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Safety is always a priority when it comes to driving on the road. One way to ensure that motorists and passers-by are protected is through traffic monitoring. A common piece of equipment used to implement this type of surveillance, often used as part of a larger commercial security camera system, is a traffic monitoring camera. These devices allow security personnel to keep an eye on the road in real-time and record video footage to improve operations and use in the event of an accident or crime. Traffic monitoring cameras can help lower accidents in accident-prone areas and reduce road traffic collisions by up to 15%. 

But their usage has grown from simple traffic monitoring; traffic control cameras are now an essential part of cities’ private and public transportation and logistics departments, working hard to improve traffic flow and safety. Traffic monitoring cameras help people get the latest traffic report before heading out. So, how do these cameras work and how can they keep the road safe and secure? 

Here you’ll learn how traffic cameras work, the different types of traffic monitoring cameras available and the benefits of having them on the road. 

How traffic surveillance cameras work

Also called traffic control cameras or traffic video monitors, traffic cameras are placed strategically in various locations such as complex intersections, roads with traffic congestion, or areas that frequently experience extreme weather.

Traffic monitoring cameras are typically deployed at strategic locations along roads and highways to provide a comprehensive view of traffic flow and conditions. These cameras may be mounted on poles, bridges, or other structures and are usually placed at intersections, on-ramps, and other points where traffic is likely to be heavy or congested.

Once deployed, the cameras are connected to a control center or network, where the images they capture can be viewed in real-time by traffic engineers or law enforcement personnel. These individuals can use the images from the traffic monitoring cameras to monitor traffic flow, detect accidents or other disruptions, and take appropriate action if necessary. Traffic monitoring systems can be used with other systems like parking lot surveillance cameras for a more robust security strategy for street safety.

Some traffic monitoring cameras are equipped with sensors that can detect the speed of vehicles, allowing authorities to enforce traffic laws and issue tickets to drivers who are speeding. Other cameras may be equipped with additional features, such as the ability to capture images at night or in low light conditions using infrared technology.

Different types of traffic cameras and light sensors

If you observe traffic surveillance cameras at intersections and other roads, you’ll notice that they can look different. All of these cameras can monitor the roads, but they serve different purposes. Here are some of the most common types of traffic cameras and their uses.

Red light traffic cameras

This is one of the most commonly known type of traffic cameras. A red light camera’s main purpose is to help stop motorists violating the stop lights. A camera at stop light has a sensor installed that can detect when a motorist enters an intersection at a red light. When triggered, the camera will take a still snapshot of the offending vehicle. Connected to an automated ticket-issuing system, stop lights with cameras can create incident reports for the vehicle by identifying the license plate.

In addition to helping to enforce traffic laws and reduce red light violations, red light cameras can also play a role in reducing fatal car accidents. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that intersections without red light cameras are 30% more likely to have a fatal red-light-running crash rate than those with cameras. This suggests that the use of red light cameras can help to reduce the number of fatal car accidents at intersections by encouraging drivers to follow traffic laws and stop at red lights.

Red light camera vs. traffic monitoring camera

Red light cameras and traffic cameras are both used to monitor traffic on roads and highways. However, they serve different purposes and are typically used in different ways.

Red light cameras are specifically designed to capture images of vehicles that run red lights at intersections. These cameras are typically activated when a vehicle passes over a sensor in the roadway as the traffic signal is red. The camera will then capture images of the vehicle and its license plate, which can be used to identify the driver and issue a ticket. Red light cameras are typically mounted on poles or other structures near the intersection and are used to enforce traffic laws and improve safety at intersections.

Traffic surveillance cameras, on the other hand, are more general-purpose cameras that are used to monitor traffic flow and conditions on roads and highways. These cameras may be mounted on poles, bridges, or other structures, and are used to capture images of the surrounding area. The images are then transmitted to a control center or displayed on monitors for traffic engineers and law enforcement personnel to view. 

One significant difference between traffic cameras vs red light cameras is the use of sensors. Traffic cameras may be equipped with sensors that can detect the speed of vehicles and alert authorities to potential speeding violations, but they are not specifically designed to capture images of vehicles running red lights. Traffic cameras are typically used to improve traffic safety and alleviate congestion on roads and highways.

Speed cameras

Another type of traffic camera that has a similar concept to red light cameras is a speed camera. It also can automatically detect and issue violations, but they only do so with speeding violations instead of red light offenses.

Unlike red light cameras that are installed to keep intersections in heavily populated areas safer, speed cameras are used in less populated roads and residential areas with frequent speeding complaints. Essentially, these cameras help identify drivers that exceed the speed limit in a designated area.

Due to vehicles moving at high speeds, these cameras must be able to capture clear images of fast-moving objects, and provide clear and accurate license plate readings.

Fixed and mobile speed cameras

There are two types of speed cameras: fixed and mobile. Fixed speed cameras are stationary cameras that are mounted on poles or other structures and are used to monitor traffic at a specific location. These cameras are typically placed on roads where there is a history of speeding or other traffic violations, such as in school zones or near intersections, and can be used with other school security cameras for added security. Fixed speed cameras use sensors to detect the speed of passing vehicles and can capture images of those that are speeding. These images can be used to identify the driver and issue a ticket.

On the other hand, mobile speed cameras are portable cameras that can be moved from one location to another. These cameras are typically mounted on vehicles, such as police cars, and are used to monitor traffic in different areas of a city or region. Mobile speed cameras are often used in areas where there is not a permanent camera installed, or as a way to supplement existing fixed speed cameras. Like fixed speed cameras, mobile speed cameras use sensors to detect the speed of passing vehicles and can capture images of those that are speeding.

