10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief
Lowering risks and raising funds with speed cameras
The National Safety Council found that speeding is not likely to be controlled without vigorous, consistent enforcement, including the use of automated technology
The City of Cool Valley (Mo.) was facing something of a conundrum. The municipality of roughly 1,200 people had been heavily affected by the economic downturn and was trying to attract increased business for local merchants.
The trouble was, speeders and aggressive drivers were already a problem on South Florissant Road, the main route between Cool Valley and the 21,000 potential customers residing in the neighboring City of Ferguson.
Because any increase in traffic beyond the estimated 1,400 cars per hour on that four-lane thoroughfare was sure to present public safety concerns, the cash-strapped town sought a technology solution.
Protecting the Public
In 2004, 14,000 speeding tickets were issued in Cool Valley, but it wasn’t enough to stop a pedestrian from being struck and killed while crossing that school zone on Thanksgiving Day.
Even after the Missouri DOT reduced the speed limit from 35 to 30 miles per hour, the City of Cool Valley saw little improvement in modifying motorists’ driving behaviors.
Many felt that increasing pedestrian safety through reducing vehicle speed would be a significant obstacle for the cash-strapped town, but fortunately for Mayor Viola Murphy a technology solution was not out of reach.
Slow Down and Smile
Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) systems have for years been an effective and efficient means to manage traffic speed. In fact, a study by the National Safety Council found that speeding behavior is not likely to be controlled without vigorous, consistent law enforcement interdiction, including the use of photo enforcement technology.
It’s commonly accepted that when used as a supplement to traditional law enforcement, this type of automated technology can change driver behavior, ultimately mitigating (or avoiding altogether) vehicle collisions, and thus, reducing injuries and loss of life caused by speeding.
Mayor Murphy saw the effectiveness of speed detection cameras in other municipalities plagued by aggressive driving, and sought something similar to protect her own citizens.
To track the four-lane, two-way traffic along the bustling South Florissant Road corridor, Mayor Murphy enlisted the help of B&W Sensors, a speed-detection and traffic-monitoring company based in her home state of Missouri.
The company deployed its proprietary Multiple Vehicle Speed Tracking (MVST) system, which is able to simultaneously track the speeds of vehicles in multiple lanes and multiple directions with just one camera regardless of whether the vehicles are moving toward or away from the sensor.
B&W Sensors installs MVST systems in a community or municipality at no capital cost to that community, and Mayor Murphy has made sure that revenue from speeding tickets is invested back into the City.
Seeing Significant Results
During a pre-deployment test period in Spring 2010, data captured from the pole-mounted camera system — which monitors and continuously calculates the speed of each vehicle based on distance-over-time inputs— revealed that 57 vehicles per hour were going 11 miles per hour (or more) above the posted speed limit. These aggressive drivers accounted for eight percent of all the traffic on this road.
In autumn 2010, Cool Valley’s first speed camera enforcement system began monitoring and ticketing traffic on the South Florissant Road corridor. During this period, aggressive speeding was significantly reduced to 10 vehicles per hour.
In just a few months, there was an 82 percent reduction of drivers aggressively speeding.
It is estimated that before the tracking system was installed, violations were at 50-60 infractions per hour. Since installing the MVST system, violations have dropped by more than 90 percent to four violations per hour, with a goal of seeing that figure drop to one violation per hour.
Money made from paid speeding ticket fines has provided extra support in helping the city revive its aging infrastructure and repair its floodplains. Specifically, Cool Valley replaced a collapsed storm water drain and the street above it after a massive 2010 flood.
Due to these repairs, storm water now drains much faster off of South Florissant Road, eliminating the City’s flooding.
A Bright Future Ahead
Economic development is on the rise in Cool Valley, with plans to build mixed-use development along South Florissant Road. The city has received recommendations from the Urban Land Institute concerning economic development, and is in a three-year study with St. Louis Regional Sustainable Communities through East-West Gateway Council in an effort to create a regional plan for sustainable development.
Further, Cool Valley was recently awarded a FY 2013-2016 grant from the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to further help rebuild its infrastructure including sidewalks, bike paths, landscaping, and rainwater retention ponds for the high-traffic and flood-susceptible area.
Mayor Murphy is happy with the successful deployment of the MVST system and believes that the residents of Cool Valley agree.
“Not one resident has complained about the speed cameras being installed,” Murphy said.
“Cameras ...will continue to provide a safe and secure environment for our residents and visitors,” Mayor Murphy said. “A safer community enhances economic development opportunities for Cool Valley.”