What is the best way to cut the number of speeding motorists on our roads? Saul Wordsworth looks at the latest high- (and low-) tech methods that road authorities and enforcement agencies are using to keep traffic moving and improve safety.
Speeding is illegal, and dangerous. Risk of causing death or serious injury in a crash increases exponentially with vehicle speed. As your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples. According to a study1 carried out by the USA’s AAA Foundation in 2011, the average adjusted, standardized risk of death if a vehicle strikes you as a pedestrian at 23mph is 10%, at 32mph the risk is 25%, at 42mph the risk is 50%, at 50mph it’s 75%, and if the vehicle is traveling at 58mph and you are unlucky enough to be hit by it, you have a 90% chance of dying.
Most of us have heard these statistics or similar ones before, but they are worth repeating, for it is human nature to forget, which is why speed education and enforcement are so essential. Traffic managers and police operatives who are concerned with keeping road networks free of accidents and the resulting congestion, as well as enforcing speed limits, will do well to consider some of the obvious – and less obvious – ways in which speeding is addressed around the world.
Speeding in the City of Angels
“We do a lot of tried-and-tested stuff like electric traffic signs with messages to remind people, plus radar displays,” says Capt. Andrew Neiman, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Valley Traffic Division. “We also use social media as much as possible regarding issues related to speeding. We try to include a recent tragic incident where somebody was injured or lost their life, and where the primary cause was speed. We remind people that slowing down by 5mph only adds two minutes to a typical 30-minute journey. When my officers stop someone, our focus is education as much as penalizing, in an attempt to effect behavior change. It’s a constant process.”
Like many jurisdictions, the LAPD uses traffic data to justify speed enforcement schemes, tracking collisions daily and building up a risk profile.
“We are very much entrenched in predictive policing here,” says Neiman. “We started using that for crime, but are now applying it for traffic collisions. We look at statistical data daily and create missions for our traffic enforcement officers utilizing a combination of statistics and the predictive policing model. This is an algorithm running on years of statistical data to predict where enforcement should be done in order to prevent injury or fatal collisions.”
In the past five years, the LAPD has been acquiring video cameras for use in both in its vehicles and more recently via body-worn devices. Full implementation is close to completion. All video footage is maintained in a secure database and is admissible in court as evidence.
“The in-vehicle camera is a fixed, mounted camera that faces forward right behind the rear-view mirror,” says Neiman. “The officer can either activate it manually, or the system is automatically triggered anytime the officer operates the emergency lights. There is a two-minute buffer. The camera is constantly recording, but it is not activated until the button is hit. When you hit the button it will capture and maintain two minutes prior to the point of triggering so that hopefully all the violation will be captured on the video.”
The Canadian city of Laval has paired up with the local fire department and the Quebec automobile insurance board to devise an ingenious method of teaching motorists about the impact of speeding. Once a year, Laval mocks up the immediate aftermath of a car accident, pulling in speeding drivers and bringing them to the scene in an effort to relay the impact their behavior might have on them and others. What they are presented with is shocking: a vehicle on fire, a large police presence, firefighters with hydraulic rescue tools – the so-called ‘jaws of life’ – attempting to ‘rescue’ an imaginary victim from this simulated scene. On hand last year was Nicholas Terresco – a paralyzed victim of a speeding motorcycle crash – there to tell his story to those pulled over.
“When they hear me tell them, they think, ‘Oh, it can happen to me too’,” he says.
Trial by radio
Still in Canada, Toronto’s traffic safety department has been experimenting with a most unusual and innovative means by which to embarrass speeders. Roger Browne, manager of the Traffic Safety Unit, tells the story: “In 2016 we experimented with a campaign targeting those who, in their attempts to bypass traffic, often end up down roads with schools on them. We would pull over drivers and give them an alternative: either get a ticket, or go live with a radio interview on local station 680 News. The DJs really took these individuals to task, hammering home the message, ‘What were you thinking?’”
Since the media couldn’t be there all day, this approach was combined with an orchestrated dressing down from schoolchildren, who were on hand to dispense a brow-beating.
“No one,” notes Browne, “wants to be told off by a child.”
Targeting the youth
Greater Manchester is one of the more innovative and savvy police forces in the UK, and is constantly searching for new ways to change and improve road-user attitude and behavior. One of its schemes – which it is proud of and committed to – is the Safe Drive Stay Alive initiative targeting 16- to 18-year-olds. This project involved a recent gathering of young Mancunians at Middleton Arena to highlight the problems of speeding. In a packed auditorium, those with yellow seat covers were asked to stand. The 93 who did were told they represented the number of young people killed on the city’s roads in the past 10 years.