Traffic light sensor cameras

Traffic sensor cameras, also known as traffic flow cameras or traffic signal cameras, are a type of traffic light sensor. They are a non-enforcement type of street security camera, which means they don’t track traffic violations. Traffic light sensors or cameras have different purposes, but most of the time they are used to measure traffic patterns, traffic flow and determine traffic light timing.

Apart from being a non-enforcement camera, the main difference between a red light camera vs. traffic sensor cameras is their mounting location. Depending on the organization, traffic sensor cameras are mounted in different locations for a variety of reasons, including monitoring traffic flow, enforcing traffic laws, improving traffic safety and alleviating congestion. These cameras provide valuable information about traffic conditions and can help to improve the efficiency and safety of the roads. Another way to distinguish traffic light sensor cameras is their appearance. They are mostly small, cylindrical or dome-shaped, and are enclosed in weatherproof housing.

Avigilon H5A IR PTZ Camera

Monitor traffic conditions, even in complete darkness. This security camera includes automated IR illumination up to 300 meters, up to 40x zoom and meets NEMA TS2 environmental standards for superior imaging in traffic environments.

Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras

ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras are a type of traffic monitoring camera that use artificial intelligence to detect license plate numbers. They can be mounted on poles or police cruisers and are used to track the whereabouts of specific cars. While ANPR cameras are not able to issue traffic tickets, they can alert police to outstanding warrants and other important information by cross-referencing license plates with government databases. If an ANPR camera is mounted on a police cruiser, it will record as the vehicle is driven and automatically scan and cross-reference license plates it sees on the road.

Benefits of traffic monitoring surveillance cameras and sensors

Using traffic surveillance camera systems has numerous benefits, not just in detecting potential criminal activity and helping reduce road accidents, but also in city planning and data gathering. An intelligent transportation system needs future-forward traffic monitoring cameras as they provide the following benefits:

Enhanced data gathering for better planning

State management is often faced with traffic problems that are caused by various temporary issues such as work zones, extreme weather conditions, or unforeseen chaotic incidents. If left unsolved, it will only worsen, affecting motorists and commuters. One way to address this problem is by using traffic monitoring cameras that produce accurate traffic data.

Thanks to traffic surveillance cameras, authorities can now monitor in real time everything that is happening on the roads, including pinpointing the types of events that trigger congestion. Traffic monitoring cameras can also track traffic flow and help logistics and transportation officials take necessary actions to keep the roads from being congested. Live camera feeds allow news outlets to broadcast to motorists and commuters so they can plan their routes and skip locations with congested roads.

On top of that, engineers and city planners can use these recordings to create a better road plan to avoid traffic jams and other incidents in the future. In a nutshell, traffic monitoring cameras can help authorities and management make informed decisions when developing new traffic management strategies and creating new road projects.

Faster incident response

Traffic monitoring cameras can improve incident response times in several ways. They provide real-time images of the surrounding area, allowing authorities to monitor traffic flow and conditions in real-time and identify incidents as they occur. Some traffic monitoring cameras are equipped with sensors or built-in analytics that can detect accidents or other disruptions in traffic flow, providing early warning systems that can help to alert authorities to potential incidents.

For example, if a traffic monitoring camera detects a car pulled over on the side of the road, it can send a live alert to transportation officials. These officials can then use analytics tools to quickly assess the situation and determine the appropriate response. They may decide to send a police officer or other emergency response team to assist the driver, or they may choose to redirect traffic to avoid the area. Live alerts and analytics can help transportation officials to respond more quickly and effectively to potential incidents, improving safety and efficiency on the roads.

The cameras also provide enhanced visibility, allowing authorities to better understand the extent of an incident and take appropriate action. In addition, traffic monitoring cameras can be linked to a control center or network, improving communication and coordination among authorities and allowing them to respond more effectively.

Fewer traffic incidents

With traffic monitoring cameras, you can capture everything that’s happening on the road. When combined with artificial intelligence, traffic surveillance cameras can offer much more than just being another pair of eyes. For example, analytics for traffic monitoring cameras can easily detect and classify objects, people, or vehicles in just a split second. Speed camera types can also measure with accuracy, allowing police officers to flag cars right away when they go over the speed limit.

While traffic control cameras can’t prevent collisions or accidents, traffic cameras can help deter people from breaking the rules of the road. Just their presence can keep drivers more alert, pushing them to follow traffic rules and speed limits. This can help keep the roads safer for motorists and pedestrians.

Traffic cameras also record 24/7, so when traffic accidents do happen, authorities can easily take action and determine liability.

Reduced vehicle emissions

Advanced traffic cameras like ANPR cameras and traffic cameras with artificial intelligence can make policing more environmentally friendly. First, by using cameras to monitor traffic violations instead of deploying police patrols on the road, the use of police cars can be significantly reduced. This means that fewer police cars will be on the road, which can help reduce the overall number of vehicles on the road and, in turn, lower carbon emissions.

On top of that, traffic surveillance cameras with artificial intelligence can also help reduce carbon emissions by helping to optimize traffic flow. By analyzing real-time traffic data and identifying bottlenecks or other areas of congestion, these cameras can help to direct traffic in a more efficient manner, reducing the amount of time that vehicles are idling or stuck in traffic. This can also help to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. 

In addition, enforcing speed limits can actually benefit the environment, too. One study showed that driving within the speed limit can improve fuel economy anywhere from 7% to 23%. The less fuel is used, the fewer emissions vehicles will produce. So, by simply installing traffic cameras, motorists will be keener to abide by road rules, which can impact fuel consumption.

The future of traffic sensor and street security camera systems

As more innovation is introduced, we can expect traffic monitoring cameras to open new possibilities for motorists, commuters, and traffic authorities to keep the road safe and secure. 

These cameras are becoming intelligent with more traffic surveillance cameras now using AI to deliver actionable results that can improve the road. 

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