National Academies Press: OpenBook

Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running (2012)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Background

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22716.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22716.
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3 Introduction Driver behavior is a major contributing factor in 57 percent of all crashes and a partial con- tributing factor in an additional 37 percent of crashes (1). Two particularly dangerous driver behaviors are speeding and red light running. Speeding and red light running constitute a major highway safety concern, along with the associated traffic law violation problems. Speed- ing has a substantial impact on the frequency of fatal crashes. According to FHWA, speeding is thought to be a factor in at least one-third of all fatal crashes nationwide (2). Similarly, red light running has a significant impact on fatal crashes at intersections. In 2009, 676 people were killed and an estimated 130,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running in the United States (3). About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles hit by the red light runners. The two behaviors, red light running and speeding, are related. Red light runners are likely to be speeders. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study of driver behavior in Arlington, Virginia, found that red light runners were more than three times as likely to have multiple speeding convictions on their records (4). Both of these activities can be greatly affected by enforcement. However, enforcing red light running (especially in dense, urban areas) by tra- ditional means poses special difficulties for police. In most cases, police must follow an offend- ing vehicle through a red light to stop it, which can endanger motorists and pedestrians. Police cannot be everywhere at once, and traffic stops in urban areas can exacerbate traffic congestion. Communities do not have the resources to allow police to patrol roadways and intersections as often as would be necessary to ticket all motorists who run red lights and who speed. Technologies have been developed that can help to deter these driver behaviors while making the most of limited law enforcement resources. Automated enforcement is a tool that can be uti- lized by states and local agencies to reduce the prevalence of excessive speeding and running red lights to improve roadway safety for all users. Speed cameras, which also are called photo radar, are the most widely used form of automated enforcement in the world. Automated enforcement can be used to detect an offending motorist, capture an image of the license plate, and issue a citation by mail. Red light cameras and speed cameras allow police to focus staffing resources on other enforcement needs. The technology used in red light running automated enforcement and speed automated enforcement are similar. Cameras are placed at intersections or along roadways, usually at sites identified as having a high incidence of speeding or red light running, and/or associated crashes. In the case of speed cameras, the cameras are activated by vehicles traveling over a specified limit. In the case of red light running cameras, the cameras are activated when a vehicle enters an inter- section after the light has turned red. In both cases, the cameras take a picture of the license plates on the offending vehicles. These pictures document the date, time, and speed of the vehicle. Red C h a p t e r 1 Background

4 automated enforcement for Speeding and red Light running light cameras also typically capture a picture of the vehicle entering the intersection and a picture of the vehicle in the intersection, both during the red phase. Individual jurisdictions or camera vendors then process the pictures and issue the citation to the owner of the offending vehicle. Although automated red light camera and speed camera enforcement systems have been used in other countries for more than 30 years, it has only been in the last 20 years that they have been used in the United States. As their use has become more widespread, several methodologically sound studies have found reductions in violation rates and reductions in crashes that are attrib- utable to these cameras. In response to these findings, several organizations committed to reduc- ing crashes and fatalities on U.S. highways have come out in support of automated enforcement. Most notably, the AASHTO Board, as part of their efforts to implement the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, identified automated enforcement as a potential tool to reduce fatalities on the nation’s highways. They adopted PR-4-04 in May 2004, which supported greater use of automated enforcement. In 2006, this support was reinforced by AASHTO’s Standing Commit- tee on Highway Traffic Safety (SCOHTS) when it passed Policy Resolution 2006-02, Use of Auto- mated Traffic Law Enforcement to Improve Safety. Citing the limited resources of enforcement agencies, the policy resolution supported automated enforcement, in combination with traffic engineering analyses and public information campaigns, as an effective safety countermeasure to reduce traffic deaths and serious injury crashes due to improved driver adherence to traffic laws. Similarly, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) issued a resolution in 1998 in support of the use of red light running cameras. In 2005 they passed a resolution supporting the use of Red Light Camera Systems: Operational Guidelines. In 2007, they issued a resolution in support of using Speed Enforcement Camera Systems: Operational Guidelines. Even with the support of AASHTO and IACP for automated enforcement, there are many barriers to use and questions that remain to be answered about the effective application, includ- ing the best legislative approach, obtaining and maintaining public support, and deploying the system to obtain the greatest impact on crashes. Study Objectives and Scope The goal of this research was to find out which automated enforcement programs have been successful and what contributed to their success, as well as which automated enforcement pro- grams have not been successful and to draw lessons from their experiences to develop better guidance for others interested in using automated enforcement. This goal was accomplished through two objectives. The first objective was to develop a comprehensive assessment of automated speed and red light running enforcement activity in the United States and Canada. This assessment included legisla- tion, public information and education, deployment, operations, and safety impacts. Since the overall goal of any automated enforcement system is to reduce crashes, the assessment identified practices in automated enforcement that have been the most successful at reaching this goal. The second objective was to develop guidelines to assist agencies in implementing and oper- ating successful automated enforcement programs. These guidelines are for both agencies that currently have programs and agencies interested in starting a program. The guidelines include information on enabling legislation, public information campaigns, site selection and deploy- ment, and operating and monitoring a successful program. The intended audiences for this research are public agencies primarily responsible for the safety of roadways and intersections. This includes, but is not limited to, enforcement agencies, highway engineers, legislators, and elected officials.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 729: Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running includes guidelines designed to help transportation agencies start-up and operate automated enforcement programs to improve highway safety by reducing speeding and red light running.

Appendices A through G to NCHRP Report 729 are available in electronic versions only. The appendices are not available in the PDF or print version of the report.

TR News 292: May-June 2014 includes an article about the report.


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