Traffic Cameras Are Reducing Fatalities

Led by Washington, DC, which cut automobile related fatalities by 43 percent in 2012, we take a brief look at how traffic cameras are affecting budgets and statistics in various areas of the country. Read inside for data, research and other potential uses for the technology


What Happened?

Communities across the country are reporting increased revenues and declines in car-related fatalities as a result of traffic camera implementation.

So What?

A recent study from AAA indicated one traffic camera in Washington, D.C., has triggered 116,734 tickets totaling $11.6 million in two years as it uses automated processes to monitor driver adherence to traffic laws. The D.C. police reported 16 car-related fatalities in 2012, compared to 28 deaths one year prior. Law enforcement attributes the 43 percent reduction in fatalities in part to the effects of more traffic cameras throughout the city, the Washington Post reported.

About 582 communities in the U.S. use cameras to keep an eye on the roads to catch speed, red light and other traffic violations in real-time. As police are unable to see all drivers breaking the law, the cameras aim to offer a cost-efficient method of detecting violations and distributing fines. Many states have adopted the technology but 29 have yet to establish laws to govern their use in the community. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported 66 laws have been proposed to oversee traffic camera use, some in approval others looking to ban the practice.

The New York Times reported on significant research supporting camera use to reduce fatalities and improve safe driving behavior. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered a notable drop in red-light violations once cameras were installed – in both intersections being electronically monitored and those without the devices.

Iowa Guidelines

Iowa’s Department of Transportation is investigating the effectiveness of traffic cameras in Davenport and other cities to determine their return on investment and establish rules for governance. In Davenport, traffic cameras generate more than $1 million annually in fines, and about $4 million in Cedar Rapids. The DOT is working with cities to compile and analyze data on the technology to determine how to optimize safety benefits. The oversight process includes:

  • Data analysis to locate the best spots for camera installation
  • Submission of justification reports to demonstrate the need and benefits of each camera installation
  • Approval by officials to automate traffic enforcement

As the technology is raising privacy issues in many communities, the Iowa DOT is hoping to use the cameras as a counter-measure to correct problem areas rather than a first option for improving safety.

Broader Use

Many law enforcement officials are embracing traffic cameras and the many benefits they offer. Not only do automated monitoring systems help catch speeders and red light violators, but can also take images of license plates when other criminals leave a scene or are on the run. Expanding the use of red light cameras to support other police activities, however, would require comprehensive laws to protect individual rights of drivers.

Growth Pattern of Camera Adoption

Gov1 has reported on the cost benefits of traffic cameras as well as improvements to city traffic congestion and safety.

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