September 23, 2013

Stop Sign Cameras

Think No One is Watching You Roll Through That Stop Sign? Think Again.

Do you always come to a full and complete stop each time you approach a stop sign? Or do you only hit the brakes thoroughly when other vehicles, police officers, or pedestrians are near? Soon, some drivers who casually roll through stop signs will pay the price, literally, even if no law enforcement officer physically witnesses the act.

By the end of 2013, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC plans to install 32 stop sign cameras issuing tickets to motorists who fail to come to a complete stop before intersections. Drivers who do not fully stop in front of new camera-clad signs will have their car and license plate photographed, and will be mailed a traffic citation and fined $50.

The majority of the new stop sign units will appear at intersections near schools, where police currently have problems with motorists blatantly running stop signs on a regular basis. Motorists casually rolling through stop signs in those areas have become a hazard to pedestrians.

The cameras are creating quite a stir among DC residents: some believe that the controversial cameras merely serve as a hefty source of revenue for the District. DC already uses 91 traffic cameras to ticket motorists for speeding and running red lights, which generated $85 million last year. The Police Department maintains that its only goal is to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the roads. However, photo enforcement appears to serve the dual purpose of providing revenue and decreasing auto accidents.

Metropolitan Police Department data indicates that in the 12 years since installing the speed cameras, traffic fatalities have declined by 76 percent. If the new stop sign cameras in our nation's capital decrease traffic accidents, it is only a matter of time before other US cities enact similar measures. The Pittsburgh City Council recently reviewed legislation to bring red-light traffic cameras to the downtown area, but it looks like photo enforcement of local stop signs may still be a few years away.

“District to More Than Double Traffic Enforcement Cameras.” CBSDC. August 28, 2013. “Plan to Bring Red-Light Cameras to Pittsburgh Has Supporters, Critics.” WTAENews. July 13, 2013.

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