Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Automated Speed Enforcement



Before the


JUNE 30, 2010

Chairman DeFazio and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to represent the Department of Transportation on the very important safety issue of automated speed enforcement. 

While the number and rate of traffic deaths have decreased significantly in recent years, motor vehicle crashes remain a serious national health problem and a leading cause of death for young Americans.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is committed to reducing the motor vehicle crash toll and considers every available evidence-based strategy for reducing roadway risk.  Automated traffic enforcement technology is one such strategy, with evidence of effectiveness in reducing risks from speeding and red light running.  

Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes.[1]  In 2008, speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes and was associated with more than 11,000 fatalities.  NHTSA estimates that speeding-related crashes cost more than $40 billion each year.

Of all drivers in fatal crashes, young males are most likely to have been speeding.  In 2008, 37 percent of male drivers between 15 and 24 years of age who were involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been speeding at the time of the crash.  The great majority - 88 percent in 2008 - of speeding-related fatal crashes occur on roads other than Interstate highways.

A NHTSA study of fatal intersection crashes indicates that an average of about 38 percent of such events at signal-controlled intersections involved at least one driver who ran a red light.[2]   On average, intersection crashes involving red light running result in about 1,000 deaths per year.  The age distribution of drivers who ran a red light in a fatal crash differs from that of speeding-related crashes, with drivers 65 years of age and higher making up about 11 percent of all drivers in two-vehicle intersection crashes, but accounting for 18 percent of those who ran red lights.

Research indicates that automated enforcement systems can result in measurable safety improvements in high-crash locations.[3]  A NHTSA review of thirteen international evaluations of automated speed camera enforcement systems and seven evaluations of automated red light camera systems indicates generally positive effects from these systems.    

Several studies of fixed-camera speed enforcement systems indicate 20 to 25 percent reductions in injury crashes, while studies of mobile systems indicate reductions of injury crashes from 21 to as high as 51 percent. 

Studies of red light running camera systems indicate reductions in overall crashes, angle crashes and red light running crashes by as much as 30 to 50 percent, but show slight increases in rear end crashes.  

Based on available evidence, NHTSA believes that, when appropriately used as one component of an overall traffic safety and law enforcement system, automated enforcement programs can be an effective countermeasure for reducing crashes at high risk locations..  Automated enforcement systems do not replace the need for traditional enforcement operations, but provide an effective supplement when used as part of a comprehensive strategy for reducing traffic crashes. 

NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration have developed operational guidelines to assist States and communities in designing and implementing effective automated speeding and red light running systems.[4]  These guidelines are based on program evaluations and documented successful practices in communities across the Nation.  The guidelines stress the importance of integrating automated enforcement in a comprehensive system that includes problem identification, appropriate legal authority, coordination with the courts, public education, communications and community support.  The guidelines also address critical automated enforcement operational elements such as enforcement thresholds, the use of fixed and mobile units, overt and covert deployment strategies, signage, and days and hours of operation.

NHTSA encourages adoption of these automated enforcement guidelines through speed management workshops.  These workshops encourage a comprehensive approach to community speed management, including incorporation of automated enforcement where appropriate.  The workshops involve the active participation of the full range of local partners, including highway engineers, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, and safety advocates.  The agency has conducted nine of these workshops, reaching 46 states.   

Speeding and red light running are serious safety problems and NHTSA is committed to identifying and advancing effective solutions.  We will continue to examine the effectiveness of promising countermeasures, including automated enforcement systems, and work closely with States to encourage the adoption of effective programs to help improve safety for all road users.     

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

[1] NHTSA, Speeding, Traffic Safety Facts, 2008 Data, DOT HS 811 166

[2] NHTSA, Analysis of Fatal Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes and Fatalities at Intersections, 1997 to 2004, February 2006, DOT HS 810 682

[3] NHTSA, Automated Enforcement: A Compendium of Worldwide Evaluations of Results, September 2007, DOT HS 810 763

[4] US Department of Transportation, Speed Enforcement Camera Systems Operational Guidelines, March 2008, DOT HS 810 916

MICHAEL GERACI, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF SAFETY PROGRAMS, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Testimony Date
Testimony Mode