A Solution to Deadly Atlantic Avenue Speeding: LIDAR Enforcement

Last week Brooklyn City Council Member Steve Levin went out to Atlantic Avenue and clocked 88 percent of drivers breaking the speed limit. Atlantic is one of the deadliest streets in Brooklyn, recently tying for the borough’s top spot in the annual Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranking of the region’s most dangerous roads. And yet, as Peter Kaufman pointed out on Ink Lake yesterday, the 84th Precinct, which includes the western segment of Atlantic, issued zero speeding tickets in January.

Aftermath of a crash on Atlantic Avenue in 2007. Photo: Montag007/Flickr via Gothamist

Levin is sending the results of his radar gun survey to Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. He might also want to pass on the cover story in the latest issue of the FBI National Academy Associates magazine – “The Future of Speeding Enforcement.” Author Max Santiago, former deputy commissioner with the California Highway Patrol, notes that automated speed enforcement (ASE) could prevent tens of thousands of traffic deaths and save billions in economic costs in the United States every year.

He describes a system that law enforcement tech-heads and street safety advocates can both get behind, and it sounds tailor-made for speedways like Atlantic Avenue where law-abiders are few and far between:

The key element in any future ASE system is likely to be a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) speed detection system. Such systems transmit coherent infrared light pulses, measure the time of flight for the pulses reflected by moving vehicles, then calculate and display the speed of the target. Unlike radar, which uses a wide microwave beam, the LIDAR beam is narrow and focused, which permits officers to single out any vehicle and immediately determine its speed.

In an automated speed enforcement system, LIDAR could be combined with multi-pulse radar used in military weapons to track multiple moving targets. This combination could quickly and accurately detect all speeding vehicles on a given roadway. Data from navigation systems with embedded GPS information and vehicle diagnostic technology could also be wirelessly mined and collected to establish a vehicle’s speed.

Drivers could be identified by sophisticated systems that feature military-grade cameras with advanced photo-electronic imaging capabilities. Advancements in 3D facial identification systems could also be incorporated into an ASE system to provide a high probability of driver identification with little to no user intervention. Currently, 3D facial biometrics ID systems can scan a person’s face and capture up to 20,000 points of minutiae to compare to a previously captured image.

Noting the legislative resistance to enabling automated enforcement, Santiago suggests that high-tech speed detection systems could also be used to calibrate insurance rates to reward drivers who travel at safer speeds.

Red light cameras already have a documented history of saving lives in New York City, as do speed cameras in other parts of the country. A bill enabling camera enforcement (presumably without quite so many high-tech bells and whistles as Santiago’s system) is one of the top legislative priorities for street safety advocates in Albany this year.