Speed Cameras Greatly Reduce the Number of Serious and Fatal Accidents

November 4, 2015

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a test conducted using speed cameras near Washington D.C. showed a reduction in the amount of deaths and injuries due to changes in the behavior of motorists. The changed behavior was a result of the motorists knowing about the cameras in the area. Experts at IIHS expressed their hopes that the research would lead to more discussions around the country about speeding. Since American drivers are used to seeing speed limit signs but typically ignore them, something must be done to correct their dangerous behavior.

Automatic speed enforcement is gaining popularity slowly throughout the country. However, it is still considered a rarity. Less than 150 jurisdictions use speed camera programs. Experts said that if all communities throughout the United States had speed cameras, the total number of serious or fatal injuries could be reduced by at least 20,000. Speed cameras were first installed in 2007 in Montgomery County. At the beginning of 2014, there were less than 60 fixed speed cameras. In addition to this, there were 30 portable cameras and less than 10 mobile speed vans. Cameras were used in school zones and on several residential streets.

For the Montgomery County program, the first several months yielded a significant reduction in the amount of drivers traveling more than 10 miles over the speed limit on roads with cameras. The program continues being just as effective today. Over the years, the cameras have cut the likelihood of speeding by about 60 percent.

IIHS researchers also analyzed the accidents on roads where cameras were used in comparison with similar roads in the state without cameras. They found that drivers on the roads where cameras were used were about 20 percent less likely to be involved in a serious or fatal accident.

One recent improvement in Montgomery County was the use of speed corridors. These give cameras a much larger impact. With a corridor, enforcement of speed limits is expanded to long portions of the road instead of just smaller areas. In addition to this, the cameras are frequently moved to other locations to keep the drivers from becoming familiar with camera locations. The study found that moving the cameras led to an even larger increase in safety rates. Researchers said that moving the cameras made accidents 30 percent less likely. When cameras were moved, drivers consistently watched their speedometers instead of hitting the brakes when they knew a camera zone was near.

The county's current program with its use of cameras and camera corridors combined reduced the overall number of serious or fatal accidents by almost 40 percent on residential roads. Since that number excluded spillover effects, the total benefit was estimated to be considerably higher. In addition to slowing down on roads where there were cameras, drivers appeared to slow down even on roads where there were no cameras or corridors.

Click here to return to Amity Insurance E-Newsletter November 4, 2015.