Automated Enforcement of Speed Limits

Automated enforcement of speed limits and red lights could substantially reduce accidents.  So far, we have not been willing to use the new technology in Massachusetts.  To improve safety, I hope we can build support to experiment with automated enforcement in a thoughtful and transparent way.

The technology to recognize license plates is now quite reliable.   The barriers to using plate readers for enforcement of basic traffic laws are not technological.

Nor are the barriers financial.  Appropriately placed automated enforcement tools could easily pay for themselves.

The barriers are legal and political.  Implementation of automated enforcement requires state legislation to define a new procedure for attaching fines to violations.  The legal problem is that, in the absence of an officer pulling someone over, it is impossible to know who was driving the vehicle.  So, we would have to hold the vehicle owner responsible, but there is no currently mechanism to do that for moving violations.

The necessary legislative action has not been forthcoming.  The issue has been kicking around the legislature for a decade.

Most of us are accustomed to making personal decisions about whether or not we can or should attempt to get away with a close push on a red light or a speed five or ten miles per hour above the speed limit.  The fact is that police resources are very limited and millions of traffic violations go undetected or ignored every day on the roads of the Commonwealth.

Many of the laws we have in place are not consistent with driver behavior and the lack of enforcement is what keeps people from rebelling.  For example, the new 25 mph limit in densely settled areas is slower than most drivers tend to go on many urban roads.  I support the lower limit because the safety benefits of lower speeds are huge – accidents are less frequent and less severe.  But I’m conscious that on many urban roads, most drivers will continue to go 40.

If municipalities had the authority to implement automated enforcement, there is a concern that they might use it to create revenue-producing speed traps, or through a clumsy roll-out end up issuing tickets to thousands of people, provoking a backlash (as recently occurred in Providence).

In addition to the legitimate reservations that some legislators may have about over-enforcement, privacy advocates are concerned about the expansion of cameras and the accumulation of data about the movement of drivers.  This is indeed a legitimate concern, but it is one that can be addressed by clear rules and automatic deletion of  records not needed for the prosecution of particular violations.

People concerned about over-enforcement and the “big brother” accumulation of data often also raise questions about how effective the tools are in changing behavior.  In my mind, the effectiveness depends on practical decisions made in the roll-out.  Where are the cameras placed?  To what extent do drivers have advance warning?  It seems beyond reasonable dispute that a good implementation with fair enforcement goals could change behavior in positive ways.

We included authorization for local use of automated enforcement by municipalities in the Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities — an omnibus traffic safety bill that a group of safety advocates developed.  The proposal attempts to address many of the privacy and fairness concerns that have been raised. The larger bill is still moving, but without the controversial red light provisions.

I do intend to continue to pursue the issue of automated enforcement, but I recognize that it needs a broad discussion and we cannot do it without broad popular support.  Your thoughts much appreciated.  I would especially appreciate thoughts on how to target automated enforcement and how to make it work fairly.

Automated Enforcement in the Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

Section 22 of  the act defines the enforcement proposal. The key features are:

  • A municipality could not use the tool until it obtains approval from its town meeting or city council.
  • Automated enforcement could be used for a speeding violation over 5 mph above the limit, failure to stop at a red light, failure to stop for by a stopped school bus or an illegal turn on red.
  • Limitation to one fixed camera per 2500 residents in a town, provided that cameras installed at the 200 most dangerous intersections in the Commonwealth would not count against that.
  • Photographic images may only be captured of the rear of the vehicle, to protect the privacy of the occupants of the vehicle.
  • Signage must notify drivers of the presence of the road safety camera and there must be a public awareness campaign beginning at least 30 days before the enforcement program begins.
  • The maximum penalty shall not be over $50 and it shall be a civil penalty assessed on the owner, but shall not count for insurance purposes.
  • Enforcement notices should be sent by first class mail to the owner and may be contested.
  • No liability will attach if the vehicle was stolen or rented or if the operator gets separately stopped and ticketed by the police or if the violation was necessary to allow an emergency vehicle to pass, etc
  • Compensation to the suppliers of the equipment cannot be based on the volume of revenue the equipment generates.
  • No less than 80% of the proceeds of the ticketing must be devoted to road improvements.
  • All records from the enforcement system shall be destroyed within 48 ours of final disposition of any recorded event and will not be used or shared for any other purpose.


Informal Poll Result

800 subscribers to my news list (subscribe here) responded to the following poll (with question order rotated).

Which statement best summarizes your views about automatic traffic enforcement:

I’m really concerned about the invasion of privacy and the possibility of over enforcement of traffic laws with cameras.  I don’t want “big brother” watching my every move.


We need to stop the carnage on the roadways.  Too many people drive way too fast.  If automatic enforcement will mean better driver behavior, I’m all for it.


I’m not sure.  The devil is in the details.  I don’t want to vote.  I’d prefer to consider and discuss the issue.

The responses broke down as follows: No/privacy, 38%; Yes/safety, 31%; Maybe/details, 31%.

We can’t get too far ahead of the public on enforcement matters: Automated enforcement is a tool that we need to use with great caution and concern for fairness.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

193 replies on “Automated Enforcement of Speed Limits”

  1. Speed cameras now – the more the better. And a full ban on any hand held device by drivers.

  2. I am all for this. I view it as a simple way to slow down the majority of automobile drivers on our states roadways. It will save bicyclist and pedestrian lives. Nothing is more important than this. thanks Mr. Brownsberger

  3. I strongly favor the use of speed cameras. Because the traffic laws are traditionally not enforced, ample public notice should be given, and the first violation should perhaps be forgiven, but after that, the cameras should be on all the time, and the fines should be stiff and should be collected.

  4. I’d suggest a lower maximum fine. People respond to the certainty of having to pay more than the magnitude of it. This is why, when the Tobin Bridge tolled in only one direction, 1/3 fewer cars drove that direction daily (that’s ~18,000 cars a day!). All to avoid the certainty of paying… $2.50

    If automated cameras catch a person every time, and if the first-class mailed ticket arrives in a few days, people will change their behavior, even if the max fine is $20.

    Regarding record keeping: Please find a way to maintain privacy while making behavioral data available to legislators, researchers, etc. Anonymized data can tell us, over time, whether the cameras are doing their job (i.e., are fewer people speeding at location x; how many tickets are going to repeat offenders, etc. There are ways to do this, and having information about effectiveness is valuable.

    Thanks for all you do Senator!

  5. I don’t trust the police dept. to use the cameras appropriately. There should be warning sign wherever there is a camera if the goal is traffic safety. I would insist on that.

  6. I am car-free and so I walk or use public transportation both of which give me the (dis)advantage of seeing an inordinate number of drivers running red lights, passing on the passenger side of cars stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, making turns where there is a sign no-turn sign etc.

  7. As a pedestrian in Boston I see so many people cruise thru red lights. I would be happy to see this curtailed via the use of cameras in the city intersections.

  8. Will,

    As a case that won’t affect insurance rates, I think the privacy issue is less of a concern. The non-enforcement on rentals may be problematic; what about fleet cars, ZipCars, or leased vehicles, all of which are registered to corporations? I guess the devil is always in the details.

  9. Speed camera do not improve safety and is just another revenue grab / disguised tax. Furthermore, a large portion of the revenues drains out of the local economy to out of state companies that setup speed camera traps. Just look up the articles about the recent speed cameras in Providence, instituting speed cameras will also jam up the overburdened court system as well.

    How about requiring registration of bikes with plates and enforcing laws against bikes who flout the laws and are a danger to pedestrians and drivers.

    1. Even as a cyclist, I do support enforcing traffic laws against misbehaving cyclists. The real problem is that we don’t have the resources to do it. We can’t even enforce against cars which is the argument for use of automation.

  10. Thank you for addressing this important topic. I very much support camera enforcement and raised this very topic Thursday night at a meeting of Belmont’s Traffic Advisory Committee. Drivers do not obey speed limits and put lives at risk. I have seen cars RACING down Park, Marsh, Winter, Concord (all directions), and Mill streets. Residents along the Trapelo Road corridor suffer as well.

    My husband and children use bicycles to commute from home to school, work, or after-school events. Several of my family members have been hit by cars while riding their bikes, some suffering serious injury. It is a miracle no one has been killed! Belmont does not have the money to hire additional traffic enforcement officers, and they cannot be everywhere at once regardless. (In any event, enforcing speed limits does not seem to be a high priority for the Belmont police department.) If we want to create a society that is safe for both walkers and cyclists, this is an important tool in our overall set of options.

  11. I’m all for camera enforcement with a few citizen safeguards:

    1. Set 10 miles above speed limit
    2. Issue only a warning for first violation in a particular location
    3. Post signage in general area where camera enforcement is used

  12. In 2015, 36,000 people in the US were killed in traffic crashes.

    Our vehicle fatality rate is 40% higher than Canada or Australia. In 1990 Slovenia had a death rate more than 4 times the US – now they have safer roads.

    So yes, please do allow the use of red light cameras. Don’t want a ticket? Don’t enter the intersection when the light is yellow.

    Yes, please have more automated enforcement of speed limits. We can start with the Mass Pike, where the hardware and technology are already in place.

    You are worried about “big brother”? I am worried about people dying.

