Automated traffic enforcement cameras may replace police traffic stops as a way to catch people speeding with new funds from the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill.
Under the new Transportation Department guidelines, states can now receive funds via the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), which aims to help states implement strategies to reduce road fatalities, such as designing safer roads, adding more car safety regulations and installing speeding cameras to reduce speeding.
According to FHA Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack, the agency’s goal “is to help state and local transportation agencies across the country deliver projects that make streets, highways and bridges safe and accessible for all users. States now have more flexibility and funding to make highway safety improvements.”
Agencies like the Governors Highway Safety Association support the installation of such cameras as a way to combat the increase in pandemic-related traffic deaths.
Officials also tout the benefits of automated traffic enforcement as being more “equitable” and reliable than traditional police traffic stops, which may lead to violent encounters between police and citizens.
The FHA claimed on its website that speeding cameras could reduce the number of injury crashes by 47% and can reduce 54% of total crashes. The agency also echoed the idea of equitable traffic enforcement, believing that automated traffic enforcement could be a way to gain public trust.
“Public trust is essential for any type of enforcement. With proper controls in place, SSCs can offer fair and equitable enforcement of speeding, regardless of driver age, race, gender or socioeconomic status. SSCs should be planned with community input and equity impacts in mind.”
The Transportation Department paralleled this idea in a statement: “Automated speed enforcement, if deployed equitably and applied appropriately to roads with the greatest risk of harm due to speeding, can provide significant safety benefits and save lives.”
Speeding cameras, also called “speed traps,” have been controversial. While governments tout the cameras as a way to reduce traffic deaths, critics see them as merely a source of revenue and ineffective at reducing overall accidents. Others worry about their role in contributing to state surveillance.
As such, the use of traffic enforcement cameras has not been widely embraced. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, only around 159 communities use the technology in full.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also criticized funding automated traffic enforcement cameras on the grounds of its invasion of privacy.
“They’re spending $15 billion on speeding cameras to be able to catch people speeding. I mean, I’m sorry. I don’t want that. That’s bringing us even more surveillance. Like we need more surveillance in our society right now,” he said.
Ultimately, states and local communities can make use of the money as they see fit.
Under Biden’s law, states can use up to 10% of the $15.6 billion total five-year highway safety money for the use of speeding cameras, or alternatively, can create public awareness campaigns and other measures to protect children walking or biking to school.