The City of Mukilteo is considering adding traffic cameras at the north end of Mukilteo Speedway. The three locations being considered are nearby:
- Rosehill Community Center
- Olympic View Middle School
- 92nd Street Park
The cameras are being considered to address the problems of speeding and noise on Mukilteo Speedway, primarily leaving the waterfront heading south on Mukilteo Speedway. Local residents have long endured the noise of vehicles accelerating up the hill on Mukilteo Speedway.
The City and Council will be discussing the traffic camera proposal at the November 27th Council Work Session and December 4th Council Meeting. Note that public comment is only allowed at the December 4th Council Meeting. Both are held starting at 6 p.m. at Mukilteo City Hall located at 11930 Cyrus Way.
I welcome your insights and opinions on this proposal to help the City and Council make informed plans and decisions.
The Traffic Study Data
A study conducted over two weeks this summer and fall determined the speeding problem to be significant. At Rosehill, 14.6% of all southbound traffic was going 11 mph or more over the speed limit, with 2% of all cars exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph. In the school zone, where the speed limit is 25 mph when lights are flashing, 78% of all cars exceeded the speed limit. Near 92nd Street Park, 13-23% of all vehicles headed north were speeding by 11 mph or more. This equates to a combined annual rate of nearly 1,000,000 speeding incidents in these three areas.
The Mukilteo Police Department does its best to control traffic in these areas, but with a limited number of officers on duty at any given time, they must prioritize the most urgent and pressing calls which limits their time for traffic control.
What Camera Data is Captured
The proposed cameras will take pictures of vehicles that exceed the speeding threshold during designated periods of time. The cameras near Byer’s Park and 92nd Street would be triggered by drivers exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph during park opening hours. The camera near Olympic Middle School would be triggered by drivers exceeding the limit by 6 mph when the school zone lights are flashing. The cameras are inactive unless triggered by vehicles exceeding these speeds.
The speeding vehicle and its license plate are captured while the driver and any visible passengers are blacked out from the video. This data on speeders is transmitted from a private company, which operates the cameras, to the Mukilteo Police. The police then review the video and driver data and issue a ticket. The ticket issued is considered a parking infraction and does not affect a driver’s insurance rates.
Expected Benefits to Traffic Cameras
The expected benefits of installing traffic cameras in these specific locations are simple and relatively predictable based on data from the many cameras already in use in Washington State.
Drivers learn that they need to abide by the speed limit, or they receive a ticket in the mail. This motivates drivers to accelerate more slowly as they proceed up the hill, which lowers their speed and reduces their engine noise.
Historical data shows that 96% or more of drivers change their driving behavior and adhere to the speed limit, although the full change can take two to three years. Installing traffic cameras at the north end of Mukilteo Speedway will reduce speeding and noise, making the road safer and the neighborhood more peaceful.
Addressing Traffic Camera Concerns
Mukilteo residents have brought up several concerns regarding traffic cameras. I would like to address each of the concerns that I’ve been made aware of here and share my thoughts on them.
In full disclosure, some of these concerns come from my family and friends, and I’ve been direct in my responses to them.
(1) Many people don’t want to get caught for speeding unless there’s a policeman involved. They think it is unfair to use technology as they are not allowed to use counter-technology. Some described it to me as a game of cat and mouse and that camera technology is unfair. This is a very honest response, but even those making it realize it’s not defensible and a bit absurd. It is important to adhere to the speed limit even when no one is looking, especially when children may be present.
(2) Some say it’s unfair to expect drivers to change their behavior with no warning. During the first month of operation, the system will issue a warning citation. There are speed limit signs, speed indicator signs and school zone warning signs on the Speedway and the City is considering placing additional speed indicators to alert drivers who are speeding so they can slow down.
(3) There are those who are concerned Government surveillance can be used to track people’s movements and stifle gatherings of groups they oppose. The traffic cameras are operated by a private company and only send information on speeders exceeding the thresholds to the police. The police cannot request information about any other vehicles without a search warrant just as they would for any other private video camera recordings.
(4) Some people fear the cameras may be intentionally or unintentionally adjusted to give tickets when people aren’t actually speeding. The camera system will be calibrated annually to make sure it is accurate.
(5) There is a concern that traffic cameras increase accidents. The data that has led to this idea comes from the study of 531 traffic cameras installed in England some years ago. In 21 of these locations, accidents did increase. However, in the rest of the 510 locations where cameras were installed, accidents stayed the same or decreased.
(6) Residents may be concerned they can’t protest a ticket. There is a simple online tool available for explaining extenuating circumstances.
(7) Some people object to traffic cameras because they consider them a government “money grab”. Traffic fines will generate revenue to cover the costs of the third-party camera operator, and any remaining funds will be split between Washington State and Mukilteo. It will be up to the City and its Council to craft rules and direct the use of funds to align with the proposed intention of changing driver behavior.
Commentary by Tom Jordal, Mukilteo City Councilman
DISCLAIMER: The views and comments expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Lynnwood Times nor any of its affiliates.