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Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

October 22, 2019
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
Michael O. Moore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 109-B
Boston, MA 02133
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
Harold P. Naughton, Jr., House Chair
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

Dear Chair Moore, Chair Naughton, and members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security:

Thank you for holding a hearing on legislation that promotes road safety in Massachusetts. We are asking you to favorably report out S.1376 An Act relative to automated enforcement. Let’s prevent fatalities, crashes, and injuries on Massachusetts streets.

When employed properly, automated enforcement has been shown to effectively reduce unsafe driving behavior, the number of crashes, and the severity of crash-related injuries. This approach also de-emphasizes officer-initiated traffic stops that can cause concern about racial profiling. Automated enforcement is used in 29 other states.

This bill protects the privacy of drivers and other vehicle occupants, since it requires that only photographs of the rear license plate are recorded. Addressing concerns around equity, it requires cameras be placed in locations with a nexus to safety, has fines limited to $25, and would require a statewide study of any racial and socioeconomic disparities three years after enacted. Cities and towns would only be able to receive revenue that accounts for the costs of the program, and any additional revenue received would go to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund.

Serious injury and death from traffic crashes continue with troubling frequency on our streets. S.1376 An Act relative to automated enforcement is a comprehensive piece of legislation which aims to create safer streets for all users.

We encourage you to report this legislation out favorably.

Please find the testimony shared this morning at the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing attached (as prepared).

Sincerely,
Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition


Testimony at hearing:

Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston:
Good Morning Chairs and members of the committee. My name is Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director at WalkBoston. Thank you for the opportunity for myself and two of my colleagues from the Vision Zero Coalition to testify in support of Senate Bill 1376, An Act relative to automated enforcement.

The Vision Zero Coalition was formed in fall 2015 to advocate for the implementation of Vision Zero in Boston, and for the reduction of traffic injuries and deaths across Massachusetts. Our coalition includes community-based organizations, nonprofits, businesses, civic groups, and individuals.

Speeding is a huge public safety issue: the Governor’s Highway Safety Association Report “Speeding Away from Zero” released earlier this year shared that 28% of fatal crashes in 2017 in MA were speeding-related. Higher speed, regardless of limit, is a factor in every traffic fatality or serious crash: there is less reaction time for a person driving to brake or avoid a crash, and a fast moving vehicle inflicts higher blunt force trauma on crash victims. Lower speeds have been found to be safer on our roads.

We are thankful that the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016 gave cities and towns the ability to opt-in to lower the prevailing speed limit to 25 miles per hour and create 20 mph safety zones. Similarly, this bill would allow municipalities to opt-in to a safety camera program, within parameters and limits.

Enforcement is one of the tools that we have to reduce traffic speeds on our roadways. Yet, according to EOPSS statistics, motor vehicle citations have declined close to 25% over the past 5 years. Several factors have contributed to this decline – and we think automated enforcement could help address some of these factors.

Traffic enforcement is an important measure for safety — but it must be done equitably. Equitable automated enforcement could allow enforcement within limited budgets and help to remove police bias in traffic stops, if implemented well.

This bill has several measures to design an equitable program. Local municipalities would approve the locations after a public process, with a limit of one fixed camera per 2,500 residents. This bill calls for an annual report to be sent to MassDOT with locations; and after 3 years, requires a statewide study of racial or socioeconomic enforcement disparities from this act. We are happy to engage with committee and stakeholders on any of the language.

Louisa Gag, LivableStreets Alliance:
Good Morning, my name is Louisa Gag and I’m the Public Policy and Operations Manager at LivableStreets Alliance.

The 2018 Massachusetts Strategic Highway Safety Plan recommended automated enforcement legislation be developed to give municipalities “opt in” authority to issue citations through the use of cameras and radar technology.

And there’s a reason for that. It works – some sort of automated enforcement is used in 29 other states and 130 countries. In Maryland, a study showed that the proportion of drivers traveling more than 10 mph above the speed limit declined by about 70% for locations with warning signs and speed camera enforcement. A National Transportation Safety Board review of 28 automated speed enforcement studies found that cameras reduced crashes between 8-49%. And a UNC study found that for red-light cameras, while sometimes there is a slight increase in rear-end crashes, there is almost always a significant reduction in side-impact crashes, which are typically more severe.

One common concern with automated enforcement is privacy. We believe that these concerns are addressed very well in this bill, but we’d be happy to engage with the committee and other stakeholders to improve it even further. Only photographs of the rear license plate are recorded, so that means no faces are photographed. Photos are only captured when a camera-enforceable violation occurs. 48 hours after final disposition of a violation, images are permanently deleted. Any use of a photograph before that would require a court-approved warrant.
Thank you.

Charlie Ticotsky, Transportation for Massachusetts:
Thank you, my name is Charlie Ticotsky and I’m the Policy Director at the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition.

This bill, which if passed would likely create most thoughtful automated enforcement regulatory structure in the country, clearly presents automated enforcement in the context of safety. It is NOT a money grab for cities and towns. In fact, cities and towns would only be able to receive revenue that accounts for the costs of the program, and any additional revenue would go to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund. The idea is that drivers would not be tricked into violations–the cameras must be clearly marked and obvious and a public awareness campaign prior to them going live would be required. The bill also allows a grace period where motorists would receive only warnings. This bill sets up a system meant to be a deterrent to dangerous driving, not a revenue scheme.

Fines would be limited to 25 dollars, and would not escalate for multiple offenses. It would not lead to increased insurance points. And while it could put your car registration status in jeopardy after serial nonpayment to force repayment, it cannot lead to license suspensions. The fine is on the car owner because there will be no photos of anything but the license plate. There is a provision for emergencies and other exemptions, and an appeals and hearing process.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, unlike in other jurisdictions, private vendors of these cameras would only be allowed to be paid based on the value of equipment and service provided–not on the number of citations issued or revenue generated–so that there will not be pressure from the private companies to increase the number of citations issued or revenue generated.

Thank you very much.

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