Speed on green' cameras linked to rear-end crashesArizona sees side impacts, speed decline
Stephane Massinon And Gwendolyn RichardsCalgary Herald
Monday, March 30, 2009
CREDIT: Mikael Kjellstrom121908_light.jpgWith Calgary's "speed on green" fines set to kick in Wednesday, one of the first cities to bring in such technology says the cameras decrease speeding and dangerous collisions, but can increase the number of rear-end crashes.
Arizona cities were the first in North America to bring in traffic photo-enforcement, with Scottsdale starting in 1996, says the city's traffic engineering director Paul Porell.
The Arizona city has speed-on-green cameras--modified red-light cameras that photograph speeders--at 11 intersections and two more in permanent locations on city roads.
"We believe that the photo enforcement program has had a very significant reduction in collisions," said Porell.
But when other jurisdictions ask for advice on the equipment, Porell warns it can increase the amount of rear-end collisions as people stop suddenly to avoid speeding through intersections, only to be rear-ended by an inattentive driver.
Rear-end crashes are less dangerous than angle crashes so it's a trade-off, said Porell.
"The reduction in angle collisions has to be significant," said Porell.
The head of the Calgary Police Commission, which approved use of the speed-on-green cameras after police first brought forward the proposal six months ago, said the system prevents crashes.
"The evidence put before us was that red-light cameras and speed-on-green prevent accidents," Denis Painchaud said.
Painchaud said there was no evidence rear-end collision numbers would go up and that there was a decrease in T-bone collisions.
Five of Calgary's cameras are already operational, although police would not reveal their locations.
Eventually, 40 of the 44 red light cameras at Calgary intersections will be modified to also take photos of people speeding.
When Calgary begins sending out the fines, which range from $60 to $350, authorities say they hope the new technology will help reduce speeding and intersection collisions.
In 2008, according to police statistics to the end of December, there were 3,019 injury accidents in Calgary and 38 traffic fatalities.
Porell stressed the speed-on-green cameras be used at the worst intersections that see the most collisions.
"Because it is a very useful tool, we always advise that it should be used judiciously," said Porell.
Painchaud suggested that if people are driving the speed limit as they approach a light, there is ample time to slow down.
With the speed-on-green system, "people are more conscious about what speed they're going at and what colour the light is," he said.
However, several Calgarians feel the new cameras are the city's attempt to bring in more money.
"The amount of cash grabs right now is appalling. It's not a good thing," said Charles McDonald.
"I don't think it'll change the way people drive. It'll just put more money in the city's pocket," said Julia Thomas, who commutes to downtown from the northwest for work during the week.
But her husband, Joshua Thomas, disagreed.
"It gets people to slow down, and that means (fewer) accidents," he said.
Painchaud countered arguments the police service was implementing the new speed cameras as a way of adding to their coffers.
"We don't take a look at how much money they anticipate they will raise,"he said. "We make decisions on what is best for the safety of Calgarians."
MLA Art Johnston helped craft legislation to make speed on green cameras legal and thinks they're needed.
"It's called speed on green, but really it's speeding," he said. "I think it's going to have significance, because some people will slow down."
Johnston, a former police officer, said the biggest deterrence to speeding is marked police vehicles, but added, "We just don't have enough police and this is an available tool.
Don Szarko of the Alberta Motor Association said many Albertans have a cavalier attitude toward speeding.
"We have to address the issue," he said.
He disputes the argument that the cameras are cash cows and said most members like the technology. According to an AMA survey of its members, 84 per cent of people support camera-based enforcement, said Szarko.
"We're all for anything that can reduce the amount and severity of crashes," said Szarko.
Porell said there is no before-and-after data on intersection collisions in Scottsdale, but said overall collisions are down, which he attributes to the cameras.
Their program brings in about$500,000 US but the city runs the program as revenue neutral. Profits are put back into other traffic safety initiatives, he said.
Though there is a "vocal minority" that does not like speed on green cameras, he said the Scottsdale public is generally supportive.
Recent independent polling, he said, shows that the public likes the cameras.
"We have very strong support for the program--upwards of 70 per cent," said Porell.
WITH FILES FROM JAMES JEFFREY SMASSINON@THEHERALD. CANWEST.COM
© Driving License 2009