Location:
TRAFFIC SIGNS AND SIGNALS; TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS;

OLR Research Report


February 17, 2010

 

2010-R-0073

RED LIGHT AND SPEED CAMERAS

By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked which states have successfully used radar or cameras to cite drivers who speed or drive through red lights (“automated traffic enforcement”). You also asked what happened to automated traffic enforcement bills recently proposed in Connecticut.

SUMMARY

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit research organization funded by auto insurers, more than 400 communities in about two dozen states use red light cameras, and more than 40 jurisdictions in about one dozen states use speed cameras. We provide a list of those states and jurisdictions below.

Several studies by various groups have found that these programs reduce speeding and the front-into-side collisions associated with red light violations. But some of the studies also show that the use of red light cameras increases the number of rear-end crashes.

The legislature has considered at least 15 bills on automated traffic enforcement since 2005, but did not enact any of them.

We attach OLR Report 2004-R-0540, which provides additional information on red light camera enforcement.

BACKGROUND

Automated Traffic Enforcement

Automated traffic enforcement is the use of technology, such as red light and speed cameras and radar, to enforce traffic safety laws. According to IIHS, most automated traffic enforcement programs are designed to catch drivers who jump red lights, but they are being increasingly used to crack down on speeders.

Red light cameras are triggered when a vehicle enters an intersection after the light has been red for a set amount of time. Cameras record the date, time of day, time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, vehicle speed, and license plate. Usually, tickets are mailed to owners of vehicles captured on camera.

Automated speed enforcement systems can use radar, lasers, or speed cameras to identify vehicles that exceed the speed limit by a predetermined amount. Typically, radar signals can trigger cameras to photograph vehicles speeding past a specified point. The date, time, location, and speed are recorded along with the photo. Unlike radar, speed cameras do not require that offenders be pulled over. Citations are mailed to violators.

Hazards of Running Red Lights

The use of red light cameras could help free police officers for other duties without compromising traffic safety. In testimony before the Pennsylvania House Committee on Transportation in 2007, an IIHS representative stated that running red lights and other traffic controls accounted for 22% of urban crashes and 27% of the crashes where there was an injury. According to IIHS, drivers who ran red lights were responsible for almost 200,000 crashes nationwide in 2005, resulting in nearly 165,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths (http://www.iihs.org/laws/testimony/pdf/testimony_slo_092507_rlc.pdf)

Hazards of Speeding

Speed cameras could help identify speeders without the need for a police presence or the risks of a high speed chase. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding was a contributing factor in 31% of all fatal collisions in the U.S. in 2008, costing 11,674 lives. NHTSA estimated the total economic cost of speed-related collisions in 2000 at about $40.4 billion a year (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811166.PDF).

EFFICACY OF AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT

We found several studies of the effectiveness of automated traffic enforcement on-line. Their authors included the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state and regional agencies, and IIHS. Several of the studies looked at particular jurisdictions within a state, such as Oxnard, California. Others looked at programs statewide, such as those in Virginia. The FHWA study looked at seven jurisdictions in three states.

Efficacy of Red Light Camera Enforcement

Several studies of red light cameras found their use tended to reduce the number of front-into-side, or right angle crashes, but increase the number of rear-end crashes, possibly because drivers aware of the cameras would brake suddenly to avoid driving through the red light. However, despite the increase in rear-end crashes, some of these studies still found that red light camera enforcement resulted in an economic benefit because the property damage and injuries caused by right-angle crashes tended to be more severe than that caused by rear-end crashes.

Federal Study. A comprehensive 2005 FHWA study examined red light camera programs in El Cajon, San Diego, and San Francisco, California; Howard and Montgomery counties and Baltimore, Maryland; and Charlotte, North Carolina. The study found a 25% decrease in right-angle crashes and a 16% reduction in those crashes resulting in an injury where cameras were used, but also found a 15% increase in rear-end crashes, with a 24% increase in such crashes causing an injury. Further analysis showed that right-angle crashes appeared slightly more severe in two of the seven jurisdictions but not in the other five. Even so, the report found, there would still be positive economic benefits from the use of red light cameras. The report (http://tfhrc.gov/safety/pubs/05049/index.htm) also found that red light cameras would be most beneficial at sites where there are relatively few rear end crashes and many right-angle ones.

Virginia Study. A Virginia Transportation Research Council evaluation of red light enforcement programs in that state found that they contributed to a definite increase in rear-end crashes, a possible decrease in right-angle crashes, a net decrease in injury crashes attributable to red light running, and an increase in total injury crashes. “Therefore,” it found, “cameras are leading to a net improvement in safety if, as might be expected, the severity of the eliminated red light running

crashes was greater than that of the induced rear-end crashes.” The study called for a more detailed analysis to determine if the crashes that were prevented would have been more likely to cause severe injuries than rear-end crashes (http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/05-vdot.pdf).

IIHS Studies. An IIHS evaluation of a red light camera program in Oxnard, California, published in 1999, found that camera enforcement reduced the red light violation rate by about 42%. Increases in compliance were not restricted to the camera sites, but occurred at other intersections as well (http://76.12.31.254/rlc/docs/armey/99oxnard.pdf). Another Oxnard study, published in 2002, showed a significant citywide reduction in intersection crashes, with crashes reduced by 7% and crashes where an injury occurred reduced by 29%; right-angle crashes were reduced by 32%, while right-angle crashes involving injuries were reduced by 68% (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/reprint/92/11/1822).

