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Readers not impressed by St. Ann’s new speed camera

February 10, 2010 St. Louis County, Sunday Poll, Transportation 15 Comments

In the poll last week (post: St. Ann’s speed camera begins February 1st) readers were clear: a speed camera in the school zone is not the best way to make the street safe, it is about revenue for the municipality.  In this case the suburb of St. Ann.  For the most part I’m not bothered by speed & red light cameras because I tend to follow traffic laws to the letter.  However, safety on the streets, especially for pedestrians, is a high priority for me.

Q: This week St. Ann begins school zone enforcement using speed-zone camera technology. These are:Bad: will only increase revenues for St. Ann: 35 [40.7%]

  1. Good: will increase safety in the school zone: 21 [24.4%]
  2. Other: better solutions exist to slow traffic: 21 [24.4%]
  3. Neutral: won’t have much of an impact on safety but it doesn’t bother me: 5 [5.8%]
  4. Other answer… 2 [2.3%]
  5. Unsure/no opinion. 2 [2.3%]

The two “other” responses were:

  • compensating for taxes lost from NW Plaza Foreclosure/Wal-Mart leaving
  • need mass transit not more speed traps this is bs

For me the question comes back to performance.  If the cameras are successful then fine.  But do they? Trying to find unbiased information is impossible. On the pro-camera side is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

“Do speed cameras reduce travel speeds?

Institute studies show that automated speed enforcement can substantially reduce speeding on a wide range of roadway types. Institute studies in Maryland, Arizona and the District of Columbia found that the proportion of drivers exceeding speed limits by more than 10 mph declined by 70, 95, and 82 percent respectively. Research conducted outside the United States also shows large effects of speed cameras on traffic speeds. For example, in Victoria, Australia, speed cameras were introduced in late 1989, and police reported that within 3 months the number of offenders triggering photo radar decreased 50 percent. The percentage of vehicles significantly exceeding the speed limit decreased from about 20 percent in 1990 to fewer than 4 percent in 1994.

Are there other technologies that could aid in enforcing speed limits in both urban and suburban areas?

Yes. Roadside electronic signs that display vehicle speeds to warn drivers they are speeding may reduce speeds and crashes at high-risk locations. Institute research found that mobile roadside speedometers can reduce speeds at the sites of the speedometers as well as for short distances down the road.16 When used in conjunction with police enforcement, the effect of speedometers can last longer. Signs warning truck drivers that they are exceeding maximum safe speeds on exit ramps also show promise, as they reduce the numbers of trucks traveling greatly above maximum safe speeds.

Two emerging technologies are being used to enforce speed limits. Intelligent speed adaptation links a position of the traveling vehicle via Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and computerized maps with speed limits to determine if the vehicle is speeding. The system may work as an advisory system for the driver or an intervention system that automatically reduces the vehicle’s speed to comply with the speed limit. Point-to-point speed camera technology records the time it takes a vehicle to travel between two camera locations to compute an average speed and compare it to the posted speed limit. This system uses optical recognition technology to match the two photographed vehicle license plates. Point-to-point speed cameras are being used to enforce the speed limit on the Hume Freeway in Victoria, Australia. In the UK, point-to-point speed camera systems are known as “Distributed Average Speed” camera systems and have received government approval.”

Cities that have tried speed cameras offer a different perspective.  One community in Arizona has removed speed enforcement cameras:

“Pinal County supervisors Wednesday bid goodbye to photo enforcement.

Their vote to terminate their contract with Redflex, the company that operates the cameras, came at the recommendation of the county’s top law-enforcement official, new Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

“I’m against photo speed enforcement completely,” Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. “Here in Pinal, it’s failed miserably.”

Babeu said speed cameras created dangerous road conditions and offered little financial benefit for the county. He plans to boost traffic enforcement through additional manpower.” (Source: Pinal County shelves speed-camera program)

To me these cameras are more about revenue than safety.  Better ways exist to slow traffic and raise awareness of the presence of school children.   Ticketing was to begin on February 1st but the Post-Dispatch reported on the 4th that warnings will continue through at least the end of the month.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. rick says:

    Here is a different take on the issue: http://stlrising.blogspot.com/2010/02/speed-cam

  2. RyleyinSTL says:

    I'm still not clear as to why so many Americans feel that photo radar is somehow evil and violating their rights. Speeding is against the law. Stick close to the posted speed limit and you will never have any problems. In a Metro area like STL with so many crime problems shouldn't our Police Officers be focusing on more pressing issues when a robot can take care of the speeders? Once your mailbox is crammed full of $150 tickets your going to slow down (unless perhaps your independently wealthy).

