red light running and speeding.
In order to maximize safety benefits, jurisdictions should use enforcement cameras appropriately and effectively. GHSA therefore endorses the following principles:
- Cameras should be used at high crash sites or in situations where traffic law enforcement personnel cannot be deployed safely. There should be a traffic engineering analysis of each site before traffic cameras are installed and citations issued.
- Cameras are not to replace traditional law enforcement personnel or to mitigate safety problems caused by deficient road design, construction or maintenance.
- Use of cameras should be preceded by a public information campaign. The campaign should continue throughout the life of the automated enforcement program.
- Cameras should not be used as a revenue generator. Compensation paid for an automated traffic law system should be based on its value and not on the amount of revenue it generates nor the number of tickets issued. Revenues derived from the automated enforcement program should be used solely to fund highway safety functions.