A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in the US, with support from State Farm, examines an important tool in the fight to reduce dangerous driving behaviors that contribute to more than 100 people dying on US roads every day.
The report, Automated Enforcement in a New Era, discusses the benefits of traffic safety cameras that detect speeding, red-light running and school bus stop-arm violations, and makes recommendations to states and traffic safety partners considering implementing this proven technology.
US roadway deaths have increased 30% over the past decade, rising from 32,893 in 2013 to 42,795 in 2022. A plethora of studies confirm that speeding, red-light and school bus stop-arm camera programs are a proven way to change driver behavior, resulting in increased safety for everyone on the road.
Automated enforcement can also supplement traditional traffic enforcement while addressing potential inequities, since cameras do not see race or ethnicity. To build and sustain public trust, however, the community must be engaged in program planning and implementation and kept informed of the technology’s impact.
A growing number of states, cities and towns in the US are using or considering using automated enforcement technology to address risky driving behaviors. California recently enacted a new law that allows speed safety cameras in six local jurisdictions, including San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. Richmond announced last month that it is deploying four speed safety cameras in school zones to better manage vehicle speeds and improve safety for people walking, biking and scooting.
Officials in St Louis, meanwhile, want to bring safety cameras to the area to improve pedestrian safety. And in Pennsylvania, lawmakers are considering extending a pilot work zone speed camera program that has resulted in a reduction in work zone fatalities despite a rise in these deaths nationally.
“We’re losing far too many of our friends and loved ones to preventable traffic crashes. Safety cameras can help change that,” said GHSA chief executive officer Jonathan Adkins. “The data and research clearly show that automated enforcement reduces the dangerous driving behaviors that needlessly kill people every day. GHSA and State Farm have teamed up to help communities realize the vast safety benefits that automated enforcement offers, while also emphasizing the need for these programs to be community-based and transparent.”
“Automobile safety is a priority for State Farm,” added Laurel Straub, State Farm assistant vice president – Enterprise Research. “We value our relationship with GHSA and are pleased to support this research. We will continue to look for opportunities to educate and inform stakeholders on ways to make our roads safer for everyone.”
Recommendations for safety camera programs
The report makes several recommendations for states and traffic safety partners to identify and overcome key barriers for more effectively implementing an automated enforcement program, including:
Focus on safety: Revenue generated by safety cameras should be used to support program start-up and maintenance costs, with any excess revenue dedicated to traffic safety initiatives such as infrastructure enhancements or increased education.
Proper site selection: Cameras should be installed in locations that have crash, injury or fatality data justifying their use, particularly if these incidences involve vulnerable road users. Determining if other countermeasures, such speed calming, could be deployed to address the traffic safety problem should also be considered.
Community participation and engagement: Members of the community where the safety cameras will be deployed must be part of the planning and implementation process. Meaningful public engagement that begins early can help bolster public acceptance and trust.
Equity: Research has repeatedly confirmed that people of color are disproportionately impacted by traffic crashes and deaths. All decisions about safety camera programs – including public engagement during the planning process, where cameras are placed and how fines are structured – should be viewed through an equity lens.
Transparency and accessibility: Jurisdictions should share the data used to inform the decision-making process when considering whether to create an automated enforcement program. Where and when the cameras will be deployed should be highly publicized, so drivers are not caught by surprise.
Reciprocity agreements: Jurisdictions should create reciprocity agreements with neighboring states that address out-of-state violators who fail to pay traffic safety camera fines.
The report and its recommendations build upon a checklist released in 2021 by GHSA, AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Safety Council that offers a roadmap for communities establishing or expanding automated enforcement programs.