Traffic Enforcement:

Funding of Automatic Red-Light and Speed Enforcement Technologies

GAO-03-408R: Published: Feb 21, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2003.

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A number of cities and counties have implemented photo enforcement programs to improve traffic safety. These programs use cameras to identify drivers running red lights or speeding and issue tickets to owners of identified vehicles. Such programs are eligible for funding through Department of Transportation (DOT) highway funding programs. GAO examined the role that federal funds have played in the local deployment of photo enforcement programs. GAO agreed to (1) identify local jurisdictions that are using photo enforcement devices--red-light cameras or photo radar--on federal-aid highways; (2) identify local jurisdictions that have received federal funding for photo enforcement; and (3) determine, for those jurisdictions that have received federal funding, how much revenue their photo enforcement programs have generated and the amount of that revenue received by private contractors.

Of the 73 jurisdictions GAO contacted, we identified 65 local jurisdictions that were operating photo enforcement programs at the time of our survey (Oct.-Nov. 2002). Through the survey or information provided by DOT, we determined that 40 of these jurisdictions were operating photo enforcement devices on federal-aid highways. Five jurisdictions have received federal funds totaling $508,000 for photo enforcement over the last 6 years. These jurisdictions had collected a total of $50.4 million in fines from these programs and paid $46.2 million to private contractors to operate the programs. Two of these jurisdictions reported that the revenues from their photo enforcement programs were greater than the program costs, while the other three reported revenues less than program costs. The share of program revenues paid to contractors varied greatly among these five jurisdictions.

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