What about the Traffic Engineer?

The evidence that cameras are a cash grab and have nothing to do with safety is obvious when you look at how cities and counties end up with photo enforcement. Usually when you have a problem, you consult professionals who are experts in dealing with problems like the one you’re dealing with. If you think you have a serious traffic safety problem, you don’t call the police department or other elected officials, you consult with your traffic engineers. Most size-able cities and counties have traffic engineers on staff. These people know traffic safety – it’s their job.

Traffic engineers can do two things:
1. Research the root cause of safety problems
2. Evaluate and recommend solutions

If you have a traffic safety problem, it’s important to understand the root cause of the problem. This is not always going to be obvious. There could be a fundamental road design issue, or perhaps other aspects of a road or intersection are causing a problem like signal visibility, signs, or striping. Perhaps its the drivers. Whatever the cause, it’s important to know what the cause is, rather than to assume you know what the cause is and mis-deploy or mis-allocate resources.

This is the right way to address traffic safety problems; however, in increasing frequency across the country, this is NOT how traffic safety is being addressed. Rather, it seems that camera vendors visit city and county officials, wine and dine them, and then suddenly the city or county needs photo enforcement. They do not consult their traffic engineers or do studies. Suddenly elected officials know the answer to a problem they didn’t know they had until the camera vendor visited them, and that “magical” solution is always throwing up an automated ticketing machine. Surprise, Surprise.

Here’s a good example of a city that actually addressed their traffic safety problem the correct way. Abilene, TX hired a traffic safety engineering company to perform a study before implementing photo enforcement. The results of the study were not surprising. Photo enforcement was only recommended after some rather simple and low-cost solutions are to be tried. Only in the event that these measures fail, would a small number of locations even possibly benefit from photo enforcement. In other words, there were plenty of non-enforcement options, and cameras were only to be used as a last resort, not as a first resort, as city and county governments would seem to prefer.

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