Public-private participation for highway law enforcement

In some countries, public-private partnerships for road traffic law enforcement are helping to greatly reduce traffic fatalities. But careful implementation is essential, according to a new white paper. Big brother is watching you. Speed cameras are just a cash cow for local authorities. Police use them to keep their speeding ticket statistics high. The list of suspicions goes on. But there is nothing suspicious about road deaths, says Philip Wijers, chairman of the sub-committee on enforcement at the US-based International Road Federation. Speed kills and is continuing to kill at an alarming rate, despite the good- will being shown by governments that signed up to the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020. “Public-private partnerships for road traffic law enforcement systems are first and foremost about saving lives,” says Wijers, who is also director of government affairs for GATSO, a Dutch global supplier of automated law enforcement systems including cameras. Even if such contracts save live, Wijers and the IRF also understand the public’s concern when the see their local government and police agency partner with a private company to provide the service. Issues of fairness and confidence in the system - as well as who gets how much traffic violation money - are paramount. This is why the IRF recently published what it believes is the first set of best practice guidelines anywhere for implementing what is called an automated traffic enforcement public-private partnership (PPP or P3). In most countries traffic enforcement cameras and other road safety equipment are purchased, owned and operated by government organisations. However, the past two decades have seen a wave of private companies contracted to not only install the systems, but also run them as back-office functions for local authorities and police. Gaining public support for this is vital. “In particular,” says Wijers, “a crucial element is that the violation funds collected are invested back into road safety. The concept that violators are paying for road safety is, I believe, a good model. This is a most important pillar of the system.” While the white paper sets out best practice for implementing PPPs, it does not suggest that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to reduce traffic deaths, explains Brendan Halleman, director of international programmes and advocacy at the IRF. It simply flags up issues that have been noted as very important by the many people whom the IRF consulted in putting the paper together. Automated enforcement uses cameras to determine road speed, be it at a particular point on a road or an average speed camera calculated over a set distance between two cameras. It also covers imagery at intersections and other road junctions where drivers jumping red or amber lights cause safety issues. It also covers speed cameras that are in vehicles travelling around, a kind of roving speed camera. Ireland is one country that is using the roving camera in marked and unmarked vehicles, either with or without a law enforcement officer inside, says Halleman. In the US, too, camera use is increasing at a rapid rate. Many police authorities and local governments are having to make cuts and use their time more efficiently. “They are looking to cutting back on the size of their police forces and are taking a hard look at some of the process that can be outsourced,” says Halleman. “Some activities such as checking seatbelts and random checks for drugs and driving will remain under manual control. But speed management technology is now relatively mature and lends itself well to automation.” In many western countries, there is a more developed regard for the integrity of the police when it comes to issuing traffic violation tickets. But in other countries, this may not be the case. That is why the IRF’s white paper comes at the right moment, says Wijers. More and more interest in automated law enforcement is being shown by countries in Latin America and Africa. Governments in these areas are possibly cash-strapped so large investment in camera systems and operating them is a concern. But there is also an issue – a big issue - about the integrity of the police. Enforcement of traffic violations has not always been done in an ethical manor, he explains. An automated system, if implemented properly, could boost public confidence in enforcement in how the police carry out traffic violation duties. “A PPP is not an effort to do away with the police,” says Wijers. “A private party cannot issue a violation. It operates only when there is an official who has the legal right to approve a violation. The private party can only process evidence so it can be seen by the police. “Only after confirmation by an enforcement officer is the violation validated and then a notice of penalty sent out to the violator. It makes police forces more efficient. This automation allows the police to focus on road safety issues that cannot be automated,” says Wijers.       Source: worldhighways