    1. Harry, perhaps you should read the proposal more closely, it’s for speed cameras, not red-light cameras. Also note that wherever red light cameras have been implemented rear-end collisions have risen significantly, obviating any benefits.

      Regarding the comparison to other countries, it also might be helpful remember that in 1990 Solvenia was a Soviet satellite state just emerging into independence. Isn’t it likely that traffic fatalities were more influenced by the adoption of western style automotive technology (like seat belts?), resulting in the significant decrease in fatalities – simply getting Ladas and Skodas off the road would probably account for most of the improved safety.

      Regarding your assertion that our fatally rate is significantly higher than Canada or Australia, the NYTimes article you site is (a) wrong (it compared apples to oranges and did not use the standard measure of MVMD, and the Solvenians do not have a lower death rate) and (b) highly subjective. It should also be noted that this is an OP-Ed piece, NOT news. I tried to find the data on the OECD site, but cannot, so please see

      Look at the “road Fatalities per KM driven” column – that’s the only figure that’s not affected by population size and thus the only figure that really gives you a true comparison figure.

      Canada does about 12% (not 40% as the article states) better than the US, but this figure fluctuates from year to year and most experts will tell you that the figures net out to about the seam. Pretty impressive given that the US has 10 times the population as Canada and offers a much more diverse set of driving landscapes.

      Australia, comes in at 5.2, somewhat better than the US, and again, it’s important to remember the differences. This is a country the size of the US with a population less than 10 the of the US. And they drive on the other side of the road. Oh yes, and they have higher speed limits.

      Solvenia, BTW comes in at a not-very-impressive 7.6, verses the US’s 7.1. Personally, I would draw the obvious conclusion that all things being equal, Slovenia’s use of traffic cameras accounts for the increased traffic fatalities.

      If we want safer roads, it starts with safer drivers. Germany is the “gold standard” at 4.9. It takes upwards of $2,000, a minimum of 25-45 hours of professional instruction plus 12 hours of theory. Compare to the (mostly optional) drivers Ed in the US and the paltry fee for a license and remember that if you don’t use a seatbelt (1 out of 7 of us don’t) you’re simply asking to become a statics (and before you go claiming that seat belt fines should be higher, remember that Germany does quite well with a 30 Euro fine)

      1. >> If we want safer roads, it starts with safer drivers

        OK. Enforcing traffic laws about speeding and running red lights will encourage people to drive more safely.

        1. @Harry: I disagree, it starts with better education and stricter licensing. In Germany, for instance, a license to drive will cost you over $2000, after a minimum of 25-45 hours of professional instruction plus 12 hours of theory. Here’ you simply go to the registry, plunk down your fee, show you know how to parallel park and you’re golden.

          Here are the steps to real safety:
          1. Invest in driver education … and MAKE IT EXPENSIVE AND PROFESSIONAL
          2. Invest in infrastructure to facilitate real driver testing…and MAKE IT EXPENSIVE AND PROFESSIONAL
          3. Invest in infrastructure to test real automotive safety (not just the ODBC test we do for emissions)
          4. Invest in infrastructure – clean up the roads – fix the potholes
          5. Follow the rules in the MUTCD ( regarding red/yellow light timing

          If you do all that you could lower the accident rate significantly. But lets face it, there’s no politician who’s willing to get behind this. Raising the cost of driver licensing is political suicide. Infrastructure bills never pass. Most of them feel it’s far better to pander to “feel good” legislation like automated enforcement. They would much rather be seen to address the symptom, rather than treat the cause of traffic safety issues.

  13. This is a tough one. Brighton, because of the horror of development run amok without transportation planning, and major development burying a once thriving community, without planning how to move people around to get to where they need to go, with no T, poor buses, and no sidewalks it makes people crazy, stressed and therefore poor drivers desperate to get home and reach their appointments in the congestion of a bunch of fools downtown who don’t live in our neighborhood and don’t seem to care how we get to where we need to go. Out of town developers, looking to mke a buck off the hysteria of needing to house only those who can afford high rents for short term apartments. More cars to match the high end transients will just keep congesting our poor roads, pot holes and narrow streets.
    Bad driving has much to do with frustration.
    Now big brother will monitor those bad behaviors rather than changing the mindset of how we drive. Or how we originally designed a way to use the roads.
    When I lived in other citites, this was never the issue. Better infratstructure for transportation as well as courtesy were the main factors. So now we will monitor the criminals of our own minds through cameras? Hmmmmm… Not sure about how that will teach us to stop using our middle finger.

  14. A. Speed cameras don’t work if safety is your goal. They simply do not enhance safety, Look at England (the same GATSO people you reference in “resources”). There has been no perceptible improvement in highway or byway safety as a result of massive, intrusive rollout of a nearly country-wide network of cameras.

    B. If your true goal is to raise money, THEY ARE GREAT! Yep, all you need to do is underpost the speed limit, set up a camera and watch the bucks roll in. It’s also great money for the company that sells the speed cameras! WIN-WIN-LOSE (guess who’s the loser in this equation? Hint, it’s us!)

    Besides the legal challenges (how do you preserve the right to cross examine a speed camera?) the inaccuracy issues ( and the plain opportunity for graft on the part of the camera companies (, this opens a Pandora’s box of issue.

    There is a reason why cities have banned the use of speed cameras… Why invite more danger into our communities?

    Honestly, are we not done with this fallacy at this point? Red light cameras don’t work, speed cameras don’t work, can we not focus instead on really making the roads safer through:

    A) Better education and stricter licensing requirements
    B) Better roads (Hello Belmont — how about fixing some potholes once in a while?)
    C) Rollout of technology such as auto braking
    D) Better road safety checks for vehicles

    Instead of looking for “quick fix” “knee jerk” solutions. For once, let’s try to “solve” a problem by doing the hard work it demands. (I know, that’s not the way government works…sigh…)
    resources (available to
    Arizona Freeway Speed Cameras
    This article describes some of the injustices created by the speed cameras installed on an Arizona freeway.

    BBC Speed Camera Crash Video Uncovered
    This article highlights a British Broadcasting Corporation News broadcast that shows speed cameras causing crashes.

    Majority Of Speed Camera Photos In Arizona Are Unusable
    The Arizona Republic did an analysis of the speed camera program and concluded that the majority of photos had to be thrown out.

    How To Give Out 178,000 Traffic Tickets And Accomplish Nothing
    This article explains how Montgomery County, Maryland’s speed camera program only resulted in a 4 MPH drop in traffic speeds despite 178,000 tickets being given out.

    States And Cities That Have Banned Ticket Cameras
    The list of states and cities where red light cameras or speed cameras are prohibited under state law.

    How One D.C. Newspaper Editorial Board Views Speed Cameras
    Washington Times editorial on D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s proposal to fill a $172 million budget gap by installing additional speed cameras.

  15. I agree it is an invasion of privacy.
    It seems that there are mutiple efforts to change the way we live.
    So tired of it all.
    If they ticketed everyone that exceeded the speed. Limit by 5 mph everyone would be ticketed every day.

    1. I am in favor of cameras, which might bring in a tidy sum, if they were to catch multi driving violations such as NOT stopping,passing on right,using hand held techs,assisting Police when pulled over &etc. It is an AID to safety!

  16. Youre a thinker, who is much appreciated. What about a feeler; what are you feeling about? Helping with mental heath issues?

  17. I general I’m in favor of anything that is designed to improve safety of pedestrians and cyclists on the road. However, any legislation must include stipulations about making sure that speed limits within the camera zone are all the same speed and well marked.

  18. In general I’m against automated enforcement. Not so much on privacy concerns, but more on concerns that this would become a way for the state to generate a large anmount of revenue. Perhaps if you could share thoughts on how this could be implemented. The fines and the resulting insurance premium increases could really hurt Massachusetts families if what happened in Providence happens here. Also, let’s explore ways to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are in compliance with laws. A lack of enforcement on those modes of transportation, when combined with motorists not complying with laws, creates many dangerous situations every day.

  19. Use of cameras for traffic enforcement doesn’t strike me as a an invasion of privacy issue – driving an automobile is inherently public activity for both driver and passenger(s). Would also suspend or revoke licenses of frequently cited drivers.

  20. I don’t understand the argument about invasion of privacy when many, many people tell everything on social media. All this proposal does is help enforce the law – and about time.

  21. I think that it would itself be an educational tool that would alert drivers to the fact that the speed limit is the speed limit. 60 percent of drivers on Mt Auburn St seem to drive above the limit. I would not put a whole lot of signs around town informing of cameras; we have way to much stuff for drivers to look at.
    ( Also, I would do this along with making it illegal for drivers to hold a phone to ear while driving.)

  22. While you are at it, may we please have some consideration of ways to make bicyclists also obey the laws including licensing. Pedestrians are constantly at risk from bicycles running red lights AND riding in banned areas. Please more rights for us walkers.

    1. It is patent nonsense to claim that pedestrians are at constant risk from bicyclists. Ped are at constant risk from motorists. Cars weigh over 3500 lbs and travel 30 mph on average on local streets while bicyclists with bike weigh less than 200 and avg 15 mph or less. Licensing would accomplish nothing. There are two ways to improve bicyclists behavior that have been proven in many cities: build more bicycle infrastructure and have more enforcement. Most bad bicycle behavior is because they are trying to stay out of the way of dangerous car drivers. I have no objection to police ticketing more bicyclists for unsafe behavior. (I do not own a car and mostly get around by bicycle at age 64.)

