Automated Traffic Enforcement

In many municipalities today, the crush of traffic makes it impossible for local police to adequately enforce the traffic laws. Road safety is deteriorating as too many motorists push red lights, exceed speed limits on residential streets and block congested intersections. Automated enforcement using traffic cameras can help.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that traffic cameras are in place for enforcement in 23 states. The federal Center for Disease Control views automated enforcement as a public health intervention. According to the CDC, cameras are widely used in other industrialized countries for automated enforcement.

An act relative to traffic enforcement creates the necessary legal mechanisms to support camera enforcement. It is carefully crafted to address two principal concerns about automated enforcement (a) the concern that municipalities might use automated enforcement in unreasonable ways to make money; (b) the concern that cameras might create records about individuals that would put their privacy at risk.

I have been working on legislation for automated enforcement for several years. The full senate will consider this legislation for the first time on Thursday, February 27.

The Process for Ticketing

Existing law

Currently, Chapter 90C defines the mechanism for writing and processing tickets for moving vehicle violations. When a police officer in any municipality stops a vehicle for a moving violation, they ask for the motorist’s drivers license. Having identified the motorist, they fill out a standard citation form which is then transmitted to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and becomes part of the motorist’s individual driving record. If the motorist wishes to pay any assessed fine, they pay the Registry. If a motorist wishes to appeal the ticket, they must notify the Registry which will, in turn, notify the local district court where a hearing will be set up.

For parking violations, there is a different statutory process (and a variant of that process for larger communities). The police officer does not know who parked the vehicle, but does know who owns the vehicle, based on the plate. The owner of the vehicle is responsible for paying the ticket. Payment is made to the parking clerk of the municipality, not to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Appeal of the ticket is initially made to the parking clerk, although further review in the courts is available. Only if fines are not paid or dismissed does a record go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If there are two or more unresolved parking tickets on record at the Registry, they must be resolved before the owner of the vehicle may renew their drivers license or the registration of their vehicle.

The new mechanism

The existing mechanism for moving violation tickets does not work for automated enforcement of moving violations because the cameras do not provide a positive identification of the motorist. The available enforcement technology is only able to read the license plate of the motor vehicle. An act relative traffic enforcement adds a new chapter 90I to the general laws. Section 3 of the new chapter defines a new legal mechanism which resembles the existing mechanism for enforcing parking tickets.

The new chapter allows municipalities to use cameras for the purpose of moving violation enforcement on roads that they control or, with the permission of the state, on roads within their boundaries that are state controlled. They may also install cameras on school buses. The cameras may be used only to enforce the following specific “camera enforceable violations”:

  • Failure to stop at a steady red light;
  • Making an illegal right on a steady red light;
  • Speeding;
  • Passing a school bus when warning signals are activated;
  • Blocking an intersection;
  • Driving in a bus lane.

When a camera identifies a violation, the municipality must mail a violation notice to the registered owner of the vehicle. The notice must include the photo and all of the details of the alleged violation and explain the process for contesting the violation. The motorist may pay any assessed fine to the municipality or the motorist may contest the violation through the municipality. The municipality must allow the violation to be contested in writing or online as well as in person. A municipality will notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles only if the violation is not resolved. If there are five or more unresolved violations on record, the Registrar will not renew the motor vehicle’s registration until the violations are resolved. Failure to resolve violations is not an impediment to renewal of a drivers license.

The municipality can decide to issue only written warnings for educational purposes instead of assessing a violation, but the decision to issue only a warning must be governed by objective criteria defined in a written policy.

There is no liability for camera violations in the following circumstances:

  • if the motorist also gets a moving violation citation from a traffic officer;
  • if the vehicle was reported stolen;
  • if the vehicle is a rental vehicle and the rental company provides information as to the operator of the motor vehicle, in which case the liability runs to the operator of the vehicle.

MassDOT is authorized to promulgate regulations governing the implementation of automated enforcement.

Protections against unreasonable enforcement

An act relative traffic enforcement very tightly limits the exposure of motorists and includes other provisions to assure that municipalities will not overuse the new tool.

  • The maximum fine is limited to $25.
  • Compensation to vendors of automated enforcement may not be based on the volume of tickets.
  • Municipalities must transfer any net profits from the use of cameras to the state.
  • Cameras can only be used for the “camera enforceable violations” which are listed above.
  • Municipalities may only install 1 camera for every 2,500 residents. (School bus cameras do not count towards this limit.)
  • Each location must be approved by the top municipal executive (city manager, mayor or board of selectmen) after a public hearing.
  • Signage must be posted to notify motorists of the cameras.
  • Municipalities must conduct public awareness campaigns about their use of automated enforcement.
  • The violation must be material:
    • In the case of red light enforcement, a citation may not be issued if any part of the vehicle was in the intersection when the light turned yellow.
    • In the case of speed enforcement, the motorist must be going at least 5 miles over the limit.
    • In the case of school bus enforcement, the motorist must actually cross the plane of the stop sign.
    • In the case of making an illegal right, the entire vehicle must have crossed the stop line.
    • In the case of blocking an intersection, the entire vehicle must be in the intersection.
  • Appropriate exceptions are also provided if a vehicle was part of a funeral procession, if a vehicle was pulling over to accommodate an emergency vehicle or if the vehicle otherwise had to commit the violation to comply with some other law.
  • The violations shall not become part of the vehicle owner’s record at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
  • The violations shall not cause surcharges on the vehicle owner’s insurance.
  • Municipalities must report annually to MassDOT on their use of cameras and include an analysis showing the nexus between the use of the cameras and public safety goals. MassDOT will post these reports online.

Protections for motorist privacy

An act relative traffic enforcement very tightly limits the scope and use of information collected by cameras to protect motorist privacy.

  • Cameras may only take photographs when a violation occurs.
  • Cameras will not photograph the front of the violating vehicle and, to the extent practicable, additional efforts will be made to avoid capturing identifiable images of the occupants or contents of the vehicle.
  • Information derived from the camera may not be used by the camera vendor for any purpose other than enforcing violations.
  • Photographs and other recorded evidence shall be destroyed within 48 hours after the violation is disposed of.
  • Photographs shall not be discoverable or admissible in any proceeding (other than the ticket hearing) without a court order and courts shall not order release of the photograph except to establish civil or criminal liability for the violation.
  • Photographs and other information collected by the camera systems are not public records.

