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Status Report, Vol. 48, No. 6 | August 8, 2013 Subscribe

Speed camera enforcement cuts fatality rate 10 percent in France

France's extensive speed camera program has cut crash fatalities in the country, a recent analysis finds.

Researchers in France and Canada compared the number of fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles in France during a four-year period before the camera program started in November 2003 with the seven years following. The researchers found camera enforcement was associated with a 10 percent decline in the fatality rate.

France began blanketing the nation's road network with speed cameras after then-President Jacques Chirac declared a "fight against road violence," and the program has grown steadily since then (see Status Report special issue: speed, Jan. 31, 2008). By 2010, more than 2,750 cameras were operating. Two-thirds of the cameras are in fixed locations and are accompanied by warning signs. The rest are mobile.

Speed cameras have been catching on in the U.S. as well, though they aren't as widespread as red light cameras. A total of 129 communities operate speed camera programs in the U.S., compared with 521 that have red light cameras. Although automated enforcement is often considered controversial, thanks to a vocal minority who oppose it, surveys show support for the programs. A recent IIHS survey of Washington, D.C., residents found that three-quarters support speed cameras, and nearly 9 in 10 support red light cameras (see "In the nation's capital, solid support for automated enforcement," April 25, 2013).

The study of France's speed camera program found that the July 2002 announcement of the initiative, which was widely covered in the media and included not only the introduction of cameras but also increased penalties for traffic violations and the creation of new traffic offenses, was associated with a 12 percent drop in the fatality rate. When the cameras became operational, there was an additional reduction of 10 percent, and that effect persisted over time.

The researchers compared different time periods to be sure the reduction wasn't caused by a recession that started around October 2008 and found the estimates didn't change.

The rate of nonfatal injuries also declined after the announcement and in the first month of the program, but, unlike the effect on fatalities, the effect on injuries diminished over time.

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