      1. So you would be ok with a bike colliding into you at 15mph? You might not die but I’m willing to be money that you’ll have a broken bone or two. Bikes are a menace without any accountantability and they pay $0 into the system. Bikes can easily hit pedestrians and ride off. Where is the accountability there? They should pay for registration plates and fees

  23. We should start with the MassPike. You pay normal toll if, on average between toll gates, you go the speed limit. For every mile per hour you average above the 65 mph speed limit, you pay an extra 10%–up to 75 mph. For every mile per hour between 75 and 80 you pay a $10 fine. (I.e, if you average 77, you play double the toll plus $20.) Over 80, there’s a criminal charge.
    This would comport with how people actually perceive the law. Stretching it a little is no big deal, but we’re serious enough about it to disincentivize it. But, at some point–80 mph–it’s very serious, maybe even a minor criminal violation.
    All this could dovetail nicely with the insurance surcharge system.
    I also have no problem with cameras to stop people from running red lights.

  24. Sen. Brownsberger,

    While red light cameras might be good for certain intersections, and especially on school buses, any implementation would have to be done with a longitudinal study to determine if the cameras are having a positive effect (fewer overall crashes, fewer injuries, fewer red light run) and are not contributing to more rear-end crashes.

    As for speed cameras, the research seems quite mixed on whether they are actually effective or not, especially when taken in the context of the speed limit for the road and traffic flow. There is some research showing that those driving 10mph below the limit are more likely to be involved in an accident than someone driving 10mph over the limit. Again, there might be some areas where this could work, but I would need more data. Like with red light cameras, a longitudinal study should be required to gauge the effectiveness of the cameras on not only speeding, but also accident incidence and severity.

    Will there be exceptions allowed for emergent situations not involving an emergency vehicle (e.g., speeding to avoid being rear-ended)? Will automated tickets affect insurance rates/points? Given the lack of verification of the operator, I could see this unfairly affecting parents’ driving records for insurance purposes.

    What other methods of traffic speed management are being considered? Variable speed limits? New vehicle-borne technologies?

  25. Just another way to raise revenue no matter how it is phrased. Big investment…small return with court costs for hearings on legality, validating info, synching
    lights monthly with cameras,

  26. We need cameras, but, in my view, as a last resort. We have too many streets in Boston where crashes and injuries and deaths are way too prevalent. We have a driving culture that is infamous for reckless driving and ignoring the laws. We do have tools to ameliorate the problem, but traffic enforcement by the police, for one, is always second to other priorities, and the BTD, for some reason, won’t use the 20 mph “Safety zone” designation that is now allowed. The Boston driving culture needs to be changed, but no city official wants to take that on directly. So unless the City gets more serious about reducing “the carnage” with the tools they have, cameras are the fallback. In areas where enforcement is known, we all drive more carefully.

  27. Cambridge and Belmont(and Boston?) have recently lowered their overall speed limits to 25. Why are they not posted anywhere? At least do it where you cross city limits.

  28. I would not favor totally automated enforcement, but might support some human review of violations only. I am less concerned about the privacy issue. If I Amon a public street or highway there shouldn’t be an assumption of privacy. I just have reservations about anyautomated scanning process making decisions. Of course, if the laws made sense to people there might be less law breaking

  29. I would support limited use in certain areas only. There definitely is a privacy issue and the tapes must be erased ASAP.
    As a pedestrian I could see a use in the Watertown Sq area. I have seen 4 or 5 cars at a time running the same red light. That’s really disrespecting the rules of the road. Yeah, I can understand one car running a light because it’s always a judgement call. But 4 or 5? No! Needs to be stopped.

  30. I am generally in favor of automating the issuing of tickets to drivers who speed, drivers who run red lights, and drivers who fail to stop their vehicles from entering pedestrian crossing lanes. (And if it were possible, I’d add drivers who tailgate.) I think all the stipulated provisos are good and should be part of the bill.

    There’s one point I’d add. Exceeding the posted speed limit by a few mph is very different from exceeding it by 10 or 15 mph. The tickets should only be issued to drivers who ‘substantially’ exceed the limit. And I’d leave it to the good judgment of the citizens of each municipality to decide what constitutes a substantial violation for the area in question. (Tighter enforcement would be warranted, for example, in school zones or in areas with high numbers of elderly or deaf people.) There should always be some leeway given that speedometers and detectors vary in accuracy. But drivers will be more apt to exercise care if the amount of leeway varies from place to place.

    Finally, please let the fines be tiered, so that those who drive truly recklessly (as by travelling double the speed limit, weaving in and out of lanes) are not treated the same as someone who, perhaps, has gone a bit faster than she intended while acclimating to an unfamilar rental vehicle with a ‘jumpy’ accelerator.

  31. I think I favor these cameras because of their potential for reducing speeding. However, I have personal experience with being misidentified by the camera and the system and issued a ticket. This was for jumping a toll booth on the Ted Williams Tunnel at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It stated that I was driving a black VW but I drive a Honda. I contested the ticket, stating that I had never been in that tunnel, and that at 67 I was not accustomed to being out at 1:30 a.m., and that my car is a Honda not a VW. The appeal was upheld and the ticket forgiven, but about a year later I got another ticket for the same offense on the same date and time. I referred to the previous documents and was again upheld. These obvious kinks in the system are potentially a huge problem.

  32. I am in favor of cameras, which might bring in a tidy sum, if they were to catch multi driving violations such as NOT stopping,passing on right,using hand held techs,assisting Police when pulled over &etc. It is an AID to safety!

  33. This type of technology has been widely used in other cities of comparable size for well over a decade. It’s absurd that Boston is still weighing the benefits of automated monitoring of traffic. You cannot claim privacy concerns when you are utilizing a public good and space. Implement this technology in known speed corridors, watch the involuntary donations poor in, and speed decrease. Hold people accountable for their bad behavior, end of story.

  34. I hit the “needs more discussion” option on your survey. For instance, I think Bruce Sesnovich in his response below makes some very good points about different ways to assess speeding violations, and applying those assessments to the appropriate locations. There are places where going 5 MPH over the speed limit is really not dangerous. Very few people can maintain a constant speed on any road, and +/– 5 mph is not uncommon and shouldn’t be ticketed. Other places, such as near schools, it is not acceptable. The police should be able to help with these assessments depending on how they choose to ticket on different roads.

    I also worry that posting camera notices will cause people to slam on their brakes when they see the signs, causing more issues and traffic backups. Especially if ticketing is not flexible.

    Finally, I am glad that 80% are singled out, but when are we going to use proceeds from road use to improve public transportation? Boston will never be a “world-class” city until we have a “world-class” public transportation system.

  35. Cost savings and unbiased enforcement ( As long as the cameras are distributed equally across neighbourhoods ) both seem to be advantages to using cameras. My Son Ryan went to school in Colorado, it works there.

  36. How long since Trapelo road was up and running, and we still don’t have the lights all synced (Beaver Brook area). How exactly are you going to enforce cameras on lights?

    I think we already have cameras in place, or at least it looks like they’re up. Just do it right.

  37. Driving is Not a right. It is a Privilege — a privilege bestowed by the Commonwealth. The very fact that no one is ‘permitted’ to drive without a state-issued driver’s license makes that plain. Proceeding from this understanding, there should be no question about the appropriateness of the use of cameras to enforce compliance with traffic laws.

    The proposed legislation leans way over, far too far over, to accommodate those who approach the matter from the presumption of a Right to drive.

  38. I support the thoughtful approach that has been outlined here. As long as precautions are taken to safeguard privacy, I see no problem with sending fines to the owner of the vehicle. They are ultimately responsible for whomever is behind the wheel. We need the end the culture of accepting 10mph over the speed limit. The limit should be the limit, period. We need to stop being so selfish, letting automobiles be an extension of our egos, and an expression of our personal “freedom.” I worry more about cameras in the public realm being used to record people on foot or on bike, who are more identifiable. If you are driving a motor vehicle capable of killing people, it makes sense that there should be conditions attached. But people who pose no inherent danger to the public should not be surveilled.

    1. Don’t worry; if history is a teacher, first they come for drivers, then they’ll come for pedestrians too. BTW, cyclists are out of control (and their minds) in MA. They must be ticketed for all those crazy stuff they pull on the road.

  39. I’d also like to see people get ticketed for running red lights. That’s so dangerous.

  40. My concern is much less about speed than about other traffic crimes: failing to stop completely at stop signs, running red lights, failing to stop behind the painted lines delineating intersections, failing to signal turns and changes of lane, and, above all, driving whilst distracted by cell phones. I would very much welcome cameras to monitor such infractions. Speed is a minor concern in comparison.