Please note: The standard policy on this site is to only publish comments from constituents of Senator Brownsberger. However, we are waiving that policy as to comments on this post which is effectively a statewide communication.

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

Join the Conversation

143 Comments

  1. I live near and cross a dangerous intersection (100 Beacon St 02116) where I see many violations: cars turning right off Storrow Drive onto Mugar Way may then turn right onto Beacon, or left briefly onto Beacon to reach Arlington Street. MANY cars go through the right red onto Beacon, and quite a few go through the left onto Beacon then Arlington. They do this at fairly high speeds. Cameras there would be a good idea.

    1. I take it you DON’T drive ?
      You have people out there that don’t follow ANY “societal norms” or niceties. The aren’t going to follow them if “CAMERAS” are installed. Why?
      Because they have nothing to lose. They drive without licenses, their car NOT being registered and vehicles NOT being “insured”. They are on Public Assistance and/or are poor and they have nothing to lose. If they hit you, good luck suing for your medical and lost wages.
      I was standing on the sidewalk after pressing the “Walk Button” at the busy intersection of Harvard Ave. & Cambridge St. in Allston. The “Walk” light came on for ALL 4 directions. I stepped down off the curb and a bicyclist whizzed by at a high speed almost hit me and kept going.
      I was in my apt. parking lot in the Handicapped Parking Space taking my mother to the doctor. There was car “illegally” parked blocking me in. There were other signs “Please Don’t Block this Space”. I was out there 10 minutes tooting my horn & getting nervous that the doctor wouldn’t see us if we were too late. A young lady came down and I explained the above facts. She replied, “Ya, ya, ya, you’ll get over it.”

  2. It is needed – and I don’t care if it does capture the persons face – it should. I suffered a traumatic brain injury from a young man the ran a light – all because he was in a rush – Thank god I had other witnesses but the driving in Massachusetts is out of control and the aggressive driving is so unnecessary – we need to put a lid on some of this behavior

    1. Dwight, I am very, very sorry to hear this. It’s bad.
      I know a man who was severely injured by a car driven by a man (supposedly an illegal alien) who then skipped out to Central America and has come back to the US and is not being prosecuted.
      Dwight, did you know that Will favors illegal aliens (even with a criminal record) getting Mass. drivers licenses?
      Will also knows that someone (illegal alien or citizen) stopped in Cambridge who has NO DRIVERS LICENSE will be let go and not arrested? Cambridge just passed that law.
      I think Will is OK with that. Will is OK with a lot of harmful things.

  3. And all this is absolutely necessary because …?
    Recall the State Police scandals where they were forced to write tickets.
    This is true of local police too. It’s about tax revenue.
    I guess we’re all supposed to trust them?
    Automated traffic enforcement has had a lot of problems in other states. Ho-hum.
    Our police in Massachusetts won’t even tell ICE that they are holding criminal illegal aliens.
    Funny that Will is interested in traffic enforcement but doesn’t want the police to help ICE arrest criminals.
    Ho-hum.

    1. An “outside contractor” will come in with all the cameras and wiring and will take a cut (percentage) of every ticket.
      Me thinks the State Legislators have nothing better to do and are “twiddling their thumbs” trying to figure out what other things we can BAN or Control. Otherwise it is lobbyist smelling blood in the water looking for an easy pay day (and maybe a payoff).
      Like Mayor Bloomberg, born at the same hospital as me (St. Eze.), he wants to control your life like a “Dictator”. You can buy ONE cup of Tonic (soda) at the “7-11” because it’s too much sugar. (But he limits the same for Diet Coke ?)
      He will claim because it is “good-for-you” and lower the cost of healthcare (Ya, right !)
      Mayor Bloomberg has the right genes in his family for being healthy and longevity.
      My friend’s cousin was one of Bloomberg’s housekeepers over in Medford. He called his mother every day. She lived to the ripe old age of 102.

  4. Will, thanks to you and the senate for taking this up. I have a couple of questions.
    1. Did the senate consider cameras at cross-walks? I think we’ve all seen drivers ignore pedestrians and this is my biggest safety concern , especially for kids.
    2. Is the penalty substantial enough to improve bad-driver behavior? It doesn’t appear to have a lot of teeth in it. Doesn’t look like violations could raise insurance rates.

    1. Dave, Will favors illegal aliens getting drivers licenses.
      Do you?
      Do you favor police non-cooperation with ICE? Will does.

      1. I would rather have an undocumented alien with insurance than one without a license. I am also opposed to an unfettered federal agency violating standards of human decency in the service of a xenophobic and racist administration.

    2. Thanks, Dave.
      To your questions: (1) The red light and right on red provision of this bill are targeted to pedestrians. But no, we have not talked about extending it to all unsignalized crosswalks. (2) I think so. A modest fine is enough. No one wants the annoyance of paying a fine, but we don’t want to burden people of limited incomes with high fines.

  5. Thank you! We need this to make our neighborhoods safer!

    >> The maximum fine is limited to $25.
    Why?
    >> The violations shall not cause surcharges on the vehicle owner’s insurance.
    Why not?
    >> Municipalities may only install 1 camera for every 2,500 residents
    26 enforcement cameras in Allston/Brighton (66,000 residents) would good, but I don’t agree with having a hard limit written into the legislation. (and I know A/B isn’t a municipality, just using it as an example)

    1. >>> The maximum fine is limited to $25.
      >Why?

      To minimize the incentive for municipalities to use the system as a source of revenue rather than a way to improve safety. The goal is to make the fine large enough that it annoys people — which will change their behavior — but small enough that it’s not worth setting up cameras at locations that don’t have a real safety problem.

      >>> The violations shall not cause surcharges on the vehicle owner’s insurance.
      >Why not?

      Because it is impossible to determine with confidence who was driving the car when the violation occurred, and it would be unfair and probably unconstitutional to penalize the owner of the car if they weren’t the one who committed the violation.

      >I don’t agree with having a hard limit written into the legislation.

      Again, the hard limit is intended to make it impractical for municipalities to use enforcement cameras as revenue sources. If the number of cameras is limited by law, then they are compelled to put them where there are real safety issues that need to be addressed.

