Caution: We’re Driving the Wrong Way on Automated Traffic Enforcement

As jurisdictions grapple with growing concerns over traffic safety and the role of police officers in traffic enforcement, there has been a proliferation of automated traffic enforcement (ATE). ATE ecompasses a wide range of technologies including: red light cameras, speed cameras, stop sign cameras, automatic license plate readers, and school bus stop cameras, among others. Despite differences in purpose and design, nearly all, under our current system, are accompanied by fines and a wide range of potential fees. 

When payment of a fine or fee becomes the metric by which successful enforcement is measured, revenue generation rather than safety, becomes the focus. Those who are unable to pay their fines quickly enough can also face sanctions–including license suspensions, warrants, or even jail–while wealthier drivers can simply pay up and continue to drive. What’s more, revenue-generating ATE systems create significant and undeniable harms that should be weighed carefully before implementing, expanding, or continuing existing ATE programs. 

While there is no dispute that traffic safety is an important policy, it’s time we slow down to see that fine-based ATE is neither the most effective, nor the most equitable way to achieve it. 

This comprehensive resource:

  • Examines the shortcomings of using monetary sanctions to create lasting behavioral and safety changes
  • Outlines the harms of using revenue-generating ATE programs 
  • Highlights infrastructure changes and non-financial enforcement as alternatives for creating safer communities
  • Provides government leaders and advocates with recommendations to address income inequities in traffic enforcement and design an equitable and effective traffic safety approach 

Read and download the complete policy guidance here.