Pursue Education and Enforcement

In many cases, speeding results from habit and poor road design, not from an intentional decision to break the law. "Speeders" are not bad people from somewhere else—most are neighbors and friends. Their reasons for speeding aren't malicious either: in addition to perceiving that they can drive fast, people speed because they are behind schedule, they are unaware of the speed limit, or they are trying to keep up with other traffic. Others speed because they are so familiar with their own neighborhood that they do not realize how fast they are traveling.

Education: Raise awareness of speeding

Students in Phoenix hold up signs to encourage drivers to yield to pedestrians at a school crossing.Though the effects are not immediate and may not be substantial, undertaking a neighborhood public education campaign to discourage speeding can change the social acceptability of speeding. Here are some ideas:

  • Install banners or yard signs reminding motorists to slow down.
  • Get to know more of your neighbors. Organize neighborhood events that get people out on the street and meeting each other. Motorists may be less likely to speed if they know the people they are passing on the street.
  • Start a Pace Car Program to set an example by always driving the speed limit yourself.

See the Education section for more detailed information.

Community Enforcement: Begin a speed monitoring program

Some communities have speed monitoring programs, such as a neighborhood speed watches, which train residents to use radar in their neighborhoods. The information the residents gather is usually matched with driver and motor vehicle records and then the city or town sends letters to the vehicles' registered owners advising the owner their vehicle was seen speeding. The letter appeals to the owner or driver for voluntary compliance to slow down on neighborhood streets. Speeding tickets are not issued in this type of program.

Though some residents say that such monitoring is time consuming, people who have participated in such programs say it is a worthwhile educational program, helping citizens understand the speeding issues in their neighborhoods and encouraging motorists to drive more slowly.

Police Enforcement: Request increased support from officers

A police officer in California tickets a driver at a pedestrian crossing.Enforcement, especially when combined with education and other speed reducing measures, can play a role in deterring motorists from speeding on some streets. When you call the police department, be prepared to provide details about speeding on the street. Let them know the specific location, the time of day, and the day of the week speeding usually occurs so that they have a good idea of what to expect. It also is best to provide your name and contact information, and ask for the enforcement results. Police typically will give more emphasis to a person whom they can follow-up with rather than an anonymous caller. If you have not already performed speed studies on your street, the police department may begin with one.

Enforcement should not be seen as a complete fix since officers will only be present on a temporary basis. A good resource that may help you and your police department identify your neighborhood's problem is the Department of Justice Speeding in Residential Areas guide. Also see the Enforcement section for more detailed information.

Speed Trailers

Though expensive and sometimes prone to vandalism, mobile units that monitor and display vehicle speeds, also known as SMART Trailers or speed display boards, also can be effective in slowing drivers and gathering data. Neighborhood associations or watch groups can agree to monitor the speed display board to minimize vandalism. According to the US Department of Justice Speeding In Residential Areas guide (pg. 18), "Speed display boards have been shown to reduce speeds and crashes, and appear to be at least as effective as speed cameras in reducing speeds, and do so more cost-effectively."

Call your town hall to see if they have such resources available for your use. If not, suggest to the proper town officials that they initiate these programs in your community. The police also should be encouraged to conduct some speed enforcement downstream from the display board to increase the effectiveness of the device and educate motorists of some of the consequences they face if caught speeding.

Read "An Overview of Automated Enforcement Systems and Their Potential for Improving Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety" for more information.

Camera Radar Enforcement

Although not allowable in all states, some communities have found that camera radar enforcement systems have been effective. This program involves mailing a citation to a violator photographed speeding along a street after the speeder (or the vehicle owner) has been identified. Soon after a camera radar enforcement system was used in Fort Collins, Colorado, overall compliance to the speed limit rose from 17 percent to 38 percent.

As controversial as camera radar enforcement has been, there is no doubt that it has raised the awareness about speeding and its consequences. To make camera radar enforcement more acceptable to the public and elected officials, the speed limits must be reasonable and well-marked. The community must understand that the goal of this enforcement tool is to improve safety and not to spy or generate revenue.