      1. The amount of the fine should be based on income. People in luxury cars are statistically more likely to drive carelessly and $25 is not a deterrent for them.

  6. I am 100% totally AGAINST this bill. Find another way to tax the public. It’s all about the money and unauthorized surveillance.

    1. What “public” is that? The public that feels free to flout the traffic laws?

      As someone who’s been honked at to make illegal right-on-red turns twice in just the last three weeks — in both cases the honker chose to drive around me, so it was an illegal act, not just the threat of an act — I’d be happy to see this; I’d even join Harry in questioning the limit on the number of cameras.

      1. Do you realize that I have been at MANY intersections where there is a Legal Right On Red and the first car will sit there ? I’ve actually given a “light toot”, flashed my lights to no avail.
        One time I got out of my car and walked up to the first car (I was the third car) to let him know he could “turn right on red”. he was busy “texting” and playing on his cell phone.

      2. You KNOW that most (many) people will follow the laws and that some people will NOT follow any laws.
        I saw a video from Wis. or Mich. at a Target or WalMart parking lot. 2 cars were vying for a Handicapped Parking space. The old lady in the SUV got the space.
        The younger lady in a sedan got out and started yelling at her. The young lady actually shoved the old lad to the ground ! The old lady was just recovering form a “hip replacement” and had to be taken to the hospital to either check on her “hip” and/or have to fix it which leads to more complications.
        The young lady ? She was arrested. Not just for assault. She didn’t have an HP plate or placard. She didn’t even have a driver’s license and I believe her car wasn’t even registered.
        Remember what Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    2. Also, if you look around, the cameras are already strategically placed. The mechanism to collect revenue, is the next step. As some of the others state, what stops the rate from being changed? The next step is the insurance companies getting their hooks in the feeding frenzy.

      1. There is an article in the Boston Herald on 2/23/20 that ALREADY refuted: “ The violations shall not cause surcharges on the vehicle owner’s insurance.”

        1. I could find no evidence of such an article in the Boston Herald today or yesterday.

          You may perhaps be confusing this proposed law with the hands-free law which was passed and signed by the governor months ago and went into effect yesterday. There _is_ an article about that law (https://www.bostonherald.com/2020/02/22/auto-insurance-experts-say-new-hands-free-law-will-drive-up-rates-for-repeat-offenders/), which _does_ mandate surcharges for violations, as well it should.

          If you’re not confusing the two laws, then kindly post a link to the article you’re referring to.

  7. Hi Senator. I’m a vocal critic of speeding on the streets around my town. However, I support traffic calming measures to address the issue and not (most) automated traffic enforcement. It’s pretty well established that red light cameras counter-intuitively lead to an increase in traffic accidents and injuries due to people breaking hard to avoid rolling through a yellow or red. As a civil libertarian, I am also generally uncomfortable with the idea of cameras and “big brother”.

    Please see a write-up of one such study finding extra traffic accidents here:
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/red-light-cameras-may-not-make-streets-safer/
    https://phys.org/news/2018-07-red-light-cameras-dont-traffic-accidents.html

    1. I couldn’t have said it better. Enough is enough with enforcement. This is a resource of time and money that should go toward prevention, education, and other neglected public health matters. There are better ways to get traffic and drivers to behave better. Also is there some rampant problem that’s out of control that requires such a response? I don’t think so. Of course there are individual instances of any situation but that should not create or act as an impetus for a broad sweeping policy and structural change. Do not dothis; this does not make Society a better place.

    2. Well taken. It’s all about where and how they are used.

      The Houston study mentioned concludes “Evidence clearly shows that camera programs are effective at decreasing the number of vehicles running red lights.” Frontal and side collisions are reduced, but at the same time, that can cause some rear end collisions. I think camera enforcement for red lights makes sense in urban settings where there a lot of pedestrians. The goal is more to protect pedestrians than to reduce motorist collisions, which may be a wash.

      But as to other uses, speeding, bus lanes, blocking intersections — I don’t see any down side.

  8. Will, do you and the rest of the criminals up there under the dome EVER stop of thinking of ways to grift us?

    NO NO NO NO NO NO on this. This of course is just another huge camel’s snoot in our wallets. The “protections” the goo goos like you want us to believe are in place will never happen or be quietly removed; we will be faced with yet more of the worst kind of grifting: nefarious cooperation between “private” sector parasites and you insatiable trough-eaters.

    And don’t make me barf telling me about all of the “overworked” police; I can drive about any morning as see plenty of 175 k$+++ troops “working” on their cell phones in their cruisers.

    If this does go through we need an immediate ballot initiative to vote it out. NO NO NO NO NO

    1. Well said…

      If this does go through we need an immediate ballot initiative to vote it out. NO NO NO NO NO

        1. 100000% agree. I lived in NY for a little while and this “oh we will limit it to just add a couple cameras for a couple things” has been constantly modified/expanded over time into a massive ubiquitous presence and created easy passive fresh money for revenue-dependant agencies – they just turn up the volume when they need more funds. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle once this bill is passed. This is terrifying.

  9. This sounds like a reasonable approach to address a rapidly-growing safety problem. Wish it weren’t needed, but…

  10. Will,
    Get out of our lives, enough of government intrusion. This sounds like BIG BROTHER!! We are a free society, yes we have laws and yes they are broken from time to time, no more than the way you and the rest of your croonies get away with breaking the laws. Funny thing is that you and the rest of your clan will be the first ones calling in a favor when you get a ticket from one of these asinine camera’s.
    Have you ever thought about putting this much energy into FIXING the traffic problems?? Probably NOT.

  11. Once these cameras are installed, it will create the likelihood that they’ll be abused in the future. While I would normally agree that having a preventative mechanism that ensures cars blocking intersections get a $25 fine, I believe it’s outweighed by the risk of abuse. What happens in year two when the state wants to raise fine limit to $50…then $100 in year three? Also, what happens when a camera says a driver is exceeding the speed limit, or ran a red light but in actuality it’s because the camera is wrong because it hasn’t been properly maintained? Now the driver now has to show up in court to contest (taking hours from their day) for not doing anything wrong. Finally, what happens when the insurance companies start pushing for the fine data to be released, again meaning that any type of fine issued (blocking the intersection, running a red light or speeding) now increases car insurance premiums? It’s just not worth it.

