Share

Did You Know?

The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.

Story sends wrong message about speed cameras

In questioning whether Chicago is planning to put automatic speed enforcement cameras in the right locations to improve safety, the Chicago Tribune on Sunday also cast doubts about whether these cameras work at all to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths. (Would speed cameras really save lives?)

src=http://www.activetrans.org/sites/default/files/school%20zone.jpgDo the cameras work? Absolutely.

The Tribune's analysis found that many pedestrian deaths, particularly those involving kids, occurred outside the safety zones near parks and schools, which is where Chicago could put the cameras under legislation pending in Springfield. This is a good point — in fact, Active Trans would like the legislation to allow for cameras wherever they can do the most to improve safety, as opposed to only within certain zones.

Unfortunately, the story fails to mention that 84 percent of all pedestrian crashes do occur in the proposed safety zones. The story also fails to mention the overwhelming evidence that speed cameras work to reduce crashes of all types — not just pedestrian crashes — along with related injuries and deaths. This finding is from a 2008 analysis of 90 different studies of speed cameras in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, which was published by the reputable Transportation Research Board.

We gave the analysis to Tribune reporters, but it appears they decided it was irrelevant because most of the studies were from outside the U.S. Really? These countries have roads, cars with accelerators, speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights. Yep, pretty much the same.

The reporters also imply that it’s hard to measure the safety benefits of speed cameras because other safety improvements have reduced crashes in the U.S. The research, however, reveals very rapid, significant reductions in crashes after the installation of speed cameras — reductions that happen far too quickly to be significantly related to factors like street and automobile designs.

I think the Tribune reporters take exception with the mayor's messaging around the bill, which has emphasized protecting kids. Fair enough. The Tribune analysis shows there is room for improving the city's strategy for locating the cameras, not to mention the mayor's talking points. But let's not mislead readers into questioning whether speed cameras prevent injuries and deaths. The answer is emphatically yes.