According to NHTSA, 11,258 crashes or 29% of all motor vehicle fatalities occurred in speed-related crashes in 2020. NHTSA also reports the estimated economic cost of speed-related crashes is about $52 billion a year. In addition to traditional speed enforcement such as radar and aerial speed enforcement, some state legislatures have attempted to curb speeding through automated enforcement. Automated speed enforcement is a method of speed limit enforcement which stands apart because it does not require the presence of a law enforcement officer and allows for more consistent enforcement than traditional methods. State legislatures have passed several measures in recent years studying the use of automated enforcement for speed, employing automated speed enforcement programs or prohibiting localities from utilizing automated speed enforcement.
Speed cameras use radar or lidar presence detectors embedded in the road to measure a vehicle’s speed. If a vehicle is traveling faster than the posted speed limit, the camera will record its speed and license plate, along with the date, time and location. A citation will be mailed to the registered owner if the driver exceeded the speed limit, typically by more than 10 or 11 mph, according to IIHS.
While some municipalities continue to enhance automated enforcement programs, the recent trend has been toward fewer governments using red-light and speed camera programs. However, speed cameras, which are less prevalent than red-light cameras, saw a slight uptick in their use in recent years.
According to IIHS, as of September 2022, speed cameras were in operation in 179 U.S. communities in 18 states and the District of Columbia, according to media sources and other public information tracked by IIHS, up from only four Arizona and Utah communities in 1995. Peoria, Arizona, and Paradise Valley, Arizona, were the first two communities to implement speed cameras in 1987. Cameras are used statewide in highway work zones in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Pennsylvania. At least 10 states—Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia—have legislatively authorized speed cameras to be utilized in highway work or construction zones, see the Work Zone Cameras section for more details.
Administering automated enforcement programs can be controversial. One commonly cited reason for community opposition is that such programs are sometimes perceived as revenue-generating tools. To this end, the USDOT has created operational guidelines for speed cameras.
Communities in 18 states—Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington—and the District of Columbia operate speed cameras. Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia and Wisconsin do not allow the use of speed cameras. Nevada prohibits speed camera programs unless law-enforcement personnel is present when cameras are used. Arkansas allows speed cameras in school zones and at railroad crossings, but speed cameras are not currently in use. In Utah, communities are not using speed cameras, even though the state allows them in school zones and areas with speed limits of 30 mph or less. Finally, Iowa allows red-light and speed cameras if they are approved via local ordinance and New Mexico allows speed cameras to be approved via local ordinance.
Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin prohibit speed cameras via state law. Missouri's Supreme Court issued two rulings in 2015 which found that red-light and speed cameras were unconstitutional and speed cameras are no longer used anywhere in the state.
Automated enforcement can sometimes be a source of contention between state and local governments. In Iowa, the Iowa DOT (IDOT) and local jurisdictions have battled over the use of speed cameras for several years, mostly focused on speed cameras being placed on interstates and primary highways under the control of the IDOT. The IDOT had asserted use of the cameras fell under their general authority to maintain safe highways and ordered the shutdown of 10 speed cameras on or adjacent to Iowa highways. In April of 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the IDOT did not have statutory authority to keep the municipalities from using speed cameras. Cities have resumed using speed cameras on interstates and primary highways in their jurisdictions, and no longer must submit annual reports on automated enforcement to the IDOT. The IDOT then removed the restrictive rules in question. Use on local roads was not in question and continued throughout.
State Legislative Action
A number of states have enacted legislation authorizing or increasing the use of automated enforcement speed monitoring since 2018. Maryland authorized (HB 175, 2018) Prince George’s County until the end of September 2023, to place the one-speed camera at a specific intersection, provided proper signage is in place and placed near a device that displays a real-time posting of the driver’s speed. Prince George’s County has used speed cameras at several locations since the legislature authorized their use on certain highways in 2010. After cost recovery, fine revenues must be deposited into the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund. The county must report to the governor and General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2023, on the number of speed monitoring citations issued by month. It also must provide the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities by month while speed monitoring systems are active, and any measurable decreases in vehicle speed along the route. Another Maryland bill (HB 187, 2019) increased the number of speed monitoring systems that can be implemented on State Route 210 in Prince George’s County.
Pennsylvania enacted legislation (SB 172, 2018) establishing a five-year pilot program for automated speed enforcement systems along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard in the city of Philadelphia. The bill requires signage at two-mile intervals notifying the public that an automated system is in use and its location will be posted on PennDOT’s website. Driving 11 mph over the speed limit constitutes a violation for the pilot, and the fine for violations must be established by city ordinance and cannot exceed more than $150. Violations are not considered a criminal conviction or made part of the driver’s operating record, nor can violations be used by insurance companies for merit rating purposes or to impose surcharge points.
Fine revenue, minus operation and administrative costs for the pilot will be remitted to the Transportation Enhancement Grants Program, which was established under the Automated Red Light Enforcement program. All municipalities are eligible to apply for assistance, although priority must be given to applications from Philadelphia. The legislation prohibits recorded images collected as part of an automated speed enforcement systems from being used for any other surveillance purposes unless a court orders the information be provided to law enforcement officials solely in connection with a criminal law enforcement action. The pilot requires the submission of an annual report to the transportation committees of the Senate and House. The report must include information such as the number of vehicular accidents and related serious injuries and deaths in the pilot areas where ASES is deployed; speed data; the number of notices of violation issued; the amount of fines imposed and collected; and amounts paid under contracts authorized.
Arizona recently revised its process for reviewing and issuing speed camera violations. Arizona now requires (HB 1110, 2018) a law enforcement officer to review photo evidence of a speed violation before issuing a citation and prohibits a photo enforcement company from determining whether a violation occurred.
Maryland (HB 46/SB 177, 2020) granted the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration new authority to suspend a vehicle’s registration for an unpaid penalty resulting from a speed camera violation. The state also recently prohibited local jurisdictions from using speed monitoring systems on certain highways (HB 434, 2022).