    1. >What happens in year two when the state wants to raise fine limit to $50…then $100 in year three?

      Then they will have to pass a law to do that, and you and other citizens will have the opportunity to weigh in and oppose that law and vote out your rep or senator if they vote for it.

      It seems very clear from the law as described by Will that the legislature has taken extremely seriously the problems with enforcement cameras encountered elsewhere and the concerns that citizens have about them and has taken great pains to address those problems and concerns in the law they have crafted.

      I see no reason to attribute malice or ill intent to the legislature in general here, and especially not to Will, who has always been honest and transparent in his legislating.

      >Also, what happens when a camera says a driver is exceeding the speed limit, or ran a red light but in actuality it’s because the camera is wrong because it hasn’t been properly maintained?

      Generally speaking the cameras are aimed to take a photo of both the license plate and the red light at the same time, so there is photographic evidence of the violation. If the camera is broken the photographic evidence will show that.

      Frankly, enforcement cameras are a lot more likely to be fair and accurate than police are. And enforcement cameras don’t kill black people.

      >Finally, what happens when the insurance companies start pushing for the fine data to be released, again meaning that any type of fine issued (blocking the intersection, running a red light or speeding) now increases car insurance premiums?

      The law as proposed specifically and intentionally precludes that from happening.

  12. 100% No on this one. These cameras have been used as money traps in other states https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/i-team/are-traffic-speed-cameras-about-public-safety-or-money . Even with a $25 limit the potential for abuse is way to high on this. At a minimum if you want to do this mandate that all funds received would have to go to the state fund that would have to be spent (maybe a charitable donation or something not as part of general fund) not to any town/department budgets to remove any temptation for abuse

    1. >At a minimum if you want to do this mandate that all funds received would have to go to the state fund

      As Will explained in his description of the law, it requires profits to go to the states, not the municipality, for exactly the reason you outlined.

  13. Just look how well this has worked in other states.

    https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/26/2649.asp

    Whatever good intentions lawmakers have the practical matter is anytime you insert corporate profits into our criminal justice system corruption and violation of civil rights is the result. You cite the IIHS but they are not really a public interest organization, they represent corporate interests that benefit from traffic violations. I also take great exception to the utter disregard for civil rights that accompanies automated enforcement. A camera is not an accuser that can be confronted, the kangaroo court municipal appeal proposed is totally repugnant to Constitutional due process rights. The problems with automated enforcement are manifest and the safety benefits are not clearly established. Problem areas are likely in need of engineering solutions not cameras, it is usually the case that a perceived problem area disappears when yellow intervals and speed limits are set according to engineering standards. Most red light violations are just people rolling through right on red at less than 5 mph, this is not a public safety issue. Please don’t open this door Senator.

  14. I also see bad drivers daily(especially at the intersection of Mt Auburn/Main St Watertown SQ ugh!) but I have similar concerns about the maintenance of not only the cameras but the lights themselves. I do see studies that show less T bone intersection accidents while a rise in backend(stopping short). There is a decrease in fatalities(which is great) but I still have concerns longterm use and such. Couldn’t we also put into legislation mandated maintenance of lights and cameras? Limit the % that increases can be made on tickes? I certainly don’t want cameras at all our intersections but at strategic placement, can we look up stats and place them here only? Is anyone also concerned about security of the cameras? I have not looked into this but certainly is a concern for all wireless devices.

  15. Big brother will be watching.
    …Give them an inch now and before you know it, you are not a citizen but just another source of revenue. Massachusetts already has a 2 teir “justice” system. This just makes it worse.

  16. Hi Will, Thanks for this. Like others, I’m concerned about privacy and the potential for abuse. I can see some benefits here, but like Dave I’m wondering why there are no listed uses regarding crosswalks and pedestrians. If we’re going to do this, let’s also include fines/violations for the very frightening car v. pedestrian encounters, like the ones that happen often in my neighborhood. I’ve reached out to my municipality, to no avail–I’ve never once seen enforcement of pedestrian safety at any of the dangerous intersections (being dangerous because many drivers seem to consider themselves superior to pedestrians and as if they have universal right of way.) There are intersections near me where cars ignore pedestrians in a crosswalk, with a walk sign, almost run people over, and then get angry a the pedestrians. One time I was almost run over twice by the same car with a driver I could see was not paying any attention to the road, as it turned in front of me on two streets (as I walked from one corner to the next). I jumped out of the way the first time and, seeing it was the same car, anticipated it the second time. I’m a very aware pedestrian and there are corners where I feel I’m taking my life into my hands to cross, even with the light. To me, this is exactly the kind of violation a traffic camera will catch that other enforcements would have a hard time with.

  17. NO this is a slippery slope to get more revenue for the government at our expense. Big Brother is already everywhere around us, facial recognition surveillance, the RMV putting our drivers license photo in a national database, etc. Please do not allow this to pass.

  18. I’m for whatever deters lawbreaking behavior, with proper privacy provisions written in. However, I have a personal story that makes me cautious:
    Several years ago I received a citation by mail for failure to pay the toll in the Ted Williams Tunnel in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I had never in my life been in the Ted Williams Tunnel, nor was I out on that Saturday night/Sunday morning. Further, it said that my vehicle was a VW, but I have a Honda. I appealed online and got it reversed, but a year later I got another citation for the same thing, with a penalty for late payment. Luckily I had saved all relevant information and got it reversed again. I continue to save the info in case I receive yet another erroneous citation. What does this tell us about electronic enforcement? That it is not 100% accurate and that individuals can get lost in electronic hell.

  19. Automated Traffic Enforcement sounds like an excellent use of technology. A real plus is if it deters drivers from blocking intersections – a habit which is rather common here. Don’t know why. Seems that blocking an intersection would be less common in view of the high educational level of Boston residents.

    1. > Seems that blocking an intersection would be less common in view of > the high educational level of Boston residents.

      You’re not originally from around here, are you?

  20. Camera surveillance has gotten way out of line. Abuse is rampant and Big Brother wants to make it worse. This is bad news for our citizens. God help us all.

  21. Is there anything in the law that will allow the municipality to use the plate information to track traffic flow through the area to assist in traffic flow planning? (example randomly collect plate # and follow through different intersections?). And post that cameras are used in this intersection?

