In 2014, the state of Ohio implemented a law that required a police officer to be physically present when delivering traffic citations – effectively banning red light and fixed speed cameras that monitor dangerous intersections and roadways. But Toledo, which had successfully used fixed speed cameras since 2001, wasn’t ready to give up the traffic camera project, which many in the community had lauded for improving public safety.
Redflex Americas, Toledo’s partner since establishing the city’s red-light camera program, saw the legislation as an opportunity to develop technology that was responsive to the municipality’s needs, but also compliant with state law. Redflex developed a solution using the handheld TruCam, manufactured by Laser Technology, Inc. This innovative program allows police officers to more efficiently issue citations using digital technology, and has helped the city continue to reduce dangerous speeding while freeing up valuable law enforcement resources. Additionally, these handheld speed cameras opened up new opportunities for monitoring dangerous intersections and roadways.
So how does it work? Officers in marked cars or motorcycles are able to patrol high-risk areas, such as school zones, freeways and construction zones, equipped with a handheld speed camera. The device is used by officers to clock speeds and take pictures of offending vehicles, and has all of the capabilities of a fixed or mobile speed enforcement system. It automatically captures data for evidence review in real time for citations. The laser in the camera incorporates light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology.
In Toledo, officers only issue citations to drivers who are travelling 11 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. In an interview with NBC 24, Toledo police lieutenant Jeff Sulewski said that at 11 mph over the speed limit, the driver is either not paying attention to what they are doing or they are purposely speeding. Both behaviors can create safety problems, he said, and should be targeted by police enforcement. This is especially true when considering speeding as an outsized risk for car crashes—almost a third of all motor vehicle crash deaths involved speeding in 2015, according to NBC 24.
Under the new system, neighborhood safety seems to be improving. In an interview with CBS Channel 11 News, Toledo police lieutenant Joe Heffernan said that by October 2016, only seven months after introducing handheld speed cameras to the police force, the number of speeding cases has continued to drop dramatically.
The handheld cameras also improve officer safety. Instead of merging into traffic at highway speeds or spending time writing out a ticket, officers point the camera to detect incidents. The process is more automated, avoiding possible traffic disruptions in already congested areas. But if officers decide that mobilization is necessary, the handheld devices do not hinder them either.
Officers have been surprised at the effectiveness of this method of traffic enforcement. For Toledo, and in the cases of many additional communities across the country, though not developed as a stream of revenue generation, any increased revenue as a result of the program will be invested in new capital projects, including additional residential paving and sidewalk replacement according to NBC 24.
As a result of their partnership with Redflex, the city of Toledo now has a speed enforcement system that is receptive to the city’s individual needs, safer for officers to use, reinvesting money back into the community and – most important – deterring dangerous driving behaviors to make the roads safer.