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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Speed Cameras Save Money

There has been an ongoing debate about speed cameras and red light cameras for several years now. The debate centers on whether these cameras, which judge speed via radar or determine that a driver is running a red light and then sends a ticket in the mail, are worth the cost. At first, municipalities installed them with the hope of generating revenue through increased ticket fines but, after the word got out that the cameras were in place, drivers started obeying the law and ticket revenue dropped dramatically forcing many of those municipalities to reconsider the cost of their continued operation. Now, a new study out of Spain may give those municipalities more to think about when it comes to the cost benefit of these automated traffic regulating systems.

The study looked at speed cameras installed on all of the major routes leading into and out of Barcelona Spain. The study’s authors did a cost analysis of these cameras for 2003-2005; comparing the cost of their installation and maintenance with the cost of time spent by police when writing out tickets for speeders.

Those costs were then compared to the costs of medical treatment, property damage, and lost productivity in the Barcelona area during the same period. Based on the data it was estimated that there were 364 fewer traffic collisions and 507 fewer injuries to vehicle occupants during the first two years of speed camera operation.

Comparing the costs, the study authors determined that the speed cameras saved more than 6.8 million Euros or more than 9.6 million dollars. The bulk of the savings came in reduced property damage and medical treatment costs. The authors stated that their figures are extremely conservative and cost savings could equal almost 32 million dollars.

Cost savings occurring from fewer collisions include:

  • Freeing up police and emergency medical personnel

  • Fewer emergency room visits

  • Decrease in loss of productivity due to traffic tie-ups and injuries to workers

  • Decrease in lifetime disability costs from permanently disabling injuries

  • Decrease in legal costs

  • Decreased volume of court cases

When looking at the installation of these automated traffic control devices, more thought should be given to lives saved and decreased cost to government over the long term rather than short term revenue gains.

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