    1. That traffic flow info is avaibke because it can be processed using anonymous cell tower info. No need for cameras.

  22. No! I am in favor of using technology to improve traffic flow but not to issue citations and my rational is that a bill written today with personal safeguards does not mean it will not be changed next year to eliminate the personal safeguards. And with the progressive politicians in charge of our state government I just do not trust that they will keep the safeguards in place. Again NO!

    1. No images captured at all unless a violation. This is not surveillance. Police are already doing real surveillance with automated license plate readers that are scooping location data of thousands of drivers who have committed no violation. That is surveillance and something we all need to think about, but this measure is very modest.

  23. Clearly, this problem demands new and creative solutions BUT…
    In this proposal, how many cameras are going up, and who decides where they will be placed?
    I live on a busy corner where we regularly see all these violations. Will we get a camera? Also, we have bicyclists making their own rules and oversized trucks that are banned, but here in the intersection anyway. Shouldn’t they all be cited if caught on camera?
    Finally, how does this idea belly up to the new hands-free cell phone law? What if the camera catches those violators?
    In my book, EZ Pass is a great technological innovation that keeps everyone paying and keeps us all moving more swiftly on interstates. It’s equitable. I’m not convinced that this traffic camera idea is as well fleshed out.

  24. What can possibly be “fair and reasonable” and “private” when the state is compiling photographs of everyone and everything? Even if photos are kept for “only” a day/week/month/five years, privacy is destroyed for an individual by simply moving about in an urban area. I know facial recognition can easily be combined with these lenses adding other risks for society and the individual, including the exercise of democracy. What is a citizen to do?
    I’ll just mention a few other things from my own experience. If speed limits are really a concern instead of a trap, placing speed limits along a street would be important. In Watertown there are only three 30 mph signs on the entire length of North Beacon Street. I think there were two on Arsenal Street. In the proposed bill, I noticed that a Town Manager has some say—but this is not an elected position. In Watertown, until we have a mayor, it is the Council that is responsive to the public directly.
    I would not want to deal with Right Turn on Red violations until the placements of signs prohibiting such turns are standardized and placed across the street and under the traffic light easily visible to the car approaching the intersection. Unfortunately, there are some in Watertown, for instance, placed yards from the corner on the right sidewalk. These signs may not be visible to drivers behind a truck or large vehicle and easily unobserved as traffic goes along in the best of times. Others are so high on the light pole arms that they aren’t seen unless the driver nearest the intersection is leaning across the steering wheel and looking up high.
    Lastly, the difficulties of working with private concerns caused Los Angeles to end photo taking at intersections a few years ago. I hope you will investigate the program briefly there. The reasons I heard about were that private providers were setting timers on the cameras to increase the ticket volume to increase their own percentage of profits. There was no standard time for making the crossing through any intersection on yellow. The photos included the driver of the car and anyone else sitting in range of the camera, front and back seat. There was some question of drivers slamming on brakes to avoid a yellow light in an intersection so cars behind were at risk and the normal flow of traffic was disrupted. LA decided that the damages outweighed the benefits of the camera enforcement project.
    One would think that the creativity of planners would be focused on finding a better way to move traffic along and insure safety. Speed limits must be slowed down in residential areas and streets shared with people and bicyclists. More pedestrian-initiated crosswalk lights are important and the lights should be in the street along the crosswalk (installers say that they survive snowplows). It gets dark so early in winter that a person crossing a street is invisible. I wouldn’t be surprised if making sure all the street lines have fresh paint each year would improve safety conditions as well. I don’t see how taking photos of people can provide the safety the bill proposes without destroying privacy. Privacy is foremost to me since there could surely be other methods thought up for insuring safety.

    1. Barbara and Elodia,

      I understand the privacy concern broadly, but this measure is miniscule compared to what is already happening all over the world with cameras and the internet. And it is justified to protect vulnerable road users. People are getting hurt and killed on the roads and we need this.

    1. How many new government employees would be added to the payroll? What would be the general cost to add all this new equipment? I would prefer to see public notices on the TV and cellphones as reminders.every so often.

  25. Nope. I read 1984. Was not a fan. This could be too easily abused down the road. This is a cash grab under the guise of safety. I cant trust the technology not to ticket without justification. Then I have to spend my time and money I dont have fighting a ticket because of a computer error. If you’re innocent but can’t afford to fight it.. you’re guilty, pay up..
    This is a mistake and shouldn’t happen.

  26. Not a fan of automated tickets. Everyone I know who lives near them has a complaint they never bother to file about times they moved over for a cruiser to get thru or were in a funeral procession, and received tickets, or they took it to the office and were refused to have the ticket removed. It won’t benefit the local area, so I hope they will not make it to my neighborhood. Call me always tilting at windmills, but maybe some lawyer can get on this when it happens. Because there’s always going to be mistakes. Remember the news reports of duplicate plates? MA has thousands of duplicate license plates. It would be nice if they could fix the plate issue before this goes into law.

  27. Surely this is not the best way to spend money that is in short supply in municipalities. We have become obsessed with police and safety through punishment. Spend this money to make roads intersection of passageways signage and other forms of infrastructure and Technology better, not punishing everyone with surveillance for the few who may sporadically make bad judgments. It’s a sledgehammer of social intrusion, inappropriate 4 the outcome and ensuing prices to pay on all fronts

  28. Will,

    I am worried about this. The government and corporations are increasing their surveillance of us: through cameras, the internet, Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc. Amazon now has as new technology called Ring, which they sell to the police.

    A respected scholar at HBS, Shoshana Zuboff, has written a book called The Age of Mass Surveillance which details all of these attempts to take away our privacy.

    Will you please introduce legislation that will do more to protect it

  29. NO. NO. NO. This is another step in already pervasive surveillance and has been repeatedly shown to be a cash grab by private companies, usually donating to those pushing the laws. We should be strengthening privacy protections, not hastening a surveillance state.

