March 11


Automated Traffic Enforcement

By Mike Spack

March 11, 2008

To provide safe roads, we need the three E’s – Engineering (designing good facilities), Enforcement (ticketing to ensure people drive the roads as they were engineered to be driven), and Education (such as the MADD campaign against drunk driving).  They are three angles to attack the same goal – reducing crashes.  I am going to depart a little bit from traffic engineering and venture into enforcement.

Crashlab1Minneapolis tried photo enforcement to ticket vehicles running red lights at traffic signals (dubbed photo cop).  It was struck down by the courts because they were unlawfully ticketing the vehicle and not the motorist.  From a safety perspective, this is a shame because they had a statistically significant drop in crashes while photo cop was operating (31% overall reduction and 42% reduction in right angle crashes which are typically the crashes that cause injuries).

India is taking photo enforcement to a new level with a mobile traffic enforcement van (article).  The Interceptor CrashLab has a telescoping video camera that records vehicles about half a mile away.  They use it for red light running or speed enforcement.   If Minnesota changed its laws to allow the photo cop, this would be an interesting way to implement a roving system that would keep motorists obeying the laws at all intersections instead of just a handful that have permanent equipment. 

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Mike Spack

My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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