What is Photo Enforcement, and Why Do You Need It?
November 12, 2016 – Since the first traffic safety cameras hit roadways more than 25 years ago, the public has had a lot of questions about the function and operation of photo enforcement programs. As part of our efforts to educate the public and law enforcement officials about what photo enforcement is, and how it can help improve traffic safety, we’re sharing answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received. What exactly does “photo enforcement” mean? “Photo enforcement” is a technology law enforcement agencies can use to enforce existing traffic safety laws. It enables officers to monitor and deter dangerous driving behaviors on a 24/7 basis, such as red-light running, speeding, illegally passing a stopped school bus and crossing railroad tracks while the crossing signal is active. Photo enforcement systems utilize fixed (stationary) or mobile cameras to monitor passing traffic. They are activated to capture data, including still images and video, if a potential violation is detected. While detection is automatic, violations are not. The data captured by a photo enforcement system undergoes a comprehensive review process, and a law enforcement officer ultimately determines if a violation occurred or not. How long has photo enforcement been around? Law enforcement agencies in the United States have relied on photo enforcement to decrease dangerous driving behaviors since the late 1990s. Photo enforcement has been used internationally to improve roadway safety since the 1960s. What’s the point of photo enforcement? The primary goal of a photo enforcement program is to improve the safety of people, such as pedestrians, school children, roadside workers, and also drivers and passengers. The presence and promotion of a photo enforcement system serves as a deterrent to breaking the law and encourages drivers to act cautiously. Photo enforcement also provides law enforcement with an effective means to hold violators accountable and ultimately alter dangerous driving behaviors on select roadways. Photo enforcement is not intended to operate on all roads or intersections – only in places where the safety need exists. In fact, some municipalities choose to move their systems from one roadway to another as safety in a particular area improves. How do I know if photo enforcement is needed in my community? Photo enforcement is a tool law enforcement agencies and city officials can use to achieve traffic safety goals. If a community’s residents and officials agree they have a safety need, all safety tools should be considered, including photo enforcement. Photo enforcement is designed to improve roadway safety in areas with a high number of crashes or violations resulting from dangerous driving behaviors, such as red-light running, speeding or illegally passing a stopped school bus. It should be considered once all other safety options have been analyzed, implemented and/or optimized. For instance, prior to the installation of a photo enforcement system, intersections and roadways should be well designed from a safety standpoint, speed limits should be set to the appropriate level for the roadway and yellow-light timing should be reviewed. If the danger still exists after all appropriate safety options have been optimized, photo enforcement could help curb the problem. What makes photo enforcement more effective than other forms of traffic enforcement?
- Automatic Detection: Photo enforcement cameras are fully automated. No action is required by an officer at the scene to trigger or activate the system.
- 24/7 Deterrent: The presence of photo enforcement causes drivers to think twice before initiating any risky maneuvers. The camera systems serve as deterrents to breaking the law, 24/7.
- Police Force Multiplier: Photo enforcement programs serve as “police force multipliers” enabling local officers to refocus their energies on other high-priority tasks while still ensuring the safety and security of problematic intersections around the clock.
- Crash Prevention: Photo enforcement programs help prevent crashes causing traffic delays, require police, fire and EMT resources, cause property damage and – worst of all – can result in the loss of life.