  30. I would like to see red light runners, intersection blockers, and the rest dealt with, but––
    I fear that if the driver isn’t captured in the picture that every violation is going to be appealed with the claim that “it wasn’t me, I wasn’t driving.” and there will be no way to prove who it was. As much as I’m an advocate of privacy, this particular concern doesn’t seem to be an issue in other jurisdictions AFAIK.
    And we’re doing this at a time when many states and municipalities are retreating from automated enforcement. Why has New Hampshire, e.g., banned red light cameras?
    In some states the revenues from automated enforcement goes to trauma centers and traffic safety programs rather than into state coffers. Or maybe it could be used to fund adding a written test of basic traffic law and traffic safety for license renewal. Heaven only knows there seem to be plenty of people who don’t know some of the most basic traffic laws and right-of-way rules. (Yes, right turn on red, after stopping, is legal; unless there’s a sign posted that says otherwise. This includes a lighted red arrow. It’s true. Look it up in the Mass. traffic laws if you don’t believe me.)

  31. Will,
    I give you a lot of credit for bringing forth a controversial issue, with the right frame of mind based on safety. I liked the suggestion of limiting the number of cameras (population) – but that means 8-10 in Belmont alone, and capping the revenue generated to cover the cost (but would prefer the overage of anything like this to go to something not directly associated with government because it really does become a revenue driver for someone or some towns/cities. Not sure where that “donation” should go but not to the government.
    Lastly I like the idea that it doesn’t hit your RMV record. Some people might think it should be but with a family of five with three cars, we are paying a fortune already for insurance.
    All that said, my emphatic response to this legislation is NO! Even with your positive intentions, its just not worth the privacy issue. This will lead to too many other ways to “leverage” the technology.
    I thought I was going to be in the minority but was happy to read most of your constituents on the blog have agreed (politely or not).
    Thanks for asking for the feedback but please do not move this forward.

  32. Please add a provision that this will never be handled by a private party, but either by the municipality or a state government agency. My mother got a ticket in CA from a camera where a right turn on red was allowed. I cannot get this private company in Arizona to stop sending increasingly threatening letters and fines. My mother died shortly after that ticket and even with a death certificate, they still will not stop.

  33. Hi Will,

    Thanks for bringing this up. I wholly support this effort, and hope to see this proposal enacted into law.

    A shockingly high number of Americans die in car crashes every year – I believe it’s nearly 40,000 people – and limited automated enforcement of safety-related rules like these, with fines set to a similar dollar amount as a parking ticket, is a fair, reasonable way to deter unsafe driving. Putting signs before enforcement zones means that anyone who is paying attention will be able to easily avoid an automated penalty (put another way, the primary people who receive tickets under this bill will be drivers not paying attention).

    Though safety is deservedly the primary reason to support the bill, I also agree that congestion plays a role in this. More and more, I see drivers running red lights, and not just immediately after the light has turned red. It’s hard to imagine that frustration about congestion doesn’t contribute to the rise in people driving unsafely to save time on the road. It’s important that we continue to provide opportunities and incentives for those who live in denser, congestion-prone parts of the state to switch to transit and other denser, less-congestion-inducing modes of transportation, since reducing congestion would also reduce unsafe driving.

  34. Having chaired the public safety committee in my section of Boston for several years, I heard plenty about the injuries and deaths caused by drivers speeding, running red lights and stop signs or making illegal turns. I also learned about the very real limits of police enforcement and city engineering and other efforts to calm traffic. We have many too many drivers who recklessly flout the law. If we are not prepared to put more police on the roads to do traffic safety enforcement (and we’re not), cameras are literally the only other tool left to help constrain these reckless drivers. Let’s go for it. And make the fines the same as if the police had stopped the driver.

  35. I implore you to rescind the introduction of this bill.

    This 10 year study in Australia showed that red light cameras had no effect on safety

    http://thenewspaper.com/news/64/6402.asp

    This will expose the commonwealth of Massachusetts to lawsuits.

    https://www.brproud.com/news/baton-rouge-could-pay-out-millions-if-the-city-loses-red-light-camera-lawsuit/

    Instead of trying to use punitive techniques, thinking they will increase safety when they are scientifically proven to do the opposite, why don’t we focus on more constructive techniques such as:

    * Increase the yellow-light timing. Maryland officials recently admitted that longer yellows reduce red light violations. Same in Chicago.
    * Add an all-red clearance interval
    * Make traffic lights more visible.
    * Improve intersections for motorists.
    * Re-time traffic signals

    An issue quoted by a NY traffic engineer: “The fines are exactly the same whether you blast through a red at 70 mph ten seconds into the cross street green, or if you only stop for 0.5 seconds before a right on red, or if you miss the yellow/red change during the first 1 second of the all-red when there is no one in danger, or if you stop but you are 12? past the stop line (also not putting anyone in danger). The fine structure is not at all in line with the relative danger being posed.”

    I personally worry about people slamming on the brakes at a yellow to avoid a red light violation and causing an accident. Here are 10 more reasons to rethink this:

    Reason #1: Residents of your Fair City will despise the Program?A high majority of your city’s residents and visitors will absolutely despise the program. Most will see it as a cash grab, not a safety program. At least sixteen states ban automated ticketing due to public opposition and some others don’t have programs because the legislature never authorized them.

    Reason #2: Red-light Camera Programs will likely lose in a Public Vote?Red-light and/or speed cameras have lost 36 of 40 public votes so far. Given a chance, voters reject red-light and/or speed cameras 90% of the time. And votes are a far more accurate view of voters’ true positions than polls. 
    Reason #3: Red-Light Cameras are a Policing for Profit Scheme?The Public Information Research Group (PIRG) published a major report in 2011 detailing how and why red-light cameras are often abused for profits, not safety.
    Involving for-profit ticket camera companies in any part of traffic enforcement virtually guarantees that the real focus will be profits, not safety – because profits are the only real motive of the for-profit camera companies.
    Reason #4: Many times, the Presence of Red-Light Cameras will often increase crash rates?It doesn’t happen at every intersection, but red-light cameras often increase total crash rates at camera intersections. Higher crash rates cannot be considered an acceptable result of any safety program. Unbiased sources of data and its analysis are always the best, not data or analysis from any group in the revenue stream from red-light cameras.
    A statewide report was released in Florida in January 2017 stating that crashes go up at red-light camera intersections. Eleven months before, Tampa released a city-wide audit, which indicated that 19 of the 22 RLC intersections had more accidents with a total increase of 39 percent.
    In a 2013 report from Philadelphia, ten years of accident data showed that there was a 27 percent increase in the number of collisions involving an injury at red-light cameras intersections. Angle collisions did not decrease as promised by the camera company.
    From 2009, an NMA blog post on an investigation on red-light cameras in Los Angeles (NOTE: the red-light cameras were later removed at the specific request of the police authorities.)

