WASHINGTON (AP) — Speed cameras could be on their way to a location near you thanks to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law.
Under new federal guidance issued Wednesday, states can now tap billions of federal highway dollars for roadway safety programs such as automated traffic enforcement. Experts said the cameras that photograph speeding vehicles are an established way to help bring down rising traffic deaths.
It’s all part of the Transportation Department’s new “safe system” to stem record increases in road fatalities. The guidance by the Federal Highway Administration cites speed cameras in particular as a proven tool against hazardous driving.
More than 1 in 4 traffic fatalities occur in speed-related crashes, according to government data. The Federal Highway Administration says speed cameras can reduce the number of injury crashes by nearly 50%.
But the plan has already been met with resistance. Sometimes dubbed “speed traps,” automated traffic enforcement can rake in millions of dollars in ticket revenue for local communities but has spurred backlash and isn’t widely embraced.
At a press event Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted Biden’s infrastructure bill as wasteful even as he said his state welcomed additional federal transportation dollars.
“They’re spending $15 billion on speed cameras to be able to catch people speeding. I mean, I’m sorry. I don’t want that. That’s bringing us even more surveillance,” the Republican said. “Like we need more surveillance in our society right now,” he quipped.
Ultimately, states and localities — not the federal government — will decide how the $15 billion in formula funding can best be used to improve road safety. The federal guidance actually caps the amount of money available for speed cameras at 10%.
The new guidance also requires at least 15% of a state’s highway safety improvement program funds to address pedestrians, bicyclists and other nonmotorized road users if those groups make up 15% or more of the state’s crash fatalities.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has stressed the need to improve safety for all road users and not just drivers, noting that safer roads for all open up transit options. According to government data, traffic fatalities involving bicyclists and pedestrians are more likely to impact non-white, lower-income people.