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slides: Speeding Tickets from Portland’s Radar Vans Hit Ten Year High

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Last year more tickets were issued from Portland Police Bureau’s photo-radar vans than in the last decade, after increased police efforts to slow traffic. 

In 2014, 33,486 citations were issued from Portland’s photo radar vans, after increasing by over 13,000 in the last three years, according to the PPB. Violations captured by the vans also increased, rising from 29,490 in 2012 to 56,981 in 2014. 

See Below: Top Five Spots for Photo-Radar Vans in 2014

The three year jump in violations and citations comes after fairly steady increase and decreases between 2005 and 2011. Sergeant David Abrahamson with the PPB Traffic Division said the increase in activity is due to more hours invested by the PBP, and strategic placement of the vans.

“We’ve really tried to focus on high crash corridors, and those usually have more traffic going through,” Abrahamson said. “We also have neighborhood associations calling us.  You won’t believe how many complaints come through the traffic division about speed.”

The police added over 400 man-hours to the program since 2012, as well as implementing digital technology for the cameras in 2011. 

Portland is one of only ten cities in Oregon that allow manned radar enforcement for speeding violations.  Vans with radar equipment and a police officer inside capture a photo of a speeding car’s driver and license plate, which can be used to issue a citation. 

Safe Roads 
Wynde Dyer, a long time Portland taxi driver, said safe roads are a concern for the 60 hours a week she spends on the road. 

“The major arteries that go east to west, especially in the southeast area, are pretty dangerous -- you have to be very careful to go slow,” Dyer said. “We’re seeing more cyclists and pedestrians and that’s a caution point.”

With a number of budget and staff cuts over the years for the Traffic Division, radar vans have become the most effective way to combat speeding. The Traffic Division dropped from 100 officers to 30 in under 30 years, according to Abrahamson, who said one officer in a well-placed van is more effective for catching speeders. 

“A drop that big, it’s a huge deal,” Abrahamson said. “How do we meet that need and the demand?”

Photo Credit: diaper via Compfight cc

Since the program started in 1995, the number of traffic fatalities has dropped by 16 percent between 1997 and 2014, according to the Traffic Division. 

The program also helps change drivers habits. A 2005 survey by DHM revealed 85 percent of drivers would drive slower all the time, if they saw photo radar in use three times a week.

Dyer said she altered her driving after receiving citations in the mail from radar vans. 

“It’s made me much more tuned in to how fast I’m going, and made me much more alert,” Dyer said.

However, she said sometimes the placement of the vans is unfair to drivers. One of her citations was from speeding onto an on-ramp to Morrison Bridge, and another was when a radar van parked right behind the sign for a speed change from 45-30 mph.

“It’s kind of cruel have a radar van on a ramp where the logical intuition is speed up,” Dyer said. “It’s cruel and unusual punishment to put one right behind a speed limit sign where you know it takes awhile to slow down or if you’re not familiar with the area.”

Fair Warning 
Under Oregon law, there must be a sign posted announcing the radar van on the street 100 to 400 yards before and at least two feet above ground level.

The website, Photo Radar Ahead, aims to help motorists be prepared to see these signs and slow down. The site also lists examples of signs that were not visibly placed, a complaint some have with the radar program. 

“That’s a tricky point—should cops give a warning, or should people just not be speeding?” Dyer said.

The Traffic Division has mostly received positive feedback from the program, according to Abrahamson.  However, he said the Division is working on creating surveys and exploring platforms to not only hear citizens comments, but to help inform the public on the dangers of speeding. 

“My heart is for traffic safety, and it’s tough to see that in a radar van. The public doesn’t see that, so we are working on improving that side,” Abrahamson said. “It’s important to educate and empower.”


Related Slideshow: Top Five Spots for Photo-Radar Vans in 2014

The Portland Police Bureau has three vans it uses in its photo radar program, which are deployed in various spots in the city. Here were the five most common spots for 2014, according to the Traffic Division. 

Prev Next


Southeast Tacoma Street at the 2000 Block

Traffic safety issue

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Northeast 148 at the 2300 Block

School Zone

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Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway at the 2500 Block

High crash corridor

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Southeast Hawthorne Street at the 2400 Block

Pedestrian Corridor

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Northeast Sandy Boulevard at the 10800 Block

Traffic safety issue


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