The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads. 

Safety Street welcomes Sheriff Eileen Behr – one of Pennsylvania’s leading public safety experts – as the featured guest in our latest Q&A series. Born and raised outside of Philadelphia, Behr joined the Whitemarsh Police Department at age 19 and rose through the ranks in her 34 years there to become the first female police chief in Montgomery County.  In April 2011, she took on her current position as the county’s first female sheriff.

Pennsylvania recently passed a law in July 2012 allowing more municipalities to consider the use of red-light safety cameras at dangerous intersections. In Montgomery County, eight townships are currently eligible to take advantage of this technology. Several of the townships have begun discussing red-light safety cameras at town hall meetings and several local police and traffic safety officials have come out in support of the measure.

Safety Street had the chance to ask Sheriff Behr a few questions and get her thoughts on public safety in Montgomery County, improving safety in intersections, and more:

Safety Street: What are some of the major concerns of Montgomery County residents regarding roadway safety in their communities?

Sheriff Behr: Over the past two decades, Montgomery County has been growing in population and development, in particular retail and office space. With the growth, vehicular traffic has increased on roads that had not been designed for the volume. Many roads are narrow, single lane roads through areas that had previously been mostly residential or open space. With the growth in population, new schools are being built and enrollment is increasing. Pedestrian traffic and school bus transportation has increased. Most roads do not have sidewalks to accommodate the heightened amount of pedestrian traffic.

Safety Street: How has traffic changed over the years as the county’s population has grown?

Sheriff Behr: Traffic volume has increased drastically with growth in population and development. Improvements over the past twenty-five years to limited access highways into Montgomery county – such as 476, the Blue route and the 422 bypass –have greatly impacted the number of drivers on the roadways. We have seen development along these routes and throughout adjacent areas. That being said, many of the roads leading to the limited access highways have not been improved and traffic congestion has increased. Congestion and delays create frustration for local motorists. Frustration leads to speeding, road rage, and disregard for traffic control devices.

Safety Street: In your 30-plus years of experience, what have been the most effective tools for intersection safety?  Which have been the least effective?

Sheriff Behr: In my experience, I have seen some traffic improvement projects at intersections that truly increased safety.  Many intersections have been improved by providing left turn lanes and left turn signals. This has decreased accidents at some of the major intersections. Installation of pedestrian signals at intersections has also improved safety and reduced injuries. Continual enforcement of signal violations or presence of marked, visible police vehicles near an intersection increases driver awareness of the signals and is a definite deterrent to speeding and red-light violations.

Safety Street: What do you see as a best practice to encourage motorists to be better aware at intersections?

Sheriff Behr: Advanced warning signs of signaled intersections helps to increase awareness, even more so when there are pedestrian signals at the intersection. Safety campaigns such as the “Click-it-or-ticket” programs near intersections provides officers the opportunity to have contact with motorists. Public safety campaigns that focus on specific intersections and incorporate police, local officials, and health officials would be a logical solution to help heighten awareness in communities. Open communication between police departments and local media on current accident and injury data combined with traffic safety recommendations from the officers may also help to reduce crashes.

Safety Street: What is the effect you see in communities where red-light safety cameras are in place? Is there a greater feeling of security for other drivers and pedestrians?

Sheriff Behr: Since Montgomery County doesn’t currently have a program, I haven’t had enough direct experience with red-light cameras. I have attempted to follow the progress of the red-light camera program that is in place in Philadelphia. From media reports on the cameras along Roosevelt Boulevard, it appears that camera installation and continual media messages on the program are reducing serious crashes.

Safety Street: Do you think motorists are more likely to avoid running red lights if fines are involved, i.e., does it change behavior? Why or why not?

Sheriff Behr: Motorists are always concerned with high cost of a traffic fine, regardless of the violation. I am not convinced that high fines are the most effective deterrent. Loss of driving privilege or increased insurance rates are more of a concern to the public. In my career, traffic fines have continued to increase while violations continue to occur. In local areas, motorists are always aware of the intersections and areas that their local police target.  More officers to enforce the violations or possibly the use of red-light cameras may decrease violations at intersections and reduce crashes. Successful traffic enforcement is designed to increase safety and reduce crashes.

To learn more about Sheriff Eileen Behr please visit Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s existing red-light safety camera programs, please visit the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.

The Safety Street weekly news roundup brings together a mix of road safety and transportation stories from around the web. It is published every week on Safety Street and is available on Twitter via @SaferRoadsUSA.