Project TED (Technology Enhanced Driving) was introduced in Manchester 2015 in an attempt to introduce young people to telematics devices (see Black Box Success?, above) while dispelling the negative connotations.
“It’s about getting data to the driver, providing extensive feedback and encouraging them to drive better,” says Sam Li of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). “TED is now part of CityVerve, a Manchester project pioneering the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in an effort to redefine ‘smart’ in the context of a living, working city.
“CityVerve aims to provide insight into how all manner of people drive, and how technology can help all of us really,” says Li. “Greater Manchester Police record all killed and serious injured collisions (KSI) on a national database. TfGM analyzes the data on a regular basis and identifies locations and routes containing a high incidence of speed-related KSIs. With enough data from CityVerve we could get very precise information about aggressive braking at certain junctions, drill right down into what drivers do and where, building an even fuller picture.”
Scope for education, with or without the deployment of technology, is almost limitless. Witness Transport for London’s recent Exchanging Places scheme, an initiative giving cyclists, HGV and bus drivers the chance to switch places to understand what it’s like to drive other modes of transport, as well as the dangers their actions pose to other road users.
However, increasingly, technology will play the defining role in our education. As vehicles become more connected, there will be the opportunity to make greater use of data to inform and instruct drivers about their speed and driving style, not to mention curbing their excesses and correcting errors. Driving safely is a choice and the opportunity exists, through a greater volume of more accurate information, to help drivers make the right choice.
WannaCry for ITS?
Could ITS be hijacked in the future by malicious hackers wishing to extort money from road authorities? One recent high-profile incident suggests so
In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected over two million computers across 150 countries, bringing to its knees Deutsche Bank, FedEx, a Honda production plant in Japan, and parts of Britain’s NHS. Also affected was Victoria Police in Melbourne, Australia, in particular 280 speed and red light cameras, encompassing the state’s entire fleet. As a result more than 8,000 fines were suspended.
WannaCry exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s file-sharing protocol to carry out its attack. It is thought the spread of malware occurred as a result of a maintenance worker connecting an infected USB stick to the camera system, leaving the cameras in continual reboot mode. It was initially thought that only the 55 cameras found within Melbourne’s inner-city had been affected by the ransomware. However, it came to light that at least 42 further devices had been compromised, but initially failed to inform the Justice department.
“It’s important that we give the public some confidence around our camera system in Victoria,” said Victoria Police’s acting deputy commissioner of specialist operations, Ross Guenther. “These cameras are about saving lives, so until I’m satisfied, I think the public will expect those fines are withdrawn.”
Black box success?
Can incar technology positively affect driving styles, and even help to educate users to drive more safely in the future?
Whatever one may think about issues surrounding personal freedom, there is little doubt that Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) reduces our road speed and therefore the number of speed-related accidents, although this is more an unavoidable influence on driver behavior than a means to educate. What, then, of black box technology?
“Telematics, also known as ‘black box insurance policies’, have seen a big increase in the UK in the last few years,” says Rob Cummings, head of Motor and Liability at the Association of British Insurers. “The youngest drivers tend to face the highest insurance premiums, reflecting their likelihood to make claims, in particular large ones involving multiple casualties.
“Black box technology lets young people demonstrate they are safer than the average pool of drivers their age by monitoring their driving over a number of miles, or a period of time,” he continues. “It doesn’t only look at speed, but also cornering, and takes into account variations of road, and time of day. Many systems offer feedback to the driver on where they have made mistakes. It helps to encourage better and safer driving, and there is some evidence it’s taken the edge off price increases for some young drivers.”
While this technology may indeed “encourage better and safer driving”, it does not do this on its own, according to a report carried out in 2015 by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory. It must be combined with other methods in order to be effective. “It has been demonstrated that telematics can influence driver behavior in a desirable manner when combined with feedback and incentives,” it says.
It also states that telematics tend to “manipulate behavior” while being used and do not lead to “sustained behavior change”.
2.7 -The number of road deaths in the UK in 2015, per 100,000 of population
(total: 1,732 fatalities)
11.3- The number of road deaths in the USA in 2015, per 100,000 of population
(total: 35,092 fatalities)
242 - The estimated annual cost (in US$bn) of vehicle crashes in the USA each year
186,209- The total number of casualties of all severities caused by vehicle crashes
in the UK in 2015
2 - Percent decrease in UK road deaths in 2015, compared with 2014