TRAFFIC

Could thermal imaging cameras be the answer to Utah’s recent rise in pedestrian deaths?

Nov 22, 2023, 5:29 PM

Image of a decoy pedestrian in a school crosswalk in West Valley City on Wednesday, March 24, 2021,...

A decoy pedestrian walks in a school crosswalk in West Valley City on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, as West Valley police conduct a crosswalk safety operation. A decoy pedestrian walks in a school crosswalk in West Valley City on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, as West Valley police conduct a crosswalk safety operation. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

OGDEN, Utah — The rising number of pedestrian deaths has car companies looking at new solutions. Thermal imaging is among those solutions.

The idea is that thermal imaging in a car camera could detect heat from a pedestrian and prevent accidents at night.

But Lt. Cameron Stiver with the Ogden City Police Department has some concerns. He said drivers already have enough in their vehicles to distract them.

“I believe that anything that distracts us from our main task while we’re driving, and that is paying attention to the roadway and operating the vehicle safely and keeping our head and eyes downrange where they’re supposed to be,” he said. “Anything that distracts us from that, is concerning.”

Stiver said thermal imaging cameras could be a useful tool, but it’s not something to depend on. There is no replacement when it comes to the human element of driving.

“Our ability to be able to check our surroundings and to make sure that we are paying attention,” Stiver said. “And, not relying on a machine to do the things that we wanna do.”

Thermal imaging also creates an opportunity for human error. A heat surge from an animal or car could be mistaken for a person.

“The further we get away from human error, the more we’re relying on technology,” Stiver said. “And, sometimes that technology is good, but it’s not the best. We’ll start pulling our attention away from driving and into other things.”

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Could thermal imaging cameras be the answer to Utah’s recent rise in pedestrian deaths?