Re: House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s report

From: Chad Dornsife
The Highway Safety Group

Thomas W. Brahms
Executive Director
Institute of Transportation Engineers
1099 14th Street, NW
Suite 300 West
Washington, DC 20005-3438 USA
Telephone: +1-202-289-0222
Facsimile: +1-202-289-7722

Date: Tues, 19 Jun 2001

Subject: ITE MAY 25 press release – Red Light Cameras

Mr. Brahms,

Just reread your latest news release... you just don’t get it. The ITE is an engineering organization. Your job is to get the engineering part right. Not make excuses or not directly answer a single question. Quoting NHTSA or IIHS or AHS is folly. The only ITE position support or links shown on your website... is these sources? None of these organizations you circled around in your defense solves the engineering problem at hand; a clear degradation of sound engineering practices in regards to intersection safety – that needs immediate attention!

ITE’s duty is to ENGINEERS ONLY, and that their decisions are based on sound practices that have been verified.

Your answer to Armey’s charge that something has gone terribly wrong from an engineering standpoint remains unanswered. He cited many particular examples and your answer addresses none of those charges. Your answer doesn’t address the question of why prior practice clearly is working in both accident reduction and violation rate mitigation. This success, on its face, is an indictment that current practices are unsound. Why hasn’t the ITE immediately sent out a bulletin advising your members of the extent of the problem; an advisory intersection safety review bulletin – from an engineering only viewpoint?

The ITE hasn’t released any documentation that supports the problem ITE Standard Practice changes cited by Armey. What supporting entry on red and reduced accident studies led to these changes? Where is the verified peer review and subsequent independent field verification prior to the standards being altered? What is ITE’s position on the FHWA removal of intersection engineering studies as the new safety standard – design now being permitted by political decree (no fact based starting point). How can you support this? How did this get into an engineering standard? How did we get city wide 3 second yellows being cited as national standard accepted practice by ITE member engineers?

Each of these organizations you looked to protection of criticism from in your release are PR firms, or in other words advertising firms, trying to sell us something FALSE, that has nothing to do with the problem. PR equals in this context spin or misdirection to further support its constituent’s myths. Each of the above entities primary constituents are those interests that derive their existence from or in support of the enforcement industry.

Red Light Cameras Save Lives and Taxpayer Dollars
Advocates for Highway Safety – PR firm supported largely from premium surcharges.

Have you verified NHTSA data? No you haven’t. No one has! Yet you are relying wholly on it. There is no reliable data on this issue. At best, the numbers you quote in your release are WAGs (wild ass guesses) done to garner the largest numbers possible. NONE of their data can be trusted and all the organizations above are known to literally lie, to make themselves look good or further an Urban Myth they created.

NHTSA’s PR firm does its releases. They are charged with creating a crisis, garnering public support for the need to intervene, professional ad people decide what data or poll results best meets its objectives (creatively collected and poll questions they wrote), the implementation plan and all supporting media kits and then supervise the launch. You know, just like Sony did in its advertising of great movie reviews, citing a critic that didn’t exist during the launch of their movies.

ITE isn’t an enforcement group either.

ITE welcomes the opportunity to work with Dick Armey, other members of Congress and others to address the nation’s intersection safety problem. To do so effectively, we need the partnership of the public policy-maker and the allied partners in the safety and enforcement communities. We look forward to making significant strides with Dick Armey’s support and commitment to tackle this issue.

A synthesis of practice surely makes since – since current practice is in total chaos and has no clear direction. Yes you are an international organization; many of your new members are state controlled and are not objective contributors – particularly the UK and EU countries.

We would all be better served if we stayed with just fact and independently verified findings that can be replicated. Maybe the old ways in this case are best. Have a traffic signal engineers (only) committee review accident data and old practice. Then have the ITE issue an advisory bulletin as how to do a quality control check on signal timing with recommend practices for each of the problems that may need to be addressed. Like high entry on red rates, high rear end collision or side impact rates, wide intersections, slow moving busses or large number of trucks. high approach speeds etc. Along with a mandate that the prevailing approach speed (85th up next 5 mph) be determined as a starting point. Nice to know what the traffic is actually doing that you are trying guide and regulate. What a concept!

Get the engineering part right first, in an easy to implement standard that can be replicated everywhere... traffic flow and safety improves and accidents are reduced. This is ITE’s only duty.

Chad Dornsife

Erik Skrum
National Motorists Association