Automated speed enforcement cameras include radar and laser devices which can be permanently placed in a location and operate automatically (i.e., fixed cameras) and mobile cameras or mobile speed enforcement devices that can be operated by law enforcement officers1, 2. Devices may capture instantaneous speeds at a single point or may calculate average speeds using a series of cameras, known as average speed enforcement systems3. Speed cameras may also be used in a roadway corridor approach by periodically moving them along the length of a road4. Penalties associated with speed violations in an area with speed enforcement detection devices are often more lenient than penalties issued by law enforcement officers5.
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries
Reduced traffic speed
Evidence of Effectiveness
Speed cameras have been shown to reduce road traffic speed, collisions, injuries, and related casualties6, 9, 10. Cameras that are periodically moved along a road as part of a roadway corridor approach4 and cameras used for average speed enforcement have been shown to reduce crash injuries and fatalities3. Cameras used for average speed enforcement can also reduce speeds and may improve traffic flow3. Automated mobile speed enforcement on urban arterial roads has been shown to reduce collisions and traffic speed, and improve road safety, particularly when speed cameras are used continuously11, 12.
In an Arizona-based study, speed cameras reduced speeds on an urban freeway13. In a Barcelona-based study, fixed speed cameras reduced crashes and injuries on medium to high speed beltway roads; effects were not significant on lower speed roads or roads with traffic lights14.
Combining speed cameras with vertical features such as speed humps and tables (i.e., raised traffic calming devices for use on lower speed streets)15 can produce larger speed reductions than cameras alone16. Visible campaigns about speed camera programs can generate speed reductions beyond targeted streets, often called spillover reductions, particularly if a roadway corridor approach is used4.
France’s automated speed enforcement program (ASEP), which uses fixed speed cameras on highways and urban roads and mobile speed cameras operated by law enforcement officers on rural and urban roads, has been shown to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities for passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and trucks7. Safety Tuto, an automated section speed enforcement system in Italy that determines average speed over a long distance, has also been shown to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities17.
Experts suggest that automated speed enforcement programs may reduce the likelihood of prejudicial enforcement of speeding citations18, 19 and race-based disparities in deaths and injuries due to traffic accidents19.
A Barcelona-based cost benefit analysis suggests that speed cameras in urban areas generate positive net benefits20.
Impact on Disparities
Twelve states, Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands use speed cameras for automated enforcement of traffic violations. Thirteen states prohibit this practice and 28 states do not have laws specific to speed cameras5.
As of June 2020, 153 US communities have speed camera programs, typically established via state law or city ordinance21.
Portland, Oregon’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) maintains fixed speed safety cameras on high crash network streets which capture photos and videos of speeding cars for review by the Portland Police; PBOT’s website lists the current locations and status of the cameras22. Montgomery County, Maryland’s automated speed camera and red light program, SafeSpeed, focuses on residential areas and school zones, issuing $40 civil citations to the registered owner of vehicles traveling 12 miles per hour or more over the speed limit23. Chicago’s Data Portal provides a map of speed cameras24.
IIHS-Auto enforcement - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Automated enforcement laws. 2020.
NHTSA-Goodwin 2015 - Goodwin A, Thomas L, Kirley B, et al. Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasure guide for state highway safety offices, 8th edition. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2015.
NTSB-Speeding - National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Reducing speeding-related crashes involving passenger vehicles. Safety Study NTSB/SS-17/01. Washington, DC: NTSB; 2017.
TRB-Eccles 2012 - Eccles KA, Fiedler R, Persaud B, et al. Automated enforcement for speeding and red light running. Transportation Research Board. National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 729; 2012.
GHSA-Speed cameras - Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Speed and red light camera laws.
NHTSA-Speed cameras - Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Speed enforcement camera systems operational guidelines. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2008.
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
1 CDC-Speed camera - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Motor vehicle safety. Intervention fact sheet: Automated speed-camera enforcement. 2015.
