Study: Speed cameras slow traffic

A recently released study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reinforced the effectiveness of speed cameras in slowing down motorists.

A study of speed cameras in Scottsdale and Montgomery County, Md., showed a drop in speeders on highways.

In 2006, Scottsdale became the first U.S. location to demonstrate the effectiveness of fixed speed cameras on a major highway, the IIHS report stated.

Prior to the cameras' installation, 15 percent of drivers were driving faster than 75 mph on Loop 101, despite the posted limit of 65 mph. Once the cameras were in place, the number of violators plunged to 1 to 2 percent.

The Scottsdale 101 Program Evaluation added to the IIHS study, estimating the total number of non-peak period crashes was reduced by about 54 percent.

"Speeding-related fatalities continue to be a serious highway safety problem, accounting for approximately 13,000 deaths a year - roughly a third of all traffic fatalities," said Christopher J. Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, in a news release.

In Montgomery County, speed cameras are used to enforce limits of 35 mph or less in residential areas and school zones.

Since the installation of the cameras in the Washington D.C. suburb, the proportion of vehicles going more than 10 mph faster than the posted limits has fallen by 70 percent. Additionally, speeds have fallen by 39 percent on roads where signs were posted warning of overall enforcement but where cameras were not yet operational.

"These two areas have implemented cameras in different ways, but both have seen dramatic impact," Murphy said.

Both programs are being operated consistent with the recommendations outlined in the 2005 Report from the National Forum on Speeding, Murphy added.

The speed cameras are utilized for safety and not for revenue purposes in areas with demonstrated need and public support. They also utilize extensive signage and the media to get the word out on the program.

Arizona does have specific revenue targets in mind with its program. The state plans to generate $90 million annually from speed cameras and devices that track red light violations.

"As with programs to combat drunk driving and encourage seat belt use, highly-publicized enforcement is absolutely critical to a successful speeding program," Murphy said.

In Mohave County and throughout the state, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has expanded their photo enforcement program utilizing two photo enforcement vehicles.

The program launched last month is designed to reduce collisions on designated stretches of Arizona highways by using a number of photo enforcement vehicles.

The program, a partnership with Redflex Traffic Systems, is the first photo enforcement program in the United States administered by a state level law enforcement agency.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office doesn't utilize speed cameras and isn't considering implementing them at this time, said Trish Carter, MCSO public information specialist.

The Kingman Police Department is also without speed cameras.

"There is no talk of us doing that," Sgt. Rusty Cooper said.

A lack of funding was cited as a reason for the KPD's stance, Cooper added. If grant funding were to become available, there is a possibility they would look into it, he added.

The GHSA Survey of the States: Speeding backs up Cooper's statements.

"GHSA's Survey found that jurisdictions believe increased enforcement of speeding-related laws has become very difficult because of uncertainty in highway safety funding and decreased numbers of officers due to retirements, as well as an increased emphasis on homeland security issues," Murphy said.

To get the word out about the effectiveness of speed camera programs, the GHSA will present the study results at their 2008 Annual Meeting in Scottsdale this fall.

"Unfortunately, only approximately 35 jurisdictions in our country use speed cameras in their enforcement efforts," Murphy said. "That number must be greatly increased if we are to make any progress at reducing speed-related fatalities."