Automated Enforcement?

Automated Enforcement?

By Charlie Ticotsky/Policy Director, T4MA 

Our streets are experiencing a rise of serious injuries and fatalities. As the Boston Globe recently reported, all traffic deaths in 2017 are up 46% over the same period of 2013. This unacceptable trend affects people walking, biking, and driving. Drivers who are distracted by texting and apps are a major cause of crashes.

An Act to reduce traffic fatalities (Senate Bill 1905 / House Bill 2877) is intended to make our roads safer in the face of troubling trends. Drafted with broad input, it has 85 cosponsors led by Senator Will Brownsberger and Representatives Jon Hecht and David Rogers.

Recognizing that cities and towns need tools to enforce traffic rules, the legislation allows use of automated road safety cameras to enforce speeding, red-light, and school bus stop sign violations. While Massachusetts does not currently enable this, 29 states have some form of camera enforcement and it is common in other countries.

Research shows automated cameras are effective. In Montgomery County, Maryland, streets with speed cameras experienced a 39% reduction in fatal and serious injuries. A University of North Carolina Highway Research Center study found installation of red-light cameras can contribute to a slight rise in rear-end crashes, but almost always leads to significant reductions in typically more severe side-impact crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board has endorsed automated enforcement as an effective way to reduce speed and crashes.

With the right regulations, automated enforcement can be a highly effective safety tool, and one that doesn’t increase traffic stops—a concern by many in a time of increased racial profiling, and immigration issues. The language In this bill is designed to ensure the best system of enforcement:

  • Location of cameras would be based on safety benefits, not targeting any population or neighborhood. Cameras would be at high-crash locations where other interventions such as road redesign are not feasible.
  • It would not be a money grab. The best cameras act as deterrents and not to trick people into fines—few violations are a sign of success. The bill directs the majority of revenues into road improvements, not general funds. Cameras would be well-marked. Revenue-sharing with private camera installation or operating companies would be prohibited, avoiding inappropriate incentives.
  • Photographs would be of rear license plates, no faces or identifying information, and only if a violation has occurred. Photos would be permanently deleted after ruling. Fines, assessed to the owner of the vehicle, would not exceed $50, won’t increase with additional violations, nor add to insurance points. Law enforcement would need a court-approved warrant to access photos for purposes beyond traffic enforcement.
  • There would be state oversight, an appeals process, and common-sense emergency exemptions.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s October 2017 newsletter.

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