Why is Photo Radar Important?
In 1987 the Paradise Valley Police Department became the first agency in the nation to utilize photo enforcement. At that time Council authorized the use of photo enforcement in direct response to a steady increase of collisions in Town. That year there were over 400 reported traffic collisions. After photo enforcement was deployed the Town realized a 47% decrease in collisions. Traffic safety has always been one of the top concerns expressed by our residents. In 2013 the Public Safety Task Force, a committee comprised of 50 residents, requested an expansion to the photo enforcement program. That expansion was completed, and in 2017 there were only 208 collisions reported in Town. A 50% overall reduction of traffic collisions from the numbers reported 30 years ago, considering the increasing population/traffic count and distraction of drivers, is a definite success.
Photo enforcement improves traffic safety in two ways. It helps stop collisions from occurring, and it reduces damage to people and property when they do occur. The photo enforcement cameras are set to record a violation when a vehicle is travelling 11 mph over the posted speed limit. This keeps traffic speeds in Town lower as people seek to stay under that 11 mph threshold. Slower speeds equate to a much shorter distance required to stop. At 40 mph a car will travel 59 feet before the driver can recognize the need to stop and start applying the brakes. At 40 mph that car on dry pavement can stop once the brakes are applied in just over 76 feet. It will take a driver at 40 mph a total of 135 feet from the time they recognize an emergency to come to a stop. At 51 mph the same car will travel a total of 236 feet from the time they recognize an emergency to come to a stop. While the car travelling at 51 mph is only exceeding the speed limit by 28%, it will take that car 75% longer to come to a stop. Shorter stopping distance means fewer and less severe collisions.
While collisions still occur, the presence of photo enforcement often reduces the damage to people and property. Lower speeds also directly equates to less severe collisions. The average mid-sized car weighs about 3,500 lbs. At 40 mph this car in motion represents over 253,000 joules of kinetic injury (energy converted to damage during a collision). At 51 mph this same car represents over 412,000 joules of kinetic energy. While the car travelling at 51 mph is still only exceeding the speed limit by 28%, that car will possess 63% more energy to create damage when involved in a collision. Less kinetic energy means less damage to people and property during a collision. Moreover, Paradise Valley is a residential community. As such, our main roads of Lincoln and Tatum run through quiet neighborhoods with driveways connecting to these arterials. Photo enforcement is an important tool for maintaining the quality of life for these residents.