    Many other studies on the NMA website indicate similar results.
    Reason #5: For increased Safety, Lengthen Yellow Light Timings?If the yellow traffic light intervals are set long enough for the actual perception/reaction times and actual approach speeds of at least 85% of the drivers, the violation rates will likely be too low to justify cameras for either safety or financial reasons.
    Cities should first try adding just one second to the yellow intervals, an amount that usually compensates for short perception/reaction times and too-low approach speeds. The violation rates will almost certainly drop by at least 60% and more likely 70% to 90%, proving that engineering is the real answer, not punitive enforcement with cameras using yellow intervals left slightly too short for the actual conditions.
    Denton, Texas recently experimented in April 2018 with one red-light camera intersection. They lengthened the yellow light timings by one second and immediately saw a 62 percent cut in RLC violations. This may prompt the city that is having budget trouble due to overtime payments to police for red-light camera enforcement to reconsider the program in the future.
    The NMA website has a number of articles and studies concerning yellow light timings. Particularly note the compendium of information by Safer Streets L.A. that shows the reduced violation rates with longer yellow intervals are permanent, not temporary as falsely claimed by the for-profit camera companies.
    Reason #6: Mostly Safe Drivers are Fined for Slow Rolling Right on Red Turns?Most cities with red-light cameras also use them to fine almost entirely safe drivers making slow rolling right on red turns.  Federal research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a Report to Congress shows that right on red turns (The research included turns with or without a full stop.) are involved in only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of crashes with injuries or fatalities. Almost every slow rolling right on red camera ticket goes to a safe driver who endangered no one.
    Reason #7: Vast Majority of Drivers Receive Tickets for less than one second into the Red?A disconnect exists in the sales presentation claims by the for-profit camera companies and the videos they put out. The sales premise of stopping the dangerous crashes is simply false. Those crashes and near misses occur with violations after the lights have been red for several seconds, often five to nine seconds into the red is the most dangerous interval. Those drivers never recognized the lights were red because the drivers were heavily distracted by something, DUI, medically impaired, under the influence of legal or illegal drugs, severely fatigued, etc. – or even fleeing police. Sending those drivers bills in the mail weeks later does not stop those terrible crashes because the drivers never recognized the lights were already red until too late.
    The vast majority of camera tickets will go to safe drivers for harmless violations of less than one second into the red. Those drivers clear the intersections during the all-red phase plus the short start up delay before the cross traffic moves into the intersections when they get green lights. Their crash risks for those inadvertent split-second violations often caused by too-short yellows are zero – because the cross traffic is not yet in the intersection.
    The for-profit camera companies depend upon ticketing mostly safe drivers for harmless technical fouls and then splitting the profits with their city business partners.
    Reason #8: RLCs are Regressive for Lower Income Drivers?Red-light camera fines are very regressive for lower income citizens. The fines may be seen as just an annoying “road tax” to a middle-class executive, but can be punishingly large to service workers in minimum wage jobs with families to try to house, feed and clothe. Some of these low-income workers will be unable to pay the fines and may then be subject to collection efforts, suspended vehicle registrations or driver’s licenses, or other sanctions. The practical results for many poor people may be a lot like putting them in debtor prisons, unable to legally drive to work.
    Michigan went through a terrible 14-year tragedy with a wrongful Drivers Responsibility Fees law that was finally repealed this year, in part due to long term efforts by Michigan’s judges and the NMA. Some 350,000 low income drivers who could never pay the fees will finally be able to get their suspended driver’s licenses reinstated after October 1st of this year – and be able to drive to get to jobs and rejoin the work force as productive citizens.
    It would be best if any state never risks such a tragedy for your lower income citizens.
    Reason #9: The Local Economy will Suffer?Ticket cameras do serious economic damage to your businesses, their employees and ultimately hurt your tax base. The Federal Reserve calculates the “Velocity of Money” at about six times per year, meaning $100 spent on January 1st will circulate though the year to produce about $600 in total sales of goods and services by December 31st. Red-light cameras usually cost at least $4,000 per month per camera.
    For Example, If Boston installs 40 red-light cameras, this will likely cost at least $160,000 per month or $1.9+ million dollars per year – just to the vendor. Circulating about six times in a year, this $1.9+ million will produce $11+ million dollars of total sales of goods and services, almost all of that economic turnover in the state where the for-profit camera vendor is located. It would be far better to keep that economic activity in Boston and Massachusetts to benefit your economies, rather than improving the economies of Arizona, or Florida where several of the major for-profit camera companies are located.
    Reason #10: RLC Programs are on the Downslide Nationwide?Red-light camera programs are decreasing nationwide and starting one now in your city would put you on the wrong side of the decreasing numbers of red-light camera programs. The NMA believes the current quoted number of 421 programs from the IIHS is high, because some programs have been closed and some of listings are duplicates under the same government authority. We are working on a list to ask the IIHS to revise their count to be more accurate.
    A five year “pilot” program in New Jersey was shut down in 2014 after high public opposition and without data to show real safety results.
    Eighty California cities were reported to have dropped red-light cameras, or prohibited them before any were installed. There are now only 29 active programs in California in a state that once had over 100. Cathedral City was the latest CA community to end the use of cameras.
    Kingman, Arizona just decided not to restart a closed red-light camera program.
    If you would like to add to this list, drop the NMA a comment below.
    You can read a great deal more material on the NMA website about red-light cameras and why they are almost entirely about money, not safety.
    The NMA urges every city to totally reject the idea of using red-light cameras, and make some simple engineering adjustments to traffic lights and intersections to make them safer and sharply reduce violation rates.

    1. HI, Scott, the 10 reasons you post from the National Motorists Association generally don’t apply to the conservative implementation we are proposing. The NMA describes itself as “a membership-based organization dedicated to protecting the rights of the motoring public.” I note that they have a whole page devoted to how to fight tickets. Fair enough, I’m all about protecting people from overreaching enforcement — I am a former defense attorney — but I’m also concerned about the pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and more cautious drivers that this bill is also designed to protect. The 10 year study in Australia reaches a conclusion precisely opposite to how you cite it — you are citing a critique of it which may or may not be valid, but the study itself found safety benefits.

