Speed Safety Cameras
As part of the city's Vision Zero efforts, we are working to address today's "hurry up" culture to stop excessive speeding while also acknowledging and minimizing inequities in traffic enforcement. People walking and biking are at a heightened risk of injury in speed-related crashes as the likelihood of survival decreases the faster a vehicle is traveling. We are re-engineering our streets, educating the public on safe driving behaviors, and focusing our traffic enforcement efforts on the most deadly traffic violations.
Speed safety cameras are another tool to address excessive speeding. Speed safety cameras are a tool that has been proven in other cities across the United States and abroad to reduce excessive speeding and severe and fatal injury traffic collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that fixed speed cameras reduce injury crashes by 20 to 25 percent, and mobile speed cameras reduce injury collisions by 21 to 51 percent.
Over 150 communities across the United States have speed safety camera programs, but this tool is not legal in California currently so change to state law is required to use this life-saving technology.
Every year, 30 people are killed and 200 more are seriously injured while travelling on San Francisco's streets. San Francisco ranks among the highest or worst counties for traffic deaths and injuries in California. These deaths and injuries are unacceptable and preventable, and San Francisco is committed to eliminating them.
By adopting Vision Zero in 2014, the City and County of San Francisco committed to building more equitable and safer streets, educating the public on traffic safety, focusing traffic enforcement on the most dangerous driving behaviors, and prioritizing resources to implement effective initiatives that save lives. Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic deaths in San Francisco.
Reducing Speeds in San Francisco
In San Francisco, unsafe speed is one of the most common primary collision factors in crashes that result in injuries. Speeding is dangerous for myriad reasons: a driver's field of vision is narrowed, reducing the likelihood that potential hazards can be seen and avoided, and drivers have less time to react and maneuver out of dangerous situations when travelling at higher speeds. Safely negotiating curves is also compromised.
It takes a vehicle a longer distance to stop for a hazard in the road the faster it is travelling. In the event of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist, the vehicle's speed will largely determine the survivability of the crash. A person hit by a car traveling 20 mph has a 9 in 10 chance of surviving while a person hit by a car traveling at 40 mph only has a 1 in 10 chance of surviving.
Speed Safety Cameras as Proven Tool to Reduce Speeding
Speed safety cameras are a safety tool that can reduce excessive speeding and improve safety for all road users. Speed safety cameras slow speeds by using fixed or mobile cameras and other equipment to detect and capture images of vehicles travelling dangerously over the speed limit. Speed safety cameras have been proven to deter illegal speeding and provide consistent, predictable, and unbiased enforcement of the speed limit.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speed safety cameras have many traffic safety benefits that augment traditional police enforcement, including:
• Providing consistent speed enforcement in locations with a history of speed-related injury crashes
• Focusing solely on monitoring vehicle speeds while impartially enforcing the speed limit
• Operating in locations that may be otherwise dangerous for law enforcement personnel to be stationed
• Enhancing enforcement without significant additional staff and resources
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles which specifically recommends that all states remove barriers to implementing speed safety camera programs based on their finding that these programs are an effective but underused countermeasure. The report found that speeding increases crash risk both in terms of the likelihood of being involved in a crash and in terms of the severity of injuries sustained by those involved in speeding-related crashes. The NTSB finds that the relationship between speed and injury severity is consistent and direct, which is especially critical when pedestrians or bicyclists are involved, due to their lack of protection.
The NTSB determined that between 2005-2014, 31% of all traffic fatalities nation-wide cited speed as a factor. However, the authors also note that the involvement of speeding passenger related vehicles in fatal crashes is underestimated, suggesting this percentage is likely even higher. These findings are consistent with what we see in San Francisco, demonstrating our city is not an outlier, but rather part of the broader narrative of the impact of speed on streets across the nation.
Over 150 communities across the United States have implemented speed safety camera enforcement. Many of these cities have experienced reductions in excessive speeding and a decrease in severe and fatal traffic injury collisions. Examples of these successful programs include:
• Washington, D.C. experienced a 73% reduction in traffic fatalities, a decrease from 71 deaths in 2001 to 19 deaths in 2012 and a 34% decrease in traffic related injuries. Whereas one in three drivers were travelling 10 mph above the speed limit, when cameras were introduced the rate of speeders dropped to just one in 40 drivers.
• Portland, OR reported a 46% reduction in traffic fatalities from an average of 56.8 annual traffic deaths before the program's implementation to an average of 30.5 traffic related deaths as the program has grown. Average and 85th percentile speeds also declined at speed safety camera locations. There was 85% decrease in the number of drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more.
• Seattle, WA had an overall calming effect on the city reporting a 4% reduction in the average speed of a speeding violation in miles per hour above the posted speed limit
• In New York City, NY in zones where cameras were installed, total crashes declined by 15%, total injuries by 17%, fatalities by 55%, and speeding by 70%. Daily violations at typical camera locations declined over time as drivers started to be mindful of the cameras and drive more responsibly. NYC DOT also found that between 2014-2016, 81% of drivers did not receive more than one violation, further evidence that the cameras created an overall behavioral change.
• Denver, CO has curbed excessive speeding by 21% at speed safety camera locations.
• Montgomery, MD experienced a 59% decrease in the likelihood of a driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph and reported a reduction in fatal or incapacitating injuries by 49% on roads with speed safety cameras.