Increasing road safety should be a high priority for Philadelphians. There are more than 10,0000 traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, which kill about 100 people and severely injure 250 more. As a result, Philadelphia has the highest per capita fatality rate of any major U.S. city, nearly three times that of New York.
In a June Philadelphia City Council hearing, victims of road crashes told their heartbreaking stories to a joint hearing of the Environment and Transportation/Public Utilities committees.
Fortunately, Philadelphians have the opportunity to support Senate Bill 172 (SB172), which holds the promise of dramatically reducing these tragic incidents on one of the deadliest stretches of road in America, Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard.
Senate Bill 172 would authorize a five-year pilot program of speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.
Under current state law, the use of speed cameras and speed-detecting radar is illegal. Senate Bill 172 would authorize the use of cameras to enforce the 45 mph speed limit. Motorists going more than 11 miles over the speed limit would face a $150 fine.
In February, Streetsblog accurately described the Roosevelt Boulevard as a “death trap” because “at 12 lanes wide, it’s basically an at-grade highway through densely populated city neighborhoods.” Over six miles of the Boulevard have no sidewalks and crosswalks are very far apart. As a result, pedestrian traffic in the roadway is an all-too-common occurrence.
Without speed cameras, there is no practical way for the police to enforce the speed limit and deter reckless driving. The Boulevard handles more than 90,000 vehicles per day but has no shoulder for patrol by police.
Despite its benefits, SB 172 has faced opposition from privacy advocates and those concerned that the speed cameras are simply a tool to raise revenue.
After almost two years of negotiations with privacy advocates, SB 172 addresses these concerns with a lengthy section detailing limits on the scope and use of data collected by the cameras.
The bill also has provisions to protect people from being unfairly ticketed for the purpose of raising revenue. SB 172 provides for roadside notice that motorists are entering and leaving an area of speed-camera enforcement, as well as at two-mile intervals in the zone.
The Senate passed SB 172, but the House did not; it is imperative that the House pass this legislation by Nov. 1.
If the General Assembly does not pass the bill by the end of the 2017-18 session, the likelihood for success decreases dramatically. A new legislative session will begin in January, and Philadelphia Rep. John Taylor, chair of the House Transportation Committee, is set to retire at the end of 2018. The bill will have to be reintroduced and begin the legislative process anew, without its biggest champion.
Here at Uber, we want to do our part to help eliminate traffic deaths. That is why we are a member of the Vision Zero Alliance, a broad coalition of organizations advocating for speed cameras and other road safety initiatives.
We hope that all Philadelphians will join the Alliance in urging their elected officials to pass SB 172 when they return to Harrisburg in September. Together we can pave the way to a safer Philadelphia.
Shari Shapiro is Uber’s Senior Manager of Public Affairs for Pennsylvania and Delaware.