ST. GEORGE — Slowing down drivers and improving safety are the objectives of a new pilot program that now considers photo speed monitoring devices, including speed cameras, as an effort to improve road safety.

Rep. Brett Garner y is sponsoring HB-201, an automated traffic safety enforcement program | Photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

Dubbed the traffic enforcement amendments bill, designated HB 201 in the 2024 Utah Legislature, intends to decrease speeding and thereby increase safety as part of the pilot program. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brett Garner, introduced the legislation to create the Speed Safety Camera Pilot Program, which would allow for the use of speed safety cameras, also known as photo radar or automated speed enforcement. These tools would be particularly effective around schools and construction zones — two areas of focus for the program.

It would also allow for the use of these traffic cameras without a peace officer present in some circumstances, describes how the cameras can be used for speed limit enforcement and would limit the number of cameras that could be implemented as an enforcement program. 

Before the bill came an idea 

As far as his decision to introduce such a bill, Garner told St. George News in an email that he has spent a great deal of time at his children’s school, which is located near a busy street in West Valley City. There have been a number of close calls between motorists and students who are walking or riding their scooters to school.

Knowing for myself, other parents, and the crossing guards there are close calls with speeders,” which gave him an idea, he wrote. 

While serving a mission in Australia years ago, he said he noticed cameras and other automated speed enforcement programs that were placed in various locations and appeared to be working well there. So he decided to look into whether a similar program could be implemented in Utah. 

He discovered that automated safety programs have been in use across the country since the programs for over two decades. Since then, there have been significant legislative restrictions implemented into many of the programs that are still active today. 

Garner said he has since spoken with many parents and families who have been struck or injured in crashes that occur in school zones, as well as several workers injured by motorists in construction zones across the state. He has also spoken with the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Police Chiefs Association — both of which have expressed interest in such a program, he said, particularly in sensitive areas where manpower and regular patrols are in short supply. 

The Washington City Police Department weighs in

Stock image | Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said traffic programs such as the one outlined in the bill can be of great benefit, particularly in school and construction zones, which tend to be areas where there is heavy foot, bicycle and scooter traffic.

He also said these automated speed enforcement programs can be a proactive approach to address traffic safety issues in these vulnerable areas and can serve as a coordinated effort that creates an equal balance of enforcement, technology and strategies to enhance public awareness. This can be accomplished by combining high visibility elements designed to create deterrence, as well as digital tools and educational programs to educate motorists about their driving behaviors and how they relate to safety.

He also said an effective traffic safety program is more about providing visible police presence than writing a lot of tickets, and technology can be an important component to help further those efforts.

A number of case studies from areas that are using these automated traffic programs were provided by Garner in an email to St. George News.  

In Toronto, Canada, for example, an automated speed enforcement program was implemented using cameras and speed measurement devices that detect and capture images of vehicles traveling in excess of the posted speed limit. Since its launch, Garner said there has been an 80% drop in the number of speed-related incidents or citations.

In 1987, the Paradise Valley Police Department became the first agency in the nation to utilize photo enforcement to address the steady increase of collisions throughout the town – 400 hundred of them. Shortly after the traffic program was launched, the number of crashes dropped by more than 40%.

Since its introduction last month, Garner said he making a number of changes to the bill, drafts that are being reviewed by a number of stakeholders. He expects to complete and have a hearing on the bill within the next week or so.

The legislation in the original draft indicated the program will not likely change any regulatory burden for residents or businesses across the state.

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