Cameras

Can traffic cameras make us safer? – Greater Greater Washington – Greater Greater Washington

Summary

A traffic camera sign in DC by Mike Mozart licensed under Creative Commons.

On Monday, November 15, Councilmember Mary Cheh held a roundtable on the District’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Camera program. I testified in support of the program on behalf of the DC Sustainable Transportation Coalition, which GGWash manages, and Alex Baca offered written comments on behalf of GGWash.

As DC expands its camera enforcement program, a move many advocates inc…….

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A traffic camera sign in DC by Mike Mozart licensed under Creative Commons.

On Monday, November 15, Councilmember Mary Cheh held a roundtable on the District’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Camera program. I testified in support of the program on behalf of the DC Sustainable Transportation Coalition, which GGWash manages, and Alex Baca offered written comments on behalf of GGWash.

As DC expands its camera enforcement program, a move many advocates including GGWash have supported for years, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the role that enforcement plays in making cities safe, livable, and mobile. Here are some key points from our testimony.

A picture’s worth a thousand empty words

In 2021, drivers have killed 37 people thus far and caused 4,500 minor and 329 major injuries. Such injuries can end a person’s life as they knew it, and present serious financial and social consequences, especially in lower-income households. As we’ve observed elsewhere, the traffic violence crisis isn’t unique to DC: it’s nationwide. But the solutions will lie at both federal and local levels, as agencies like DDOT and leaders like the Mayor have a lot of say over what gets priority in our local streetscapes: life or cars.

Enforcement is one of the “5 Es” of Vision Zero (Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement; some have added Equity and Engagement), an internationally-recognized framework for acting systematically to eliminate traffic deaths. DC has committed to implementing this approach for several years, with little to show for it. The enforcement “E” is traditionally framed by advocates as a direct disincentive for individual driving behaviors that endanger others.

In recent years, some activists have argued that enforcement should be the “littlest e”; in other words, deemphasized in favor of other approaches that make it hard, impossible, or otherwise unappealing to drive unsafely. This position makes some sense from the point of view of treating traffic violence as a public health issue, which it is, rather than simply a matter of individual decision-making. It’s crucial to ensure that the locations of cameras are complemented by data-driven improvements to streetscapes to make them safer across the board (more on that below). Without doing that, it’s no wonder some see traffic cameras as a trap.

But even skeptics agree that automated enforcement is a more equitable way than relying mainly on law enforcement officers to monitor and cite non-compliance with traffic laws. Cameras limit the role of implicit bias of officers choosing which drivers to pull over, and also limit the potential for escalating negative interactions.

A ghost bike on M Street NW.    Image by Aimee Custis licensed under Creative Commons.

Safety in public space: a casualty of the coronavirus

Traffic violence is a public health crisis. With the rise in dangerous driving, curing traffic violence is part of our city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.</…….

Source: https://ggwash.org/view/83118/can-traffic-cameras-make-us-safer