  41. The camera becomes the judge and jury. Removing the human element of judgement, should it be a warning or a ticket.

  42. Cars are crash-worthy; drivers are distracted.cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable!

  43. Boston Police do a great job, but given limited resources and urban crime issues, do not have the time or resources to focus on traffic
    rule enforcement.
    The fact that there is little
    accountability for unsafe driving practices has
    put pedestrians at greater and greater risk.
    Running red lights and turning right on red when pedestrians have the walk sign have all
    made streets in the Back Bay far less safe.
    At a community meeting after another
    accident on Beacon Street two years ago,
    several officers came out in favor of cameras
    as a quick way to train the public.

  44. Cameras Have always been fine with me. There are so many tragic accidents caused by speeding, and because, as we know, money talks, I think cameras used to fine folks who speed will slow them down and save lives.
    You may have read about the awful accident last week in Brooklyn where a woman ran a red light, killed two children and severely injured the mother of one of them — in front of horrified bystanders. This was probably not her first infraction. What a terrible tragedy.

    1. Indeed, in the Brooklyn case the driver had a long record of driving offenses and probably should not have been driving. The fact that there are many people driving who probably should not have a license is also something to examine when considering the problem of traffic safety.

  45. so it is all about slowing down traffic, not catching people and raising money through tickets. Let the cameras be on for 2-4 weeks, sending out summons. Then when everyone knows the jig is up, start ticketing.

  46. Running a red light and impacting another motorist who is legally going through the intersection on the green can cause as much damage as shooting someone. We are way too lax with enforcement. Traffic would move faster if everyone going through a green light at any time would feel safe.

  47. Thanks, Will,
    This is a knotty problem, reducing dangerous moving violations – but I would support cameras as one part of the solution to safer streets for all users, pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. I’d trust you to do this with care and avoid the outrage that occurred in Providence.

  48. “millions of traffic violations go undetected or ignored every day on the roads of the Commonwealth” so I have great concerns about the Commonwealth being able to use this for revenue generation and also to use this to target specific individuals or neighborhoods. And the fee of $50 would be a bigger burden for some rather than others. There have been experiments with assessment of fees being based on % of income.

    Or could the automated assessments be based on extreme events only such as reckless driving eg. far more than 5mph but whatever would be an accurate offense that 5% do? Or instead of fees turn it into a fee of “ losing time” Since people speed to save time. Maybe a cost of time, like showing up for a safe driving lecture or spending time doing community service would be a better “cost” if the focus is on safety rather than revenue generation.

  49. In my opinion, speed doesn’t seem like the problem-it is more failing to adhere to stops and yields and not beinng aware of the variables beyond the pavement. A close friend was hit by a car, not speeding, but failing to stop completely before turning right on red. I think the money would be better spent on those solar powered yellow flashing pedestrian crossing lights…the flashing alerts unfocused drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

  50. I feel very apprehensive about the “Big Brother” factor. I already feel uncomfortable about license plate readers on police cars. If the technological capability is there, it is only a matter of time before it will be abused.

    On the other hand, I live on a side street that is often used as a cut through. Drivers come down our street at unreasonable speeds. And in Coolidge Square, I feel that speeding is often a problem in addition to failure to adhere to signals and stop signs.

    Do we have to sacrifice privacy in order to avoid being mowed down by careless drivers?


  52. I favor the proposed legislation – it appears well crafted and constrained. I see the need for better enforcement but do have a concern for loss of privacy – this proposal is well-balanced.

  53. This sounds like a good idea to me. For those worried about getting a ticket, there is a simple solution–don’t speed. And for the cynics who think it’s a way to raise revenue, well, our transportation system needs it. Again, if you don’t like it, don’t speed.

  54. My concern is over-enforcement..traffic, especially highway traffic is requires at times driving over the speed limit to avoid groups of cars that tailgate one another and folks who do not recognize that the left highway lane is a passing lane…cameras cannot differentiate and account for traffic conditions..
    If automated ticketing was,perhaps limited to groups of vehicles who are tailgating one another and/or driving exclusively in the left lane, two of the most common causes of accidents on the highway accidents would be addressed and revenue would increase by a very high percentage, I’m sure.

    1. I agree! Who’s the “bad” driver here, after all? A steering wheel,an accelerator and some situational awareness are also safety tools. I often need a burst of speed to escape from a clot of fools on the road. Conditions are different on residential streets — like Huron Ave, in Cambridge, for instance

  55. I support the use of these cameras. Using such technology would, I presume, reduce the incidence of racial profiling by law enforcement.

      1. Agreed! I’m much more concerned about laws that are selectively enforced than about automated enforcement. Speeding tickets are famous for this problem.

  56. Would rather see law enforcement get their faces out of their lap tops and phones and go after the red light runners and speed scofflaws.

  57. Strongly against it. So far all attempts to use those that I saw, were an undercover attempts by local governments to collect more fines from drivers.
    Saw it so many times in last 10 years – it all comes down to fraud and corruption.

  58. Well thought out. Thank you. There are a lot of scoff laws out there for vehicle laws, including the police.

  59. I don’t like them Will. I understand that cameras are all around us in many big cities for security purposes, but do we really need this level of surveillance? Will police departments lay off officers and just have cameras on Concord Avenue and Trapelo Road?

    I have one experience with the technology, in Hannibal Missouri. Was driving a rental car on way back to airport from family memorial service. Three months later I got a notice from the car rental agency about this. Photo was inconclusive on running red light in my view. But, I would have to appear in court in Hannibal to appeal. Paid hefty fee to the town and car rental agency. No doubt Samuel Clements would have seen the humor in this. I didn’t.

  60. A lot of things can make us healthier or safer in some way, but we don’t have to do them all.

    But I don’t want to give up the ability to be anonymous when I’m out in the world. Sadly, we already give up a lot of privacy for convenience (e.g., E-Z Pass, and much of the web).

    Some people say that if you have nothing to hide, it’s not a problem. That’s not much of an argument to me; it doesn’t lead anywhere good.

  61. Installation of cameras and their use for enforcing driving laws, will require (1)education of the public and (2) a cultural change to adjust to the new law enforcement weapons, and (3) a change in current driving habits. As a result, and looking at Section 22, I’d prefer a slow initial rollout, limiting the cameras to known, objective compliance measures-stop lights, stop signs, school bus stops,etc. I have no problem with rental cars being included (other countries do it, and the rental company passes the charges on to the renter). Making it a civil infraction is nice, but what is the rationale for excluding a “camera ticket” from insurance consequences, when the same infraction caught by a policeman is included? The appeal/payment process from an infraction should be streamlined, and periodic testing of the accuracy of the camera calibration should be included. After the public gets used to cameras at intersections, then maybe add them for moving violations later.

  62. Camera surveillance will catch cell phone users, causes of many accidents. But . . . we will need an independent third party to referee footage. I’ve heard about questionable calls by police as it is.

  63. Will, thank you for soliciting the public’s opinion on this matter. It seems to me that this is a perfect example of a situation in which new technology could be put to use nominally enforcing our laws in an equitable way–but the possibility raises the question of what we really want the “rules of the road” (!) to be, and how we want them enforced.

    For instance, I drive on Rt. 128 twice every workday. The official speed limit of 55 mph is completely ignored (except when there are traffic jams!) We COULD easily issue tickets to everyone going faster than 60 mph. But do we, as a society, really want people to just drive 555 mph on our highways in good weather?

    One thing is for sure (and the draft rules above clearly cover this): we should install camera-based systems just as a method of raising revenue, as some states and towns have done.

    To address other issues you raise, I’m OK with a shift of responsibility for fine-paying from the driver of a vehicle to the owner. Also, I’m not terribly concerned about the privacy issue–and in general I take privacy VERY seriously–if relevant data is in fact discarded after a reasonable period of time.

  64. Thank you for your attention to this issue, which borders on being a public health crisis. I have called your office about my concerns with the driving behavior in my neighborhood. In the Back Bay, accidents are so common that many have become desensitized. Pedestrians and bikers have been killed and injuries to car drivers and passengers are business as usual. Speeding, red light running and texting are the culprits. It’s clear that we will not get police officers in our neighborhood so the cameras seem like our best hope. Culture change will not occur in this case without enforcement. While this isn’t this biggest problem in the City of Boston, it deserves intervention and resources.

  65. The privacy issue became a big deal when I served in Germany. People were getting speeding tickets by mail. When the wife opened the mail, her husband was in his car in a place other than he was supposed to be and the picture of the rear of the car showed woman(not his wife) in the passenger seat. The problem was solved by blocking the rear window in the photo.

  66. Will,
    The obsession with enforcement is unending. This considerable amount of money could go into strong, ongoing, “live” public education, warning, awareness, and “convincing”. It is the ridiculous, technology solves everything approach and “let’s catch them”.

    Why can’t we use creative active disincentives via electronic signage.
    Movable speed detectors and awareness messaging that flash strong messages or visual cues, or public awareness campaigns is a humanistic approach.

    I don’t want the police and government to be in the business of catching and punishing. We do that pretty well now.

    I’d like them take a leadership role toward getting people to act more responsibly, as good concerned citizens and community/family members

  67. I specifically would appreciate red light enforcement. I have not noticed the speeding so much as the wanton disregard for red lights and the safety hazards that creates.

