Automated Traffic Enforcement – a.k.a. traffic cameras – is a tool used by the Metropolitan Police Department to enforce traffic violations. The post that follows was provided to AARP DC by the DC Bicycle Advisory Council and Marlene Berlin, pedestrian advocate. Last year, AARP DC participated in a task force, led by Councilmembers Wells and Cheh, that explored ways to a safety-based system of automated traffic enforcement.
Only July 29, 2013, the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) and the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) sent a letter to all thirteen D.C. Council members recommending that D.C. continue with plans to expand the use of cameras to enforce D.C.’s traffic laws.
The PAC and BAC became concerned by a proposal from Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) that would ban photo enforcement in D.C., and a subsequent proposal by D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (At-Large) that would place a moratorium on photo enforcement, both of which could threaten the public health and safety gains that have been made in recent years.
Pedestrians and bicyclists are far more vulnerable to being injured or killed in a collision than drivers. This is particularly true when a driver is speeding because as speed increases, the chance that a pedestrian or bicyclist will be seriously injured or killed increases dramatically. In 2011, 831 pedestrians and 582 bicyclists were involved in traffic crashes. Reducing traffic speed and preventing red light and stop sign running are essential to protecting pedestrians and bicyclists as well as drivers.
Traffic cameras have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing speeding in the District. According to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), when the District’s photo enforcement program began, 1 out of 3 drivers was speeding and today only 1 in 40 speeds. As speeding has decreased so have traffic fatalities. Between 2001 and 2012, traffic fatalities in the District decreased 73% (from 72 to 19).
D.C. residents overwhelmingly support photo enforcement. According to survey results released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in April 2013:
9 out of 10 District residents believe that dangerous driver behaviors like running red lights and stop signs, speeding and not yielding to pedestrians are serious threats;
- 87 percent support red light cameras;
- 76 percent support speed cameras; and
- 58 percent who had recently received a photo enforcement ticket thought they deserved it.
(photo from istockphoto.com)