El Mirage police chief: Speeding surges on Grand Avenue after camera ban
Since Arizona banned the use of traffic cameras on state highways this spring, speeding incidents have climbed an average of 250 percent on Grand Avenue in El Mirage.
In 2009, El Mirage had opted to begin a traffic safety camera program due to a history of speed-related violations and crashes involving drivers traveling within the city and along Grand Avenue (U.S. 60).
Because Grand Avenue is within the city, El Mirage is responsible for providing police response.
The roadway conditions along Grand Avenue create an unsafe situation for our law enforcement officers, which include:
- an extremely narrow safety lane on the north side.
- guard rails and a deep culvert on the south side.
- a frontage road running parallel to Grand Avenue.
By using photo enforcement technology on Grand, the city was able to enforce safer speeds, reduce the risk of crashes with injuries for the traveling public and reduce the need to place the city’s police officers in harm’s way.
Cameras go dark, speeding surges
Now that the Arizona State Legislature has banned automated photo enforcement on state highways, El Mirage is experiencing a surge in speeding incidents along this stretch of Grand Avenue.
Two camera systems monitoring eastbound and westbound speeding incidents along Grand Avenue were turned off March 16, following restrictions on photo enforcement imposed by the state.
While the enforcement systems have not captured or stored any photographic data since then, the sensors have continued to monitor the speed and number of vehicles traveling along that section of the roadway. The city is using this information to assess program effectiveness and potential roadway dangers.
In May, just over a full month after the cameras went dark, 7,361 westbound speeding incidents were recorded, a 179 percent increase from May 2015. Eastbound, 13,675 speeding incidents were recorded, a 319 percent increase from the same time last year. Speeding is defined in this instance as cars travelling 11 miles per hour over the state-mandated speed limit of 45 mph.
Crashes up too
Without the camera deterrent, we are seeing more and more unsafe driving along Grand Avenue. This is an extremely serious matter as lives are at stake.
The city has experienced more collisions since the cameras were turned off. From March 16 to June 15, there were six collisions (three injury and three non-injury), versus two non-injury collisions for the same time period last year.
Crashes cause traffic delays, require police, fire and EMS resources, cause property damage and, worst of all, can lead to injuries and untimely deaths.
Many people think speeding is a victimless crime until they become the victim, or someone they love dies. According to the most recent data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding contributed to 30 percent of all fatal crashes in 2012, and the annual economic cost of all speeding-related crashes in the United States exceeded $40 billion.
Photo enforcement is one of the tools that I consider a force multiplier and is indiscriminate. It allows our police personnel to continue to address calls for domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes that impact the strength of our families and still have a presence in controlling speed on our streets.
Now, with the passage of this legislation, we are evaluating other methods and tools available to better patrol speeding along this dangerous stretch of roadway since our officers cannot safely pull over drivers along a divided highway separated by a median, and without a shoulder.
To learn more about the city’s traffic safety initiatives, visit El Mirage Police Department at www.cityofelmirage.org/police.