  68. Red light cameras raise money and decrease safety, along with idiotic complexity.
    RLC’s are associated with decreased yellow timing, making it impossible to stop correctly.
    People stop more suddenly, increasing rear-end collisions.
    Where is the data showing that there is any decrease in serious accidents, or any accidents?
    Say you and our current govt are pure of heart. Our next legislators may (will) find it irresistible to change the parameters to apply what is effectely a tax collected through traffic tickets.

    We already see this in the enforcement of disiabled spaces. Merely back up in one to change direction, and the police/town charges a $200 ticket/tax in the name of the disabled. It is tax collection hiding behind virtue signalling.

  69. I agree with Rich Carlson (below).
    Also consider that unpaid fines will only fuel the debt collector industry. Towns selling the unpaid ticket judgement for pennies on the dollar to shady debt collectors.
    Better if the offender was hauled in for a day of driver ed after accumulating eg 10 tickets and if still offending, a license suspension. This ticketing idea is just another scheme to collect revenue. Remove the revenue component and you can bet towns will have diminished interest in this ‘camera safety scheme’.

  70. To add to my earlier comment – cyclists should not be exempt from the 10 ticket earning them a day of road safety ed. Cyclist are just as dangerous. Some ride as if they have a death wish and it is the drivers responsibility to look out for them.

    1. Cars are far more dangerous than cars, its a simple matte of physics and statistics. Cars kill 40,000 Americans a year. When cyclists start killing in those numbers, maybe you’d have a point but for now, you are just doing “whataboutisms” for 1% of road users.

      1. I was referring to cyclists who ride with a death wish – for themselves – not about cyclists running others down. There have been many times when I had to abruptly stop for some fool on a bike running a red light. These riders need road safety ed.

  71. On roadways like Fresh Pond Parkway, where school children cross to get to school at the Tobin and the Haggerty Schools every day, and where the state police have previously claimed that the road’s narrowness prevents pulling over cars and, therefore, renders speed limits unenforceable, I see no other way to safely police both the speed limits and the pedestrian crossing signals. The number of times I have been almost struck in a crosswalk on the Parkway is almost too may to count. We can and must pursue every possible protection for vulnerable users at this high traffic crossings. Please feel free to contact me to discuss further.

  72. It is a great idea to have photo enforcement so police attention can be concentrated on other problems.

    When I drive somewhere with photo enforcement I am better at obeying the laws.

    Road design should help drivers obey the laws, but when that doesn’t happen, photo enforcement is a great idea.

    Speeding and red light running is epidemic in Cambridge.

  73. Hell No! We already live in a surveillance state which needs to be rolled back, not expanded. Red light and speed scameras are just a perverted way to raise revenue.

  74. Much as I detest getting pulled over and having to look an officer in the eye when I’ve committed an infraction, and much as some police officers have committed wrongdoing, at least I get to confront my accuser both on the scene and in a court if I choose to appeal. And the officer’s actions are accountable to the public, as an employee of the taxpayers.

    The beef I have with traffic cams is they’re invariably outsourced to a for-profit company whose actions are all about growing profits, not accountability for effectiveness, public-safety, and a certain quality that I might call “reasonableness”.

    Go ahead with the cams if we must, but keep for-profit companies out of it.

  75. My feeling is that local police would make traffic enforcement a higher priority if there was a greater financial incentive. I believe that right now, the totally of any fine for violating driving rules goes to the courts or the commonwealth. The example of Boston making parking enforcement a priority when I think 25% of the fine stayed with the city completely changed how the city approached the chaos that parking enforcement was before the change. What will happen if cities and towns could keep 25-50% of traffic enforcement fines. Besides such a change is a win for the existing system without the need for privatization of law enforcement.

    I do not want automatic enforcement for 2 reasons. One is the contract with the camera suppliers privatizes law enforcement, and bias’s enforcement to be favorable to the revenue stream of the supplier. This was a problem in Chicago and other jurisdictions where they reduced the timing of yellow lights to catch more people running red lights at intersections. They also had issues with miss calibration of the speed detectors. If you think this will not be an issue in this state you would be wrong. Secondly, I do not like the big brother, non-immediate informing one of the infraction. The Idea that a human in in the loop to decide if and when to issue an immediate warning or citation is a good policy and a better corrective than 2 weeks after the fact pay up notice or else.

      1. How is giving a local community an incentive to enforce the traffic laws different than giving a private company an incentive to lease a speeding camera. In both cases the legislature is creating an incentive to enforce rules. The difference is that there is a human in the loop in one case and a idiot computer in the other. There is going to be pressure from the camera vendor to put the cameras in places that have big issues with speeding or light violations so to maximize revenue; the vendor gets a rake off every ticket. With providing the ticketing agency with a small incentive to enforce rules is a way better use of resources than getting a camera. At least the legislature can also require that the interaction to enforce be video taped, and data about who is being pulled over can be required to be collected to ensure the enforcement agency is not being unfair or selective in who they pull over and the situation is reasonable. I prefer people to enforce the law and exercise good judgement, not machines. It remains a trade off. But providing a small incentive, allows local communities to decide what is important, where,when and how many resources to put towards the problem. With a traffic camera, the vendor will have a big say in decision and their goal in more money. At least with using police, and an incentive the community can add or reduce enforcement depending on the local situation. Now there is no reason for the local police to actively enforce traffic laws other than duty and altruism and they have many other calls on their time. This change would be to provide a small incentive from the legislature to communities we think this is important and you should do it more. How much of an incentive, how much data and interaction information needs to be collected is up to the legislature. At least it would get more police to do what seems to be their job.

  76. As much as I have old school “Big Brother” concerns about privacy — the traffic situation in the greater Boston area is beyond distressing, it’s absolutely dangerous. I do feel that speed cameras can have a positive effect on traffic calming.

  77. I think the real problem is that the state (and MA is far from unique in this regard) has diluted its authority on the matter by setting unrealistically low speed limits. 55 mph on a highway? Nobody drives that slow, and it puts into people’s minds that the law is artificially low for the sake of letting cops write more tickets. A lot of local roads are similarly too slow (some roads have no/few houses on them and could be set much faster). Heck, cops don’t even follow the law.

    When people think that the law itself is a scam, they’re probably less willing to make enforcement of them easier. I know I’m in that boat.

    If we do increase automatic enforcement, the law should be written such that we can be sure that it applies just as much to police cruisers (unless their sirens are on, of course) and other government officials, with every exemption publicly posted and explained.

    If we can get the speed limits to reflect our *actual* consensus on how fast drivers should go, then I’m fine with automated enforcement of that. It could even be a good thing, if it reduces or eliminates bias in enforcement.

    Personally, I’m not too worried about privacy as long as proper guard rails are in place. Google and Apple already know where we go, anyway. 😉

      1. There were 400 people killed on Massachusetts highways in 2016;
        354 in 2015; 348 in 2014. I have no idea what fraction of this number was due to speeding, but from here the stakes look pretty high.

    1. Nobody drives that slow

      Speak for yourself. I drive the speed limit. It does not substantively degrade my quality of life. You could, you know, try it. But at the very least drop you don’t get to be all sanctimonious about how speeding is OK because “everybody does it.” Not everybody does it.

  78. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    As always, thank you for your concern and work that you do for your constituents. I am pleased to hear that you are looking into proposing meaningful reform to how we enforce laws to prevent car violence in our city. As someone that has been hit by 5 cars due to negligent driving, I have deeply concerned about the state of driving in our city and the commonwealth. I know that the car lobby will fight against, people will say its unfair to motorists and the usual talking points because they want to drive fast and ignore the law but you are armed with data, research and precedents of how we can improve road safety with traffic cameras. Motorists drive on public roads with government issued license plates, there is no, nor should there be any expectation of privacy. Driving is a privilege that motorists have abused for far too long and it makes our communities less safe for other mobility options. I fully support your efforts here and once again, thank you for your care. It is really appreciated by those of us that are most vulnerable on the road.

    1. Here your comment edited with a different context:

      “ .. As always, thank you for your concern and work that you do for your constituents. I am pleased to hear that you are looking into proposing meaningful reform to how we enforce laws to prevent personal violence in our city. As someone that has been hit by 5 people due to their behavior, I have deeply concerned about the state of social engagement in our city and the commonwealth. I know that the civil rights lobby will fight against, people will say its unfair for some people and the usual talking points because they want to behave selfishly and ignore the law but you are armed with data, research and precedents of how we can improve personal safety with cameras. People walk on public roads with government issued SSNs, there is no, nor should there be any expectation of privacy. Engaging with others in public is a privilege that people have abused for far too long and it makes our communities less safe for others who do not wish to engage. I fully support your efforts here and once again, thank you for your care. It is really appreciated by those of us that are most vulnerable when in public. ..”

      Different context but the silliness /absurdity of the suggestion applies to both.

      1. My SSN is not a deadly weapon, nor it is a privilege I have to earn by competency testing.

        My car is both.

        I am heartily in favor of this legislation. I manage my driving and make an actual effort to not speed. The rest of you can too.

  79. who is going to control the calibration of rhe equipped camera?is there a process for challenge?will there be a fee to challenge? will insurance rates be affected?will camera areas be posted? there is no better deterent to speeding or vehicle law breaking than a visible police vehicle.