EFFICACY OF SPEED CAMERA ENFORCEMENT

Evaluation of Montgomery County, Maryland's Safe Speed Program

Montgomery Country, Maryland began its Safe Speed program in 2006. It uses speed cameras to photograph vehicles traveling 11 or more miles above the speed limit on residential streets or school zones with a speed limit of 35 mph. A September, 2009 study by the county's Office of Legislative Oversight found, among other things, that:

● the number of monthly citations decreased by an average of 78% from the program's first full month compared to the same month in the following year;

● of the half-million vehicles identified on camera over a two-year period, about two-thirds received only one citation, indicating that the accompanying $40 fine deterred most drivers from speeding again;

● average speed where there were speed cameras declined by about 6% one year after the program began;

● after one year of enforcement, the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit when passing camera sites was cut in half; and

● total reported collisions within one-half mile of the camera sites decreased by 28% in the year after the program began; collisions involving an injury or fatality declined by 39%.

The complete report can be found at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/olo/reports/pdf/2010-3_speed.pdf.

IIHS Studies

IIHS states that its studies show automated speed enforcement can substantially reduce speeding. According to IIHS, studies in Maryland, Arizona, and Washington, D.C., found the proportion of drivers exceeding speed limits by more than 10 miles per hour declined by 70%, 95%, and 82%, respectively (http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/speed_lawenf.html).

For example, in a study of automated speed enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland, which implemented the first such state program in 2007, researchers measured vehicle speeds six months before and six months after speed cameras were deployed. Signs were installed warning of the speed enforcement program. Relative to comparison sites in Virginia, the proportion of drivers traveling more than 10 mph above posted speed limits declined by about 70% at Montgomery County locations with both warning signs and speed camera enforcement, 39% at locations with warning signs but no speed cameras, and 16% on residential streets with neither warning signs nor speed cameras http://www.stopredlightrunning.com/pdfs/TO%20ADD%20Montgomery%20County%20Speed%20Study.08.pdf).

STATE AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT LAWS

State laws on automated traffic enforcement vary greatly.

Connecticut is one of a number of states, including Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont, whose laws do not explicitly authorize automated traffic enforcement programs. However, counties and municipalities in some of these states, such as New Mexico, have local or regional automated enforcement programs.

Some states, such as Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Texas, explicitly allow the use of speed cameras, red light cameras, or both. In some of these states, local jurisdictions must adopt an ordinance authorizing the use of these technologies. Some require a law enforcement officer to be present when the offense occurs.

Other states, such as West Virginia, prohibit the use of some or all forms of automated enforcement.

We have attached an IIHS list of the laws in each state. The list is also available on-line at http://www.iihs.org/laws/automated_enforcement.aspx.

AUTOMATED ENFORCEMENT BILLS PROPOSED IN THE LEGISLATURE SINCE 2005

As noted above, Connecticut law does not address the issue of automated traffic enforcement. We identified 15 bills on this topic that the legislature has considered since 2005, none of which was enacted into law.

Many of the bills would have allowed towns to draft ordinances authorizing the use of automated traffic enforcement; others would have allowed or required pilot programs in specific towns or on specific roads. We list the bills below, and provide more detail on those which were favorably reported by a legislative committee. We will be happy to provide you with additional information on any of these bills.

2005 session

HB 5744 would have allowed municipalities to authorize the use of automated traffic enforcement devices to enforce the provisions of ordinances regulating vehicle speed or state laws on speeding, traveling unreasonably fast, or obeying traffic signals. The Judiciary, Transportation, Planning and Development, and Public Safety committees favorably reported the measure, which died in the House.

2006 session

HB 5210, which would have allowed municipalities to use automated traffic enforcement, died in the Judiciary Committee after a public hearing.

2007 session

In the 2007 legislative session, five proposed bills (SB 275, SB 439, HB 1443, HB 6378, and HB 6468) would have allowed the use or installation of traffic cameras. SB 439, which would have authorized a pilot program of automatic traffic enforcement by Avon and West Hartford on Rt. 44, was favorably reported by the Transportation and Planning and Development committees but died in the Judiciary Committee. HB 6468 and HB 6378 both died in the Transportation Committee. HB 1443 died in the Judiciary Committee after a public hearing. SB 275 died in the Transportation Committee after a public hearing.

2008 session

In 2008, SB 41, which would have required the public safety commissioner to create a pilot program for the installation of traffic cameras on I-95 in Old Lyme, died in the Public Safety Committee after a public hearing.

2009 session

In 2009, there were seven bills dealing with automated traffic enforcement (SB 149, SB 150, SB 421, HB 5258, HB 5522, HB 6080, and HB 6393). SB 421 and HB 5258 died in the Public Safety Committee, and HB 6080 died in the Transportation Committee. HB 5522 died in the Planning and Development Committee, and SB 150 died in the Transportation Committee, after public hearings. The Transportation Committee favorably reported substitute SB 149, which would have authorized New Haven to establish a two-year pilot program to evaluate automated traffic control signal enforcement, but the measure died in the Planning and Development Committee. Language in HB 6393 which would have required the public safety commissioner to establish an automated traffic safety program was deleted during the legislative process.

PF:df