Unmanned Speeding Cameras: How Do They Affect Oregon Drivers


Unmanned Speeding Cameras: How Do They Affect Oregon Drivers

In September of 2016, Oregon implemented unmanned speeding cameras in Portland. The cameras were placed on Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, and law enforcement officials began touting its efficacy before a single ticket was issued. While the numbers suggest that the mere presence of the camera is enough to affect driving behavior, what are the long-ranging consequences and implications for Oregon drivers. Since the cameras now exist in multiple locations, it’s worth taking a look at the statistics behind the cameras, how effective they are, and where their weaknesses lie.

Initial Facts and Statistics

The stretch of road where the first camera was placed has a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. Before the cameras were installed, the number of drivers traveling at speeds of 51 miles per hour or above totaled 1,417 a day, on average. After the cameras were turned on, that number dropped to 93 per day. For the first 30 days, only warnings, not actual citations, were issued. However, law enforcement officials state that the cameras are still keeping speeds lower in the areas where they operate.

Penalties For Drivers

The cameras themselves are unmanned, but every photo is reviewed by a police officer. If the officer determines that a citation should be issued, he or she will sign the citation and mail it out. Those who obtain a citation after photographic review will have to pay $160. It seems straightforward, but it can cause a headache for those who feel they’ve been unfairly cited. Are these cameras really effective? Are they necessary? And what are their weaknesses?

Reason For Concern and Proof of Efficacy

In 2015, two people per day died because of an accident resulting from one or more vehicles running a red light. Between 2011 and 205, red light-running accidents were responsible for 719 deaths per year, 60 deaths per month, and $390 million in losses due to fatalities. American Traffic Solutions found that when red light cameras decreased, red light-related fatalities increased. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of communities with red light cameras installed dropped by 12 percent and red light-related fatalities increased by seven percent. Communities that turn off their cameras experience an average 30 percent increase in deaths related to red light crashes. These statistics are not the only ones that seem to suggest the presence of unmanned speeding cameras directly affect driver behavior in a positive way. But what about implementation?

Weaknesses of Red Light Cameras

On the other side of the argument are those who say that unmanned speeding cameras have far too many weaknesses to be effective. Here are just a few of the arguments leveraged by those who believe unmanned cameras do more harm than good.

●     Mistaken Identity – According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when it comes to red light tickets issued due to an unmanned camera, the registered vehicle owner is the driver of the car in only 72 percent of all cases. In other words, nearly 25 percent of unmanned camera-initiated citations are given to someone that doesn’t own the car.

●     Between a Rock and a Hard Place – When drivers receive a ticket in the mail, they always have the option of fighting it. However, this means they’re faced with the choice of taking off work (thus losing money) to fight the ticket or paying the $160 fine.

●     Faulty Equipment – Most camera equipment providers decline to publish the error rates and reliability reports for their cameras. Given that these cameras run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all manner of weather and conditions, it leaves many wondering just how accurate they are.

●     Lack of Government Audits – There are no widespread government imperatives that require state or federal agencies to audit the unmanned camera providers. That means there’s effectively no government oversight, which makes many citizens question how they can know if the cameras are functioning, run correctly, or maintained.

●     Conflicting Studies – There are multiple studies that seem to show an increase in fatalities and accidents when red light cameras are present rather than the decrease that many other studies show. These conflicting studies have led to the argument that the effectiveness of red light cameras is inconclusive and should be studied further before issuing tickets based on their data.

The topic of unmanned speeding cameras and how effective they are is a deep and complex issue that could be explored over the course of volumes. However, they’re a reality for Oregon residents, along with the residents of many other states. As long as they are, you should be aware of them and understand that you do have legal options if you’re cited because of one of these cameras. If you receive a citation resulting from an unmanned red light camera that you feel is in error, be sure to contact a traffic attorney right away. Only an experienced lawyer will be able to look at your individual case and help you obtain the best possible result.


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