  80. It sounds fair to me. How would the positioning of the cameras be determined? Intersections with most accidents? Could this technology be used to prevent bicyclists from breaking the law too? As a professional pedestrian I have to fight cars, buses, trucks and bicycles for the right to cross the street with walk signal at the crosswalk, would this technology help me to be safer out there?

  81. Perhaps it can depend on specific locations where automated enforcement
    of speed limits would be placed.

    For example: school zones

  82. The thing that bothers me the most is lack of reasonable recourse if one feels that the fine has been unfairly levied. Government is famous for limited hours, not answering phone calls, lengthy delays, and other “bad” customer service in many areas. The hours and hours it takes someone to right a wrong is absurd and enraging. For the self employed, such as myself, these delays and wasted hours amount to a fine many times greater than the amount listed on the citation. Where is the language in the legislation that forces a speedy and efficient response when the automated system fails to take into account mitigating circumstances and the driver wishes to appeal? Further, what can I bring for evidence if that is required? Will I have to install a dash camera and recording system in my car to support claims for relief? This is the big brother that I’m worried about! There are so many really horrendous abuses of the public’s time in government today (took me *all day* walking around Cambridge and Boston, visiting and waiting in offices in person, only to find out that I would have no health insurance anyway, because nobody would ever answer a phone in any one of four different offices, a few years ago). Sorry, but this struck a nerve. How much productivity is lost on a daily basis from good people stuck by unresponsive government?

  83. I think we should require a roadside radar speed sign that flashes your speed to you (as we now have in a few places) permanently installed, well in advance up the road from the camera location that will take your plate image and levy the fine. If that sign stops working, then it should automatically disable the camera until it’s fixed.
    Government is famous for creating new technology and infrastructure, but infamous for letting previously installed infrastructure crumble until it reaches crisis proportions. Sure, It’s inspiring to make new and boring to keep the old maintained. That’s human nature. But I expect public institutions to do better!

  84. If I am stopped by a red light at an intersection and move forward against the light to make way for a responding public safety apparatus, I get ticketed! Worse yet, what if a person is stopped at the light becomes intimidated by the prospect of being ticketed an elects not to move?

  85. I think we should start small with the violations that statistically contribute the most to safety – I would think that running red lights and failing to stop at stop signs are the most important. We should also start in “debugging mode” so that there is general confidence in the system being accurate and free from bias before fully deploying it.

    Once there is widespread acceptance of automated systems to enforce all our traffic laws (as there appears to be now for tolling), we should do so.

  86. I recently had a situation in DC (with automatic enforcement) where I sped past an erratic driver, and happened to do this by an unmarked camera, receiving a ticket in the mail.

    While I support the goal of reducing traffic fatalities, I question the use of Big Brother means to do it. I do think very open and clear enforcement would help alleviate any rollout. My worry more is the use or misuse of public cameras for non-stated ends. There’s a very very short leap from this to that.

  87. Once there’s a new source of revenue, the political temptation both to increase and divert over time is well-documented.

    Monies are fungible, so required investment of proceeds in road improvements cannot solve the above problem.

    Great example: Look where huge tobacco settlement funds ended up.

  88. I did not respond to your survey because a fourth option was not provided – the use of such cameras should be used to focus on far more dangerous driving habits than mere speeding. Fetishizing speeding at the cost of ignoring turns from the wrong lane, failure to use turn signals, etc. will not improve safety. This was noted by some respondents who also included running stop signs and red lights. To give an example, in our neighborhood we have what I call the “highway of death.” This is Common St. from Belmont St. heading toward Trapelo Rd. Signage clearly dictates that if you are in the left lane, you must turn going west on Trapelo Rd. Yet I see all too many cars think they can get ahead of others in the right lane to jump ahead and continue on Common St. It’s an accident (or several) waiting to happen! Put cameras there for that purpose and hopefully change this dangerous behavior.

  89. It seems that the day of driverless vehicles totally or almost totally taking the place of vehicles with drivers is not far off. Presumably speeding will not be a factor for driverless cars due to their programming. Camera will be helpful for other reasons, but not speed enforcement.

  90. There were 400 people killed on Massachusetts highways in 2016;
    354 in 2015; 348 in 2014. I have no idea what fraction of this number was due to speeding, but from here the stakes look pretty high.

  91. Another point: some readers argue that speed limits ought to be “realistic,” meaning close to the speeds people drive at now. But safety is also an issue. If lots of lives can be saved by shaving 5 or 10 mph off the limit that ought to
    be considered.

      1. So if someone had the reflexes and a Ferrari that can brake from 60mph – 0 in 22ft they should be allowed to do 60mph+ vs. a Prius which goes from 30mph – 0 in 30ft and still be safer.

  92. I wish that I could have taking the poll. I am in your district and I overwhelmingly would have answered a No/privacy! I would be extremely upset to have cameras tracking cars and enforcing speed limits. I have NO trouble with road safety and am very happy with the way speed limits are enforced at this time.

  93. In other states where speed and red light cameras are implemented, the primary goal is revenue and in some cases corruption and kickbacks to government officials.

    Jurisdictions that have implemented cameras are taking them down after backlash from constituents

    from page 9
    The U.S. photo enforcement market continues to be challenging and subsequently revenue from our Americas business reduced by 13.1% to $69.5 million (FY16: $80.0 million). Continuing negative public sentiment impacts the United States market and has either resulted in state legislation prohibiting the introduction of photo enforcement systems or individual municipalities and cities deciding not to renew their contracts. These factors have led to contract terminations, lower contract renewal rates and the delay and reduction of new programs across the U.S. For Red ex Student Guardian, our school bus stop arm enforcement solution, we continue to pursue targeted new opportunities in school districts within the U.S.. However, the growth of this solution also continues to be challenging given market conditions. Deployment of handheld speed detection systems continue to increase and represent a substantial growth opportunity.
    Our business continues to expand into Canada and Mexico and opportunities are being progressed in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  94. Banning speed cameras is one thing that even the ACLU and Tea Party agree on. How about that as food for thought? The trend nationwide is towards banning cameras after a backlash from citizens and voting the corrupt politicians out of office. Why is Massachusetts even considering implementing them? It’s all about revenue and lining pockets. This is not something that should be decided by legislators due to conflicts of interest, if you believe there is strong support, make it a ballot question.

  95. Amazing responses and so varied! No analysis here…just stating the obvious: apparently there is no extra funding for enforcement on speeding, red light violations or ‘distracted driver” (texting, etc) so anything that can address any of these issues would be a help. Naively believe that if you aren’t breaking the law, then why worry?
    PS. Does anyone drive only 55 on Rte 95??

    1. PS. Does anyone drive only 55 on Rte 95??

      Yes. I do my best to always drive the speed limit on whatever road I am on.

      Do I always succeed? No, sometimes I give in to temptation. Sometimes exceeding the speed limit is actually a safety matter, when someone in front of you is going so slowly that they are a traffic hazard and the only way for you to pass them is to briefly exceed the limit.

      But overall, I try to always drive the speed limit, even when I think it’s too low. Because it’s the law, and there’s a reason it’s the law, and it’s not even a stupid or unreasonable law.

      And because I have five kids who will all be drivers one day and I would rather they learn from me how to drive safely than how to drive like a Masshole.

      So, please drop the “It’s OK because everybody does it” stuff. Not everybody does it, and it’s not OK.

      1. Jonathan, you’re a wonder. But don’t try to drive the speed limit on Storrow Drive. You’ll be run over.

        1. I ALWAYS drive the speed limit on Storrow. 40 mph. Twice a day. Amazes me how many people speed past me! Many at 50+. My constant thought is “where are the police?” Omg there could be so many speeding tickets given! I WELCOME the cameras and satellite trackers, too, giving tickets to speeders.

  96. I’m a member of the ACLU and a privacy advocate BUT:
    Privacy is a fantasy while traffic fatalities are a reality..
    We’ve given up our privacy rights when we applied for a driver’s license: there are already cameras catching till evaders, some drivers have installed data gathering boxes to lower their insurance, we are obligated to follow rules: seat belts, child carriers, insurance, registration, inspection, right of way, excuse taxes, etc.
    I find it maddening that drivers want to be Warned that the police are doing their jobs! I live 3 houses from a crowded middle school in Belmont with a laughable 4-way stop intersection.. Due to scofflaws I can’t even exist my driveway because four cars in a row come barreling at me: impossible had they stopped.
    Revenue streams: yes, but we already employ those.. At least we might have some racial justice finally, as not just people of color would be pulled over.. Or those who don’t look like they “belong” (saw this happen to a Waltham frend, cop couldn’t even produce evidence of speeding (she wasn’t) and then the court fees nearly destroyed her (she’s on Medicaid) While when I got pulled over for lapsed inspection/registration I was let go.
    Traffic Calming: we all know that Belmont’s back streets are used by commuters.. This is true in all the areas Will represents.. I grew up in Cambridge with far more congestion and far fewer speeder a (I wish we could fine Jay walkers) I’m horrified by the speeds I see on Belmont roads, the illegal turns, the running of lights.. I’m so Tired of being in the 15% who comply!
    Yes safety is complex as are civil liberties.. We’ve learned it’s safer to be in a small car that can react than a tippy SUV, we now know that side impact air bags are far more useful than front air bags.. It took time to gather that data.. The arguement that statistics in other places may not show a significant benefit do not prove they wouldn’t here (going 80 mph in a highway is safe in many states)
    So what to do? How about a get out of jail free for the car’s first X number of violations? How about no freebies for those who already have moving violations on their record? Why is the law that you can’t ew register your vehicle without paying these not already a revenue stream and invasion of rights? TAKE MY RIGHTS PLEASE! Google has them.. Facebook took them.. Anyone can pull up outside your home and record, observe, hack, even start your car.
    Cars are loaded guns.. Enough is enough.

