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Police to stop using warning signs when monitoring speeding in Tallinn

Liivalaia tänav in Tallinn.
Liivalaia tänav in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The police are planning to ramp up traffic supervision in the heart of Tallinn and will no longer be warning motorists of upcoming mobile speed cameras using signs, Taavi Kirss, head of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) traffic monitoring service, said. Last year, Peterburi tee, Pärnu maantee and Paldiski maantee where the hot spots for speeding in the capital.

The Tallinn City Government has decided that speed limits will be lowered gradually, while driving speeds will be limited to 30 kilometers per hour in the entire city center area (kesklinn and südalinn) by the end of 2024. Only thoroughfare streets will allow driving at 40 kilometers per hour. In January, the speed limit was lowered on Liivalaia tänav, one of the busiest in the capital.

While the police gave motorists some time to adjust to the new situation, mobile speed cameras are out now. The results are clear. While the police registered just 51 speeding offenses on Liivalaia tänav in November, this jumped to 245 in January, whereas only one speeder was caught by a patrol car. The rest were caught using mobile speed traps.

Taavi Kirss said the plan is to ramp up traffic supervision in the city center for which temporary automatic speed traps will be used primarily as it is difficult for manned patrols to monitor adherence to the speed limit on more than one lane. The advantage of manned patrols is the ability to talk to the driver and explain the potentially tragic consequences of speeding.

Streets prone to seeing violations

The data is for 2023 and compiles violations registered by speed traps and manned patrols.

Peterburi tee 15,844
Pärnu mnt 13,608
Paldiski mnt 8,899
Narva mnt 7,622
Järvevana tee 5,715

No more warning signs before of speed traps

The police used to put out traffic signs warning of upcoming speed traps. This practice will be altered now. "We will stop using warning signs because we've seen drivers keep an eye out for them and slow down before the speed camera only to put the pedal to the metal again right after," Kirss said. The PPA representative added that the use of warning signs may still prove necessary in some situations.

Kirss said that the police also want to set up in more unexpected places to urge drivers to stick to the speed limit. "The goal is for people to observe the speed limit everywhere, which matters to everyone who participates in traffic, especially pedestrians and cyclists."

Peterburi tee and Pärnu maantee hot spots for speeding

Most speeders were caught on Peterburi tee where 15,844 cases of speeding were registered, followed by Pärnu maantee (13,608). "There are two stretches on Pärnu maantee where people like to drive faster – near the Järve Selver and in the vicinity of the overpass. And while it may seem [to drivers] that there are multiple lanes to allow driving at different speeds, it is a matter of principle for the police: the speed limit is there to be observed. Because speeding in one area will eventually lead to people speeding elsewhere and perhaps ignoring other traffic rules or signs. And in the end, that is why we have traffic accidents. Such behavior is just too risky," Kirss pointed out.

Fines not the goal

Many drivers have noticed that the police tends to be out measuring speeds during periods of less traffic. For example, on weekend mornings. Is the purpose of this to collect more fines in order to demonstrate efficiency? Taavi Kirss said that statistics is irrelevant from where the police are standing. He suggested that there is little reason to up the number of traffic patrols as mobile speed traps do most of the work. Statistics also suggest that mobile speed traps catch a lot more speeders than police officers. In January, patrols registered 702 speeders in Tallinn, while automatic cameras caught 9,335 cases of exceeding the speed limit.

Kirss also said that Tallinn should have more stationary speed cameras to also detect traffic light violations and people driving on public transport lanes. The police in Tallinn have two mobile speed traps at their disposal and there are no plans to procure more at this time.

But drivers are struggling as it is difficult to navigate streets with changing speed limits. Wouldn't it be simpler to just change the speed limit at once in the city center? Kirss said the city government is right to move gradually as it forces drivers to pay more attention to their surroundings.

Violations detected by police patrols

Violations detected by mobile speed traps

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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marcus Turovski

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