Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

More Speed Cameras Needed to Cut Road Deaths, U.S. Watchdog Says

  • NTSB says speeding underestimated as a fatal crash factor
  • Crackdown called for as speed rivals booze as cause of crashes

A U.S. safety watchdog called for broader use of traffic cameras to catch speeding drivers, as it said driving too fast is an under-reported cause of traffic fatalities.

Inconsistent reporting by law enforcement causes the factor to go under-reported, according to a summary of a National Transportation Safety Board report set for release Tuesday. That masks the full scope of speeding’s role in deadly crashes for policy makers and police trying to combat the more than 30,000 annual U.S. traffic fatalities, according to the report. 

"The current level of emphasis on speeding as a national traffic safety issue is lower than warranted," according to the report’s summary. Speeding -- either driving faster than posted limits or faster than road conditions allow -- was linked to 112,580 U.S. traffic fatalities from 2005 through 2014, or 31 percent of all traffic deaths during that period, on par with drunk driving-related deaths, NTSB said. 

Distracted driving was a cause in about 10 percent of roadside fatalities in 2015.

After seeing declines for a decade, U.S. traffic fatalities jumped 7 percent to 35,092 in 2015, and were on track to increase again in 2016. Speeding-related crash deaths are down from more than 13,000 in 2006 to 9,557 in 2015.

Roadside cameras that snap photos of speeders zooming by and other automated speed enforcement tools are "widely acknowledged as an effective countermeasure" to deter speeding and curb crashes, but they’re only used in 14 states and the District of Columbia, NTSB said.

The safety watchdog recommended that 22 states lift laws that restrict or prohibit the use of speed cameras. It also called on the remaining 28 states without such laws to authorize state and local agencies to use them to bolster speed limit enforcement.

Drunk or Distracted

Unlike with drunk or distracted driving, there are no national programs to boost public awareness about the risks of speeding, the NTSB report said. It also said federal programs that send funding to states don’t do enough to ensure state efforts deter speeding.

The report also recommended that federal regulators identify metrics to be used by police officers to better document speeding in their communities and develop a method to evaluate the success of high-visibility speeding enforcement programs. It also said they should update federal guidelines for using speed cameras.

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