    1. The government already has to much power and oversteps too frequently in our lives. I don’t need them to tell me what is good for me, I already know. I also know speeding is a safety issue and illegal. The cost of my privacy is too high.
      Privacy is as real as safety and we must assure both.

      1. It’s not all about YOU. Implicit in choosing to live in a society is playing by the rules and obeying the laws that society has enacted for the benefit of its members. Don’t like it? You can work to change the laws or leave society and become a hermit.

    2. Who gets pulled over is the best argument I’ve read for installing the cameras. If cameras can eliminate ‘black while driving’ etc., then this is worth doing.

  97. Maybe these cameras will be able to track where you go so if you are cheating on your spouse, or lying about some trip, the traffic records can be subpoenaed. They take a picture of who is in the car too, so they can get in trouble too.

    But are not such records available to the public anyway?

    Finally, Belmont needs to stop all cut-thru traffic. Such cameras would help.
    Let other cities bear the burden of cut-thru traffic. Belmont for Belmontians. Let’s set up E-Z Pass in Belmont and get a lot of revenue.

    1. Regarding the last sentence, honestly, the legislature and the state department of transportation would never allow it: If every community takes that approach, noone will be able to get anywhere.

    2. I think this would be great. As long as Belmont residents are never allowed to drive on the streets of any other town either. What a relief to Cambridge, Watertown, and really, the whole human race.

  98. They face not worked well in other locations and have been removed. Ex Florida. Causes an increase in rear end collisions and no safety benefit.

  99. For the folks who think it’s a revenue raising scam, how about if instead of a fine that goes to the town, people get points on their insurance?

  100. When driverless cars are in greater use, this will be a non-issue as they will obey the speed limits. Time will make this moot. I am against the concept. Fatalities and serious accidents are not increasing as far as I know. So lets not argue or spend money on speed camera infrastructure for an issue that will go away on it’s own when cars drive themselves. Lets spend the money and thought on things that have been proven to help pedestrian and bicyclist safety because unlike human-driven cars pedestrians and bicycles will not go away, but should increase. I have a sneaking suspicion that driverless cars will eventually get smaller and smaller and that bicycle use will increase as car size decreases and computers driving them are among bicyclists.

  101. I am all for it. The resistance by the opponents is no different than the safety belt law or the safety helmet law. Camera surveillance is no different than a cop stopping you, except it’s more efficient and we need fewer cops on the beat. The proposed law has to be better to prevent or monitor a municipality for fund raising, even if it’s for roads improvements. This is especially true when the camera is placed where there is much out-of-town traffic, alleviating the local taxpayers from contributing to the toll.The signage alone, that the driver is approaching a surveillance camera is enough of a deterrent. I would propose more than one sign, with big letters and perhaps a flashing light to make sure even the blind or the distracted driver will see it. For all I can remember, may be over 50 years, in Italy, during peak hours and in the cities, a cop that sees your car in a moving violation, would simply take your plate # and send the ticket home, without stopping you, or you being aware of it.

    Another thing, to satisfy the privacy fanatics, the data collected can only be used for traffic violations, it cannot be used for any other purpose, EVER. This should be clear in the law. The data can be erased continuously, and stored only when a speed violation is detected. That is to say the data cannot even be stored to study traffic patterns, just store the violations and nothing else in this manner the camera surveillance is useless for other purposes.

    1. Great points although I would advocate for keeping and analyzing the data (as you said it need not be clearly linked to a driver) so we can best identify hot spots. The corner of School Street and Trapelo (Belmont St.) is a death zone but I don’t read of accidents there in the paper

    2. Seat belt and helmet violations are minor violations in the same category as broken taillights to give law enforcement reasonable cause to stop a vehicle and see if the driver is DUI, acting nervously with a gun in the passenger seat or if somebody is banging on the trunk etc. Most are up to the officers judgement and they usually let you go with a warning or fix it ticket unless you’re a jerk about it or have a bunch of outstanding warrants. Cameras would not help with any of the above scenarios, just generate revenues.

      I don’t think or at least I hope not one really goes through the selection and training to be a State Trooper to write seat belt tickets, if they really wanted to get his or her jollies from writing tickets, might as well be a meter maid.

  102. What does law enforcement think about this? They will lose a lot of money if cameras replace them.Or at least reduce the number of tickets they write.

  103. I asked a friend his views because he lives where these cameras are installed.
    He wrote back:
    A few thoughts:

    1. We have several red light cams here in Portland, at historically dangerous intersections. They appear to be effective in reducing collisions overall (a 44% decline) as of 2015.

    2. Not every photo results in a citation, and you can still argue your case in court. I was photo-cammed for turning right on red, a turn that’s legal at *almost* every intersection in the state. I argued the case in front of a judge, and got the fine reduced significantly, but I was also guilty and got caught.

    3. Red light cams are *not* cash cows. They mostly break even, or operate at a loss. They are certainly not a “revenue stream.”

    4. My wife was killed by a speeding housewife, who went un-cited. I’m all for anything that makes the roads safer, because I know first hand the life-long cost of lax enforcement.

    5. Don’t like it? Don’t drive like an asshole. I apply this same rule to myself.

  104. I worry about the privacy issues. Knowing location of people over time is not innocent. You can tell if people are on vacation, changed jobs et cetera.
    For acceptance, important to have cash-only fine. No points.

  105. I can only add an anecdotal experience. A relative in Oregon got a speeding ticket as a result of automated enforcement. She now drives more carefully as a result.

  106. 5 miles over the speed limit is too broad. on side streets it is definitely necessary to be OK on highways it should be a little higher.What if there is a need to pass a vehicle that is either going too slow or causing a dangerous obstruction, like an oversized load.
    Also, jumping red lights once they turn green.

    The secret is Patience.

    Speed Kills.

  107. Senator Brownsberger – I fully support automated enforcement of traffic violations like running red lights and speeding. Automation would help to make up for the lack of enforcement in Massachusetts, since the police forces do not seem to be able to stay on top of traffic violations and they would be better off spending their staff time on more urgent issues. The safety of all road and sidewalk users — pedestrians and bicyclists and motorists — would be enhanced by measures that discourage traffic violations like speeding and running red lights. A simple fine for infractions is probably the best way to encourage behavioral changes. It does not have to include points to make it effective. Thank you very much for opening up the dialogue on this and for soliciting our feedback on this important safety issue!

  108. Will, I think automatic traffic enforcement would be a good thing for Belmont. As you know our streets are overwhelmed with cut through traffic during rush hours. Increased enforcement might dissuade some of those now using Belmont Streets from continuing to do so.


  109. Will,

    The step from saying “your car committed this violation” to “admit your guilt and pay the fine” is too large for me. What if I was not driving? How can I admit to the act if it was not me?

    What statistics do you have that show this reduces accidents or otherwise increases safety? Can you please reference studies from other states or municipalities where a) automated enforcement was introduced and b) safety metrics improved?

    My view is this is both a) a step towards the surveillance state and b) a revenue producer that government gets addicted to.


  110. Just a thought, but if privacy shouldn’t be a concern maybe cameras should be installed throughout the state house including the offices of public officials. The technology is available to create automated transcripts and machine learning algorithms can flag conversations of concern with lobbyists, donors, constituents. Given that several MA House Speakers have been convicted of felony corruption that might be in the best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth. When those cameras are in place then maybe the question on speed cameras should come up.

  111. Will, I agree with Tom Draper:

    1. Set 10 miles above speed limit
    2. Issue only a warning for first violation in a particular location
    3. Post signage in general area where camera enforcement is used

    Also agree with Colleen K that fee should be a percentage of one’s income rather than flat amount.

    1. I agree with both of you. I think it would be good for Belmont. We do not have enough officers to enforce speed limits, and it is becoming more and more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

  112. Is the proposal for both state highways and thickly settled neighborhoods ?
    I feel like those two are very different: there is huge difference of highway speed limit across the globe and even in states in the United States. That tend to indicate that the limit have an arbitrary nature. And I feel recomforted seeing some challenging it with measure. The statu quo – letting officers on site with broad knowledge of a variable context making a judgement call sounds good to me.
    Inner city with pedestrians and bike feels much different to me even though 25mph on straight and large portions of concord avenue sounds
    ridiculous to me. A speed camera does not make a difference between rainy night with blinding headlight on a crowded opposite lane and a clear day light with clear view ahead of pedestrians and bike.
    I like the idea to have a human being however imperfect, exercing judgement on those complex situation.

