TESTIMONY: Supporting the Proposed Photo Speed Monitoring Devices Code Amendment

December 6, 2022 

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors 
12000 Government Center Parkway 
Fairfax, VA 22035 

Chairman McKay and Board Supervisors: 

CSG strongly supports the proposed photo speed monitoring code amendment and urges your approval and timely implementation of the program. We are very excited to see this moving forward. 

As you are all well aware, Fairfax County continues to experience high rates of fatalities and serious injuries to vulnerable road users, this year being worse than any other. We have no time to waste making our streets safer. 

Speeding is a problem on our roads. Most drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 mph regularly, and many more drive at speeds much faster than that. At the same time, we know that higher travel speeds are known to significantly increase the likelihood of death and serious injury when crashes occur. Slower speeds allow more time for the driver to see a person in the road or another vehicle in their path, and be able to stop their vehicle in time. 

The long term solution to speeding is physically designing our roads for slower, safer speeds. And while the County is making progress in this direction, it is a slow process that faces many hurdles. Automated speed enforcement (ASE) is a tool that can be implemented more quickly and begin showing positive results immediately. 

ASE is a proven tool that can help reduce speeding as well as the number and severity of crashes. Use of ASE will help make our roads safer for all users, but especially our vulnerable road users who face the worst outcomes of any crash. 

I’d like to note a few points of consideration as you move forward with this program.

I am concerned about the 10 mph threshold over the speed limit for issuing citations under the proposed ordinance. While I understand that the County is limited to this threshold by current legislation, I urge you to seek modification of this authority from the state legislature so the ticketing threshold is more closely aligned with the actual speed limit. We all know that by not ticketing until a driver has exceeded the speed limit by at least 10 mph means the speed limit is essentially 35 mph in these school zones. This is an unsafe speed for an area where we are trying to improve safety. Until that threshold can be lowered, I would suggest lowering the speed limits in school and work zones to 15 mph speed limit, which would allow enforcement at the desired 25 mph limit. 

As the ASE program is implemented, it is important to consider potential impacts on communities of color. Because it is automated, this type of enforcement already helps by taking out potential human biases of who gets pulled over. It is important to be mindful of how the cameras are distributed around the county. Many of our more dangerous roads cut through communities of color, and while we certainly want to curb speeding on those roads, we should be mindful of potential impacts that are disproportionate on the residents of those communities.The goal of ASE should be increased safety and fewer infractions over time as drivers’ behaviors change for the positive. Fines should be a deterrent and used to educate drivers, and not punitive. Ideally fines could be income percentage-based so as not to have a disproportionate impact on lower income drivers, but I believe that would need additional legislative change. As we continue to develop this program, we should be intentional to build a program that serves everyone equitably. 

The current authorization of ASE in school and work zones is a good first step, but must be expanded so it can be used in other needed locations around the county. ASE could be used to help deter speeding on our dangerous arterials, most of which are considered high crash corridors in the county, and in residential neighborhoods where cut through traffic and speeding is a constant concern. I understand this authority must be given at the state level and urge the county to proactively seek this authority. CSG and our partners the Fairfax Families for Safe Street, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, and other state and local safe streets organizations will continue to advocate for broader use of automated enforcement as well as the safer street designs we need to truly make our roads safer for all users. We look forward to working with you on this.

Thank you for your commitment and continued work towards safer streets here in Fairfax County.

Sonya Breehey 
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager