Traffic technology improves safety

Police: Traffic technology improves safety

by Scott McCabe

WASHINGTON - Photo radar technology has allowed the Metropolitan Police Department to make District of Columbia roads safer without taking officers from other assignments, according to the acting police chief.

Since installing photo radar and traffic light cameras seven years ago, traffic deaths, speeding and red-light running have dropped dramatically, Acting Police Chief Cathy Lanier testified Thursday.

“While any traffic fatality is one too many,” Lanier said, “the record indicates that D.C.’s traffic safety efforts has had a positive impact.”

D.C. had 43 traffic fatalities last year, the fewest since 1995. In each of the past three years, there have been fewer than 50 fatalities, compared with the previous eight years, when there was an average of 60 traffic deaths in each.

When the photo radar program began in the summer of 2001, almost one in three motorists were found to be speeding; now it’s one in 55. In 50-mph zones, for example, motorists in 2001 were driving 8 mph above the speed limit; now they are traveling 5 mph below the speed limit.

During January 2007, more than 1.7 million vehicles passed through enforcement zones monitored by D.C.’s stationary and mobile photo radar cameras, but fewer than 32,000 were found speeding aggressively.

In December 2003, by contrast, about half as many vehicles were monitored by photo radar, but there were over 20,000 more violators detected that month.

D.C. police have issued more than 2.2 million photo radar tickets and more than 1.68 million have been paid, resulting in fines of more than $128 million.

Red-light running at intersections equipped with cameras has declined by 75 percent over the course of the seven-year program