New Study: Caffeine May Boost Driver Safety
A new study finds that long-haul truck drivers who drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks are 63%  less likely to have an accident than their uncaffeinated peers. Australian researchers looked at data on 530 drivers recently involved in a crash, comparing them with 517 who had not had an accident within the past 12 months. These findings, however, do not mean that caffeinated drinks are the answer for road safety, they are simply one piece of a larger strategy for fatigue and health management.
Source: The New York Times

D.C. Speed Camera Penalties Positively Change Driver Behavior
The District of Columbia has a much lower rate of repeat offenders being caught by speed cameras than in Maryland, where the fines are much lower. Last year the percentage of cars issued more than one speed camera ticket in Montgomery County, Maryland was five times the rate of repeat offenders in the District. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the higher fines do slow people down.
Source: NBC Washington

Georgia Teen Panel Makes Road Safety Recommendations
Last week, an all-teen board appointed by Georgia’s governor recommended harsher penalties for teens who violate the state’s law that bans drivers from texting and using smart phones on the road. The recommendations also include changes to teen driver education strategies to focus on the dangers of distracted driving and a ban on hand-held phone use for all drivers in Georgia. The 22-member commission was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in October.
Source: ABC Jacksonville

Alabama Town Adds Red-Light Safety Camera Program
The town of Opelika, Alabama is adding red-light safety cameras to four dangerous intersections. Not only will the safety cameras improve driver behavior, with fewer property damage claims, lower insurance premiums, and reduced medical expenses, they could save Opelika and its residents thousands of dollars a year.
Source: WTVM (ABC) Columbus

Austin Cyclists Address Road Safety with Chief of Police
Dozens of Austin cyclists sat down to speak with the city’s police chief last week at a South Austin bicycle shop. Many cyclists expressed concerns about public perception that people who hit and kill a cyclist or a pedestrian are seldom held accountable. Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that some officers will work undercover posing as cyclists. Any driver who gets within three feet of the cyclist which violates the City’s three-foot ordinance will get a ticket.
Source: ABC Austin

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.

The Safety Street weekly video series aims to raise awareness about the dangers of red-light running by highlighting crashes and close calls in intersections caused by reckless red-light runners. The videos are also available on Twitter @SaferRoadsUSA and YouTube youtube.com/SaferRoadsUSA.

Take the pledge to Stop on Red

Intersection located in Memphis, TN.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.

The Safety Street weekly news roundup brings together a mix of road safety and transportation stories from around the web. It is published every week on Safety Street and is available on Twitter via @SaferRoadsUSA.

WHO: Majority of the World Lagging on Road Safety Laws
The World Health Organization says only 7 percent of the world’s population lives in nations where there are adequate road safety laws. The U.N. agency says only 28 nations have laws that address all of the key risk factors: drunken driving, speeding and failure to use motorcycle helmets, seat belts or child restraints. It reported that about 1.24 million people worldwide died in road traffic crashes in 2010 and that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29.
Source: The Washington Post

Orange Park, Florida Begins Red-Light Safety Camera Program
Florida was the third-most deadly state in the nation for red-light running fatalities in 2010. Orange Park is joining more than 80 communities in the state using red-light safety camera systems. Drivers say the intersections where the town chose to put the new cameras have been problem intersections for a long time, and they are glad officials are taking action to stop red-light runners.
Source: News 4 Jax

Illinois DOT and Farm Bureau Promote Rural Road Safety
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is teaming up with the Illinois Farm Bureau and state police to encourage drivers to slow down when traveling on rural roads. IDOT said traffic collisions are the second-leading cause of farm-related deaths since 2008. With planting season right around the corner, drivers and farmers will see banners on rural roads reminding them to be aware on the roads.
Source: FOX Illinois

Red-Light Running Plummets at Camera Intersections in Kansas City
Fresh numbers show red-light safety camera citations in Kansas City tumbled more than 20 percent from 2011 to 2012, and fell 35 percent from 2010, when the program was still in its infancy. “Exactly what they’re designed to do is change behavior, and they are,” said Councilman John Sharp, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which monitors traffic control in the city. Because of the program’s success, the city is considering adding more red-light safety cameras and possibly deploying speed safety cameras to continue positively changing driver behavior.
Source: The Kansas City Star

Florida Mayors Honor National Bike to Work Day
To mark national Bike to Work Day, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Caplan and a former cycling Olympian will bike to the Metrorail University Station, where they will join the mayor of Miami and other elected officials for a ceremonial ride around the station. Through this significant ride they hope to show that bike commuting is safe and doable, especially by combining transit and existing, designated bikeways.
Source: The Miami Herald

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.

The Safety Street weekly video series aims to raise awareness about the dangers of red-light running by highlighting crashes and close calls in intersections caused by reckless red-light runners. The videos are also available on Twitter @SaferRoadsUSA and YouTube youtube.com/SaferRoadsUSA.

Take the pledge to Stop on Red

Intersection located in Bel Air, MD.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.