As in prior years, I was invited to participate in the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) annual meeting, where I was asked to present to the executive board on what states can do to boost public safety and reduce the potential for bias through automated traffic violation enforcement.
For this distinguished group of state highway safety officials, I shared our insights into four primary factors that drive the need for automated traffic enforcement, including:
- Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death – In the 1990’s, U.S. traffic fatality rates were about equal to countries across Europe. In the ensuing decades, camera-based enforcement was adopted and expanded across Europe. During this same period in the U.S., several states have enacted prohibitions that preclude the use of automated enforcement, and other states have either enacted enabling legislation, or have no such laws on the books. As a result, traffic deaths in the U.S., have grown to nearly twice as high as European nations.
- Automated traffic enforcement improves safety – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently ranked automated enforcement at a 5 out of 5 for effectiveness in reducing speeding. Multiple data-driven studies cited in NHTSA’s Countermeasures report illustrate how automated enforcement has helped reduce crashes and deaths. One ten-year study, for example, found a 35% reduction in deaths in cities with red-light cameras, compared to a 14% reduction in cities without them. This adds to the growing body of research and recommendations, such as those from the County Health Rankings, which recommends camera-based enforcement as a tool to improve public health.
- Cameras do not violate privacy – State and municipal highway safety organizations have been empowered to enforce traffic laws. People must be held accountable if they don’t follow the rules. It’s also important to note that most state-enabling legislation for camera-based enforcement does not require driver identification and in many places, the use of facial recognition is prohibited.
- Camera-based enforcement increases accuracy – Research has found that bias is evident whenever human-issued tickets are compared to those captured by cameras. Camera-based enforcement is automatic and systematic. Red-light cameras, for example, automatically capture every vehicle that runs a red light. At the same time, in most states its standard practice to have a trained professional validate a violation before any citation is issued.
Ultimately, we have found that automated traffic enforcement substantially reduces risky driving behaviors and can be applied equitably with community engagement. As the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board has reported automated traffic violation enforcement programs, “should be open and transparent, motivated by safety concerns, have strong enabling legislation, and be repeatable to achieve success.”
We strongly support GHSA’s efforts to promote public safety and are proud to be a recognized as a 2021 State Highway Safety Champion.
At Conduent Transportation, we have been focused on public safety for more than 25 years. We work closely with GHSA and others to share insights and collaborate on solutions to help states increase public safety and equity in their transportation operations in the U.S., and around the world.