  113. Hi Will, love these comments about “cut-thru” traffic. (I live in Brighton, cut thru Mecca) Almost a ‘comedy of communities’ saying not in my neighborhood. Reminds me of all the issues years ago that conservative liberals (myself included, no holier than thou scene here) got upset about. Condem norms in other parts of society and still profit off of the inequities in the general population. And the ‘privacy paranoids’ remind me of the gun lobby. The real traffic issue is auto pollution (obviously cancer causing) in the small, snarled feeder roads out to the Pike and 128. This is a travesty… second-hand-smoke. Thanks Will. Dave

  114. I have a feeling that most of the respondents here voting FOR cameras do not drive themselves, thus heavily biased.
    Unfortunately, with less than mediocre public transportation options, squeezing drivers any further will severely hurt the workforce options for Cambridge/Boston businesses. Especially the Hi-Tech ones. People with families are forced to live further and further out of the city and crumbling public transportation isn’t making this any easier.

  115. I’m all for the cameras. My only worry is that ICE will figure out some way to get their hands on the data and use it for one of their inhumane deporting tricks. Other than that – go for it. I’m tired of the over aggressive driving I deal with every day.
    People who complain about the cost of tickets? Then just don’t break the law.
    And yes, I drive my car to work, public transportation not being an option.

    1. 5-10% error rates in Baltimore where they have speed cameras with another Camera is Baltimore country issuing tickets to a parked car.

      Revenue generators in the government are betting that you won’t want to waste a day in court to fight a $50 ticket and just take your money without due process. So not breaking the law is not a bar to getting a ticket.

  116. Add me to the firm “No” regarding “safety cameras”. So many reasons: PRIVACY, the cost of implementation and upkeep, PRIVACY, and PRIVACY.

  117. Funny, I’ve been driving for well over 30 years and have had my fair share of speeding tickets. One thing I do notice is that when the police are out patrolling the roads (as they should be, it’s their JOB) people drive safer. Now why do we need the $$$ overhead of cameras across the Commonwealth when the Mass State Police (and local officers as well) make well into 6 figures to do the job we pay them to do.

    I have relatives in the PA/MD area – they tell me the speed cameras that exist in those states are owned by PRIVATE CORPORATIONS and are operated FOR PROFIT – the municipalities don’t see a dime of good from all the revenue generated.

    Another question – providing speeding cameras will give police less incentive to patrol the roads. Just exactly HOW will a speed camera catch a distracted driver texting on their smartphone while driving the posted speed as they plow their SUV into a school bus full of newborn babies??? If I was a mother of a child, I’d be very concerned.

    Let’s keep the police on the road, doing the work that they are paid to do. I’d like to think this is still America and “innocent until proven guilty” should still override “automated enforcement”.

  118. Putting cameras on roads can easily discriminate again poor people who cannot afford to pay for a ticket. This happened in Ferguson, Missouri. Don’t
    do that here!

    1. I share this concern given what impacts waze and Google maps are having on smaller residential roads designed for very low traffic volumes.

  119. As other commenters point out, there is a good amount of data on how speed cameras are abused, and very little evidence showing that the benefits outweigh the risk. Simply as a cost/ benefit equation, it seems like a giant boondoggle for the public, with the primary result being yet more money extracted from our pockets, and that burden correlates directly to class and race.

  120. I am very much in favor of automated traffic enforcement as long as the devices are owned and run by municipalities and not commercial third parties.
    I am also in favor of taking flash photos of the front of the vehicle to identify the driver. The camera flash serves also as an immediate notice to the driver.
    At a red light violation, both the duration of the yellow light phase and the portion of there red light phase passed when the car crosses should be recorded.
    This works very well in Germany. Just the sight of the cameras at red traffic lights are a reminder to drivers to stop in time for the red lights.
    I have to use a crosswalk every day where many drivers and bicyclists do not stop for the red light. It is a lawless zone. Police might come by every two years and ticket drivers but the rest of the time it is a constant struggle and danger. Automated enforcement would really help.

    1. Red light cameras have led to increased rear end accidents where they’ve been implemented. Don’t be lured in by the promise of “safety” since it’s all about revenue at the end of the day.

  121. One Judge’s ruling on speed cameras violating due process

    “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of Three-card Monty,” Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman wrote in his Thursday decision. “It is a scam the motorist cannot win.”

    “The entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic,” the judge wrote.

    If motorists receiving tickets wanted to contest them, they had to request an administrative hearing that came with a $25 fee.

    “The hearing is nothing more than a sham,” the judge wrote.

  122. In Baltimore, cameras that passed all “calibration” tests still issued erroneous tickets. The burden will be on citizens to fight the tickets vs. innocent until proven guilty. $50 for the tickets, probably another $25 to appeal, tack on some late fees if the ticket gets lost in the mail and at least 2 trips to the courthouse before you even see a judge, so they’re going to make it as difficult as possible for you to exercise your constitutional right to due process.

  123. Will,

    A few comments.

    Yes, I object based on the big brother aspect. There’s already a Supreme Court ruling saying a warrant is required to attach a GPS tracker to someone’s car. Given the kind of big data analytics we can do, it’s not hard to see a time where everyone can be tracked via cameras and data analysis. That may be farfetched but once the horse is out of the barn…

    Next, it won’t take long for everyone to know where the camera is and simply slow down for it.

    Finally, on the “people drive way too fast”, do they and is speeding the major issue with driver behavior? Frankly, I don’t see much enforcement of other traffic laws, like running red lights. I also still see plenty of people holding their phones while driving and I’d argue the absolutely terrible quality of roads in our state is a factor in accidents as well (it certainly doesn’t help my cycling cause).

    Modern cars are safely capable of far higher speeds than even 10 years ago, let alone the kind of cars you and I started driving in. On our highways, *everyone* speeds because the speed limits are ridiculously low. I have it on good authority that when the section of Rt 3 between 128 and NH was redone, no speed survey happened and the speed limit was kept at 55 because the head of the State Police wanted it that way. 55mph for that highway is ridiculous.

    Back roads are obviously different but I can point to ridiculously low speed limits there too. Was a speed survey done to determine that 25mph limit?

  124. I just checked the transportation bill and it looks like they’re jamming though traffic cameras. My biggest concern is depriving the citizens of the Commonwealth of property without due process.

    *They just have to mail the ticket without confirmation of receipt so what happens when the post office loses your mail?
    *The hearing officer is a representative of the police and has final say, does that even sound like a fair forum?
    * If you want to go ahead of the appeal you’ll need to spend several hundred dollars for court fees, service fees, transcripts etc. to fight a $50 ticket

    Don’t be naive here, the working class citizens of the Commonwealth with be fleeced with these $50 tickets with no reasonable forum or process to fight them.

    (g) Notice of violation shall be sent by first class mail in accordance with subsection (f) and shall include an affidavit form approved by the police department for the purpose of complying with subsection (b). A manual or automatic record of mailing processed by or on behalf of the police department in the ordinary course of business shall be prima facie evidence thereof, and shall be admitted as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding, as to the facts contained therein.

    (i) Any owner to whom a notice of violation has been issued may, within 60 days of the mailing of said notice by the police department, request a hearing to contest the liability alleged in said notice. A hearing request shall be made either personally, via the internet or through a duly authorized agent by appearing before the police department during regular business hours or by mailing a request in writing to the police department. Upon receipt of a hearing request, the police department shall forthwith schedule the matter before a person hereafter referred to as a hearing officer, said hearing officer to be the police department of the city or town wherein the violation occurred or such other person or persons as the police department may designate. Written notice of the date, time and place of said hearing shall be sent by first class mail to each registered owner. The decision of the hearing officer shall be final subject to judicial review as outlined by section 14 of Chapter 30A of the General Laws. Within twenty-one days of the hearing, the police department or the hearing officer should send by first class mail to the registered owner or owners the decision of the hearing officer, including the reasons for the outcome.

    1. The automated enforcement sections were left out of the bill that was redrafted by the Transportation Committee. You can see a summary of what was reported here.

      Andrew Bettinelli
      Chief of Staff
      Office of Senator Brownsberger

  125. I’m really concerned about the invasion of privacy and the possibility of over enforcement of traffic laws with cameras. I don’t want “big brother” watching my every move.

    I know the cameras can solve lots of crimes but I feel the lack of privacy scares me more. The technology is there but do we need a camera on every corner? The devil is in the details.

  126. I’m really concerned about the invasion of privacy and the possibility of over enforcement of traffic laws with cameras. I don’t want “big brother” watching my every move
    Regarding red light enforcement; there have been several studies that point to the yellow light “on time” as a major culprit. In many cases they’d found that it wasn’t on long enough for honest drivers react properly.
    Seems like there’s a simple solution, that doesn’t cost the taxpayer more $, and create a whole new bureaucracy?

    Based on the traffic speed, if the driver isn’t being given enpought time to stop

  127. I’m really concerned about the invasion of privacy and the possibility of over enforcement of traffic laws with cameras. I don’t want “big brother” watching my every move.

    If you want to be really concerned, check out the February, National Geographic article about surveillance in our society

  128. all for this – driving habits are out of control and continue to worsen – running red lights, speeding, blocking bike lanes and cross walks and road rage – Companies like Uber and Lyft that troll and stop anywhere they please and now double parked on main streets keys in car motor running while they pick up someones’s dinner

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