Philadelphia could be site of speed-enforcement camera pilot


By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard, a treacherous highway that’s well-known for its safety problems, could soon be the site of an experiment in speed control in Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia, has introduced legislation that would allow the placement of speed-enforcement cameras along the roadway, the site of a horrific crash that killed a woman and her three children last year.

If it makes its way into law, Stack’s bill would pave the way for the state’s first speed-enforcement camera, according to his chief of staff, Matt Franchak. It would be another tool to make the 12-lane highway safer since State Farm Insurance found the road included two of the top-three most dangerous intersections in the country at the turn of the century.

SEEING SPEED: A Pennsylvania lawmaker has proposed using speed-enforcement cameras on a dangerous Philadelphia roadway.

“Photo speed enforcement cameras would not have stopped this tragedy by themselves, but as a deterrent, this technology would send a message to every Boulevard motorist, every day, that if they exceed the speed limit on what has always been a dangerous road, they will receive a penalty,” Stack wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors.

Despite the good intentions behind Stack’s bill, the use of cameras raises a litany of concerns from the National Motorists Association.

The group opposes the devices, contending they are often used more as revenue generators and citing studies that show they don’t actually decrease speeding. The NMA also argues that ticket recipients are not quickly or adequately notified and the devices can often be inaccurate.

“It’s a myth to think that because you’re taking the human element out of this that they’re going to be 100 percent reliable. They simply are not,” said John Bowman, an NMA spokesman.

Baltimore’s speed-camera system has been shut down since last spring after accuracy and accountability issues plagued the program. In one instance, an emergency roadside truck from a AAA vehicle was cited for speeding while sitting at a red light — all caught on video, said Jenny Robinson, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Stack, though, cited a study from the Cochrane Collaboration that said photo radar devices can reduce speed-related crashes by as much as 25 percent, and crashes involving fatalities by as much as 44 percent.

The state senator’s legislation calls for the speed-enforcement cameras to be placed on Roosevelt Boulevard from the Bucks County line to Interstate 76. Signs would be posted to notify drivers of the devices.

Tickets would be issued to drivers going 10 mph faster than the posted limits, with violations carrying a $100 fine. The legislation includes several defenses, such as providing evidence that the cited vehicle owner was not the person driving at the time of the violation, as well as stolen vehicles.

Police officers would also have to affirm the tickets before they are sent out, Franchak said.

Philadelphia would manage the system. The winning bidder would pay for the upfront costs of installation and then receive a percentage of fine collections, Franchak said.

Stack’s bill is still in committee, but the lawmaker hopes to have cameras up by next year, his chief of staff said. AAA doesn’t yet have a position on the legislation, but hopes safeguards are in place to make sure the cameras are implemented properly, Robinson said.

“Clearly, speeding is illegal and unsafe and it does need to be addressed,” Robinson said. “But we just want to know that it’s done in the best way.”

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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