  36. Red light cams cause more accidents than they prevent.
    The no turn on red signs are not standardized (they are placed in different places and are often hidden).
    THINK, WILL, THINK
    THINK – STOP HARASSING PEOPLE

    We should all vote Will out of office.

    1. This issue, has provoked an extra amount of vitriol. I guess we all carry around some deep cynicisms, and for good reason.
      However, to reply to Mickey – of course, your opinion is valid. Yet I am all the more adamant about keeping Senator Will IN office. Can’t think of another politician I trust more these days.

      1. I support many of Will’s positions, but his traffic ideas are arcane, misguided and not based in science or traffic engineering. They heavily favor a very small percentage of the populace or road vehicles, and inconvenience the majority.

  37. Long overdue. Great first step, although it is almost too watered down and meek.
    There shouldn’t be any assurance of privacy when breaking law and endangering/ killing pedestrians and other drivers unfortunate enough to be in the path of of those who lose all of their common sense behind the wheel. And lately driving crazy is more of the norm then not. I am tired of hearing lame privacy argument every time attempts are made to rein in crazy driving with some real life consequences for being danger to self and others (all while being glued to phones that track every swipe and move?).
    There should be a surcharge for insurance too. Every driver should think long and hard if driving dangerously while flaunting rules pays off or not, and traffic cameras are great step in that direction. This will not solve all of our problems, but should cut on some of obnoxious driving behaviors. Especially if we want to be part of civilized society, and rest of civilized world.
    My kids walk to school, and stories they can tell you about unnecessary danger and stress they have experienced many times while obeying all the pedestrian rules. Shame on us adults for creating this issue in the first place.

  38. This is just more Big Brother watching. No to this legislation, a big no. You aren’t going to change people’s driving habits, you’re just going to make more money. And the whiplash injuries from people stopping suddenly will raise insurance rates and cause more medical bills.

  39. Please put this on the state ballot in November. Let the voters decide.
    This camera ticking scheme is a systemic money grab. Much like insurers extorting premiums from me to cover a family member has moved home but does not drive (hates driving, preferring to use public transport and ride sharing). These insurers will not list him as a ‘excluded driver’ on the policy. Instead these insurers claim that the only way for me exclude him and avoid paying the additional premium is for the family member to move out or voluntarily surrender his license. The insurers claim that their basis to do this is set by the state insurance commission. It is an uphill fight to challenge this premium grab. Likewise, this camera ticketing scheme is going morph into a similar systemic pretext to extort cash from the driving public. NO, I do not support this legislation.

  40. Traffic safety is correlated to traffic congestion. The legislature should focus on improving the public transport infrastructure rather that finding ways to collect $$$ in the name of public safety. who is lobbying for this? The for profit camera enforcement vendors?

  41. Sir,
    Your proposals are going ti lose you your seat. On principle, you ma may have a point, in practicality, it us unfeasible and inadvisable.

  42. And a half-hour later I see on the news the story of a mother hit and her dog killed by a driver who didn’t stop at a flashing red (not in Watertown). No one around who could, so far, identify the car or driver…Pity there was no camera there.

  43. I’d like to see one more enforceable action: stopping in a bicycle lane. Uber and Lyft drivers use bicycle lanes as if they were taxi ranks and it is producing unsafe conditions.

  44. I strongly support this proposal. Although there may be some downside, too, I feel that the value of deterring the dangerous and inconsiderate behavior of drivers in our community outweighs that.

    Follow up studies should be required to determined whether any of the negative consequences cited by other writers do occur.

    The maximum fine and the fact that the violation does not become part of the violator’s record are too lenient. I recognize that, as a new technology is first introduced it makes sense to proceed cautiously. Once this technology is proven, fines and punishments should be increased to correspond with those imposed when violators are caught by police officers.

    Note that the public that is injured, endangered or inconvenienced by traffic law violators is much larger than the “public” that benefits from getting away with breaking the law. We should not protect traffic law violators. Most of us suffer from this situation.

    I am interested to learn about the studies regarding yellow light timing. Such changes should also be considered but these are completely consistent with automated enforcement. We should do both.

    BTW: I support providing drivers licenses and insurance to illegal aliens. This makes us safer and builds a stronger community.

  45. Thank you Senator Brownsberger for supporting this important legislation. Red light cameras save lives, and automated enforcement is critical if our new bus-only lanes are to have any significant effect.

      1. Read the underlying study. I agree that from a pure vehicle-to-vehicle crash standpoint red light cams can be a wash, but the study shows that they do deter running the red light, which is good for pedestrians. We should be using these cameras in urban pedestrian settings where there are a lot of vulnerable road users. Also this study has no applicability to the other 5 uses of cameras authorized by this law.

  46. Fixing infrastructure to prevent traffic violations and improve safety is the way forward. This American notion of criminalizing every aspect of life to get better behavior is infantile. We need to be thinking forwards not backwards. We need leaders willing to take risks to make this state better. But we don’t; we have politicians who can’t think outside the box and would rather do what everyone else is doing and everyone else is failing at. We should be looking to get traffic incidents down to zero ASAP and this comes with better infrastructure.

    Automated traffic enforcement puts a band-aid on a stab wound that punctured an artery. Using ATE hinders actual, real, working safety improvements on our roadways and kicks the can down the street. Using ATE may slightly improve roadway safety (based on studies that researched roadways dissimilar to Boston’s and Massachusetts’), so, I find that questionable as well.

    Massachusetts roads are the safest in the country without any sort of ATE. Will we get safer somehow? Probably not. Why? These cameras are shown to increase accidents at lower speeds. What happens in the greater Boston area? Lower speeds. We’re not Montana. We don’t have 65 MPH roads with people’s houses on them.

    You can say that, “this is better than nothing, and this will not prevent infrastructure improvements,” but, again it may actually be worse than nothing (as I suggested), and we all know it will prevent infrastructure improvements. We’ll pass this bill and do nothing to actually make the roadways safer, like what happens with everything else you legislators do. You refuse to take risks to make this state better. You refuse to be a leader of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. It’s truly a shame we have politicians like you.

    ATE is the wrong way forward. Do better.

  47. This legislation is long overdue. Red has become the new yellow; the result is frightening. I am grateful to the legislators who are supporting this effort.

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