The Science of Stopping Speeding

Despite the fact that speeding is the number one cause of fatal crashes in New York City, the NYPD issues fewer and fewer tickets for it every year. That’s partly because of priorities and partly because of resources, but mostly it’s because Albany hasn’t yet passed legislation allowing automated speed cameras in the five boroughs. Elsewhere in the U.S., speed cameras have been found to reduce speeding by 88 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Here’s a little more about these life-saving devices...
History’s Mysteries
Speed cameras weren’t always cutting-edge digital technology. In fact, automated enforcement techniques were patented in England more than 100 years ago. First appearing in a 1905 issue of Popular Mechanics, early speed cameras simply photographed any rapidly passing object, and in the same instant, photographed a watch. After a measured stretch of street, a second photograph, with another watch in the frame, was taken. By comparing the two pictures, and the distance traveled, police could determine if a vehicle was speeding. The technology these days is a little more space-age, but the time-stamped photograph is as critical to catching speeders as ever.
No Need to Smile
Whenever a video camera appears on NYC’s streets, whether it’s keeping watch outside a bodega or posted at an intersection to stop dangerous driving, citizens are understandably worried about their right to privacy. To satisfy those concerns, speed and red-light cameras are built to document only exactly what’s needed to ticket a speeding car. If there’s no one speeding, then the camera isn’t recording, and when a picture is taken, it isn’t documenting a driver’s face but the car’s license plate. There’s no need to smile for the speed camera: Big Brother isn’t watching.
Not So Fast
Speeding may be a major problem in New York City, but up in Albany nothing moves fast, and that’s where bills become laws and lives will get saved. For more than a decade, Transportation Alternatives has been working with legislators there on a bill called Neighborhood Speeds for Neighborhood Streets. It’s currently creeping through the transportation committee at a snail’s pace. If only legislators moved more like NYC’s speeding drivers.
the latest and greatest
According to American Traffic Solutions, which has the contract for the 150 red-light cameras already installed in NYC, speed camera technology has advanced a lot since the concept was patented at the turn of the century. Everything’s digital these days, and the cameras, which can be placed in a vehicle, mounted on a pole or housed in a portable container, react automatically. “The camera is programmed to capture images based on what is considered a speed violation locally,” a company representative told Reclaim. “Once a speed violation is captured, the images are wirelessly transmitted to a data center and uploaded to a processing system where law enforcement can approve or reject each captured violation.” The neatest new spin to the technology is something called “2-D Ranging Radar.” It allows the system to patrol speeding across multiple lanes of traffic and determine which car is where.