  3. JZ71 says:

    Speed limits are set one of two ways, using engineering standards (typically the 85th percentile) or politically (because the local jurisdiction believes a low[er] limit is safer and/or produces more revenue from fines). Legally, speed limits must be properly posted for them to be enforced, and, yes, there will always be people who exceed any posted speed limit. And yes, lower speeds do save fuel – why we ended up with the 55 mph national speed limit in the 1980's (fuel crisis) and probably why there's so little respect for speed limits these days.

    Photo enforcement is like any other enforcement effort, it needs to be tailored to the criticality of the situation. If St. Ann will only be issuing tickets a couple of hours a day (“When Children Are Present”), then it won't be much different from the present situation, and I really don't care – it's essentially a local safety issue on a local street, and not unusual in many suburban communities around here. But what I am afraid is that it won't be two hours a day, it'll be ten or 24 hours a day, when the ONLY reason to drop the speed limit to 25 mph is to catch people and to fine them. Then, it's no longer abot safety, it's about revenue.

    There will always be tradeoffs in perceptions when it comes to speed versus safety. Up until the 1970's, in rural parts of Montana, the only speed limit was “reasonable and proper” – conditions dictated, and yes, speednig tickets were issued. The 55 mph national speed limit was implemented to save fuel, but was kept around for too long since it also “saved lives”. Guess what, life is full of choices and tradeoffs. I'm willing to take a few risks, even if it's not the “safest” choice. And that includes letting kids walk along streets with, horrors, 30 and 35 mph speed limits. Part of growing up is learning responsibility, including watching out for those increasing numbers of distracted drivers, going a whatever speed . . .

  4. jmproffitt says:

    Just a thought… It's important to maintain a clear distinction between speed cameras and red light cameras. Studies have shown red light cameras make intersections more dangerous, usually because local governments then start tinkering with light timing to get more revenue out of the camera setups.

    I'm not aware of simpler speed cameras, but I suspect cities tempted by them for revenue purposes may drop speedlimits in conjunction with cameras in order to drive revenue, too.

    Generally I'm against these moves because cities can't control themselves once they do the initial installs and get used tithe new and cheap revenue.

    • JZ71 says:

      “Studies have shown red light cameras make intersections more dangerous” Not quite true. Studies have shown that when red light cameras are installed, the number of accidents tend to increase, at least initially, while their severity decreases – there are more minor rear-enders, where one driver assumes the car in front will go, only to have them stop (like they're legally supposed to), but there are far fewer t-bone and head-on collisions, since fewer people are running red lights and violating the right-of-way of other drivers.

      Actually, the most effective solutions are longer total cycles and adding more time to the yellow cycle, with or without installing cameras. The fundamental problem is that people don't want to wait, so some are willing to blow through a red, risking they won't get hit or caught. And in intersecions that are busy/at capacity, there's a balancing act between making people wait 3 or 5 minutes for a green, instead of 2. Add in distracted driving and texting, and I can only support more enforcement of all types.

      Do cities get addicted to the revenues? Absolutely. But like tickets of all types, they're pretty muvch totally in YOUR control – don't violate the law and you won't be getting any tickets. But, dammit, if you're gonna blow through stop lights, race down my neighborhood streets or throw trash into my yard, I DO expect my local government to keep a lid on the chaos . . .

  5. JZ71 says:

    a comprehensive article on the subject, from Colorado: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14527012

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  7. Ricky-444 says:

    Theses municipalities are all the same drop the speed limit to 20moh and ticket at 30 moh and count the money. Well I refuse to pay!

  8. Ricky-444 says:

    When I was a kid we had patrol guards when we were on the streets.Why make people crawl at 20 mph on empty streets Oh Yea to make money!!!


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