Research on traffic enforcement cameras remains mixed

| 12/12/2005

A newly released study could be the justification the state Legislature needs to add speed enforcement cameras to North Carolina roadways.

According to the report, areas with the enforcement cameras had a 55 percent reduction in speeds of drivers traveling10 miles over the speed limit, as well as a 12 percent reduction in the number of collisions.

The study – which was conducted by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University – was initiated by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, after a bill from the North Carolina House of Representatives, HB562, was signed into law. It called for further research into the potential safety benefits of speed cameras.

According to the study, 14 sites with high-severity accident rates were set up with cameras in Charlotte, NC, to collect data. The sites were chosen by the Charlotte Department of Transportation and the Charlotte Police Department, and were compared to 11 more sites that did not use the cameras.

The project began in October 2003 – about four months after HB562 was approved – and was conducted in cooperation with the Charlotte Department of Transportation and the Charlotte Police Department.

In addition to speed cameras, red light cameras were also studied in Raleigh from 2002 to 2004. During that time, researchers found that collisions were reduced by 17 percent, red light running-related collisions were reduced by 22 percent and rear end collisions were reduced by 25 percent.

Although the study found significant reductions in crashes and speed when cameras were used, not all research on the technology has been positive. According to a November report in The Coloradoan of Fort Collins, installing red-light cameras in Fort Collins, CO, increased the number of accidents at the intersections.

According to The Coloradoan, the accident rate per 1 million vehicles at the corner of Drake Road and College Avenue has nearly doubled since 1994, despite traffic-enforcement cameras that were installed at the intersection in 1997.

Australia, a country that has pioneered the use of the technology on its roadways, has also seen problems. According to the Herald Sun of Melbourne, hundreds of drivers traveling on the Hume Highway at Somerset on July 21 were issued tickets for exceeding 80 km/hr (roughly 50 mph).

The problem? Speed limits on the road are 90 km/hr – approximately 55 mph – meaning many of the drivers were moving at or below the legal speed.

Apparently, the technician responsible for calibrating the cameras set the speed at 10 km/hr too slow. Victoria police were expected to send withdrawal notices to all of the falsely ticketed drivers, the Herald Sun reported.