Knoxville is pondering the use of automated speed cameras to ticket people who violate the speed limits. I am opposed. I am a treat the problem, not the symptom type of guy. My quality assurance training taught me that if you automate a flawed process, you simply perform that flawed process with greater efficiency.
Florida came up with a solution. I read about it a couple of years ago. (
unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the reference) An architect and civil engineer reduced speed by eliminating traffic controls, removing signs, putting people and trees closer to the road, and narrowing the roads. They engineered speed control! It worked. Would you like to try it? Knoxville is engineering roads for speed right now! The roads that connect Kingston Pike to Sutherland passing by West High School are changing to reduce speed. If you turn from Kingston Pike to Forest Glen Dr you will undoubtedly notice that the double yellow widens briefly, the road has some lines painted across it, and some ruts have been carved into the road to audibly warn you to slowdown. These are fairly intangible but work! You cannot help but slow down.
What happens when people get used to the lines and drive fast anyway? Firstly, the faster you drive over the ruts, the more horrid the noise which sounds like you are destroying your tires. Secondly, in addition to the psychological narrowing, the roads are being physically narrowed at the midpoint. With the addition of this median, cars will slow down. Maybe they’ll add a tree! (doubt it)
Why not engineer the roads and use speed cameras? Speed cameras treat the symptom. The symptom is that people are speeding. The problem is that people feel like they are making good time and packing more into their lives by speeding. The truth of the matter is that if you are speeding in a town or city, you may be shaving a minute or two off your commute but due to traffic patterns, and the placement and timing of lights and other traffic controls, your commute does NOT change that dramatically as compared to simply driving the speed limit.
Won’t cameras teach people to slow down? No, cameras work after the fact, catch the wrong people, and cannot identify the driver. They also cannot judge the situation. Safe driving sometimes includes speeding up. Often we try to avoid an accident by slamming on the brakes. It feels natural. Sometimes accidents can be avoided by speeding up and I shouldn’t have to speed a day of my life in court plus fees explaining that to repeal a ticket from a robot. Since speed cameras have their effect after the incident, they in no way prevent tragedy! The camera that send a ticket to a speeding high schooler for speeding from West High to Kingston Pike does not save the life of the child who runs out into the road to get his lost ball. The re-engineered roads, which treat the problem and force the new high school driver to slow his vehicle, give that driver the opportunity to stop in time to save the life of the child running into the road to get his lost ball.