2 PBIC-Poole 2017 - Poole B, Johnson S, and Thomas L. An overview of automated enforcement systems and their potential for improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Chapel Hill, NC: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center; 2017.
3 Soole 2013* - Soole DW, Watson BC, Fleiter JJ. Effects of average speed enforcement on speed compliance and crashes: A review of the literature. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2013;54:46-56.
4 Hu 2016* - Hu W, McCartt AT. Effects of automated speed enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland, on vehicle speeds, public opinion, and crashes. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2016;17(Suppl 1):53-58.
5 GHSA-Speed cameras - Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Speed and red light camera laws.
6 Cochrane-Wilson 2010* - Wilson C, Willis C, Hendrikz JK, Le Brocque R, Bellamy N. Speed cameras for the prevention of road traffic injuries and deaths. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010;(11):CD004607.
7 Blais 2015* - Blais E, Carnis L. Improving the safety effect of speed camera programs through innovations: Evidence from the French experience. Journal of Safety Research. 2015;55:135-145.
8 Thomas 2008a - Thomas LJ, Srinivasan R, Decina LE, Staplin L. Safety effects of automated speed enforcement programs: Critical review of international literature. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2008;2078:117-126.
9 NHTSA-Goodwin 2015 - Goodwin A, Thomas L, Kirley B, et al. Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasure guide for state highway safety offices, 8th edition. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2015.
10 Pilkington 2005* - Pilkington P, Kinra S. Effectiveness of speed cameras in preventing road traffic collisions and related casualties: Systematic review. BMJ. 2005;330:331-4.
11 Li 2015a* - Li R, El-Basyouny K, Kim A. A before-and-after empirical Bayes evaluation of automated mobile speed enforcement on urban arterial roads. Transportation Research Board; 2015.
12 Cunningham 2008a* - Cunningham CM, Hummer JE, Moon JP. Analysis of automated speed enforcement cameras in Charlotte, North Carolina. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2008;2078(1):127-134.
13 Shin 2009* - Shin K, Washington SP, van Schalkwyk I. Evaluation of the Scottsdale Loop 101 automated speed enforcement demonstration program. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2009;41(3):393-403.
14 Novoa 2010* - Novoa AM, Pérez K, Santamariña-Rubio E, Marí-Dell’Olmo M, Tobías A. Effectiveness of speed enforcement through fixed speed cameras: A time series study. Injury Prevention. 2010;16(1):12–6.
15 US DOT-PedSafe - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). PedSafe. Pedestrian safety guide and countermeasure selection system: Countermeasures.
16 Mountain 2005* - Mountain LJ, Hirst WM, Maher MJ. Are speed enforcement cameras more effective than other speed management measures? The impact of speed management schemes on 30 mph roads. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 2005;37(4):742–54.
17 Montella 2012* - Montella A, Persaud B, D’Apuzzo M, Imbriani L. Safety evaluation of automated section speed enforcement system. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2012;2281:16-25.
18 Farmer 2017 - Farmer CM. Automated traffic enforcement: Responding to the critics. Journal of Traffic and Transportation Engineering. 2017;5(1):1-7.
19 Conner 2017* - Conner M. Traffic justice: Achieving effective and equitable traffic enforcement in the age of vision zero. Fordham Urban Law Journal. 2017;44(4):969-1004.
20 Mendivil 2012* - Mendivil J, García-Altés A, Pérez K, Marí-Dell’Olmo M, Tobías A. Speed cameras in an urban setting: A cost-benefit analysis. Injury Prevention. 2012;18(2):75–80.
21 IIHS-Speed cameras - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). US communities using speed cameras. 2020.
22 PBOT-Speed cameras - City of Portland, Oregon. Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Fixed speed safety cameras.
23 MD-SafeSpeed - Montgomery County, Maryland Government. Information and camera locations for Montgomery County's automated red light and SafeSpeed enforcements.
24 Chicago-Speed camera map - City of Chicago. Chicago Data Portal. Map - speed camera locations. 2018.
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