Traffic

If you insist on speeding, you might want to practice smiling

Motorists drive past a sign warning of upcoming traffic cameras in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Supreme Court upheld the use of the cameras in 2014. Mississippi banned their use in 2009.
Motorists drive past a sign warning of upcoming traffic cameras in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Supreme Court upheld the use of the cameras in 2014. Mississippi banned their use in 2009. AP File

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to make you a video star — if you are a speeder.

In its latest plan to cut traffic fatalities, the NTSB wants to use traffic cameras to catch and fine speeders. In the case of Mississippi, it recommends the state overturn its 2009 ban on the use of cameras to control traffic. The system it recommends, which uses cameras to measure average vehicle speed between two points and works best on interstates and other controlled access highways, is used in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

“For too long, proven policies to reduce speeding in our communities have been held hostage by outdated standards, costing more than 10,000 lives lost each year,” Leah Shahum, Director of the national Vision Zero Network, said in a release announcing its support of the plan. “The responsibility to prioritize safety over speed falls not just on a driver’s behavior, but also on our policymakers and government institutions that have let this problem fester too long. We urge every state and community to adopt NTSB’s recommendations to stem the tide of preventable suffering on our roadways.”

VisionZero, an initiative that began in Sweden with the lofty goal of eliminating traffic deaths, is implementing its traffic control plans city by city. Of the more than 20 cities committed to the VisionZero goal, so far Macon, Georgia, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are the only cities in the Southeast to sign up. Several others are considering it.

NTSB said speeding kills about as many people as driving under the influence but doesn’t get nearly the attention nor have the same stigma attached to it.

“You can’t tackle our rising epidemic of roadway deaths without tackling speeding,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt, said at Tuesday’s meeting where an extensive study of speeding and recommendations to reduce it were unveiled. “and you can’t tackle speeding without the most current research. Speed kills. This study examines how it kills and what actions can be taken to save lives and prevent speeding-related crashes.”

In South Mississippi, for example, there aren’t enough troopers to slow drivers down.

“Speeding is a serious problem state-wide,” said Trooper Chase Elkins, spokesman for Troop K of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. “The challenge we have with enforcing the speed limits is the lack of manpower. We have a patrol school that starts this October and will graduate next year, and those that graduate will help with our issue of manpower.”

The trooper school and traffic cameras wouldn’t be the only allies the Highway Patrol would have if the NTSB gets its way. It also wants a long list of actions, including:

▪ Cash incentives for automakers that equip vehicles with “intelligent speed adaptation,” which would prevent vehicles from exceeding the speed limit, and for the the people who buy the vehicles.

▪ A program to increase public awareness of the dangers of speeding.

▪ A program to improve law enforcement’s reporting of speed-related crashes.

▪ Incorporate the safe system approach for city roads to better protect bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

The NTSB said that awareness campaigns have reduced DUIs and increased use of seat belts. Automated speed enforcement has reduced crashes between 8 percent and 49 percent and fatalities by up to 44 percent, and in Maryland a study of 48 chronic speeders found that “advisory” intelligent speed adaptation equipment decreased speeding. It doesn’t put a price tag on what its recommendations cost, but it did estimate that speeding cost about $52 billion in 2014.

“The simple truth is speeding makes a crash more likely and in a crash that is speeding related you are more likely to be injured, your injuries are more likely to be severe and quite honestly, you are more likely to die,” said NTSB Chairman Sumwalt. “But people don’t think of speeding the way they think of other hazardous driving behavior. Unlike alcohol impairment or unbelted occupants, speed has few negative consequences associated with it and doesn’t have a campaign to increase public awareness about the issue.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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