We've had a number of stories about problems with speed cameras, but similar problems apply to red light cameras as well. Of course, the biggest question is whether or not these cameras help make the roads safer. The problem is that the incentive of those installing the cameras is often to maximize revenue. Thus, they choose locations that are high traffic -- but not necessarily dangerous. In some cases, such as in San Diego, it turned out that officials reduced the length of the yellow light on traffic lights where speed cameras were positioned, in order to create more violations. While studies have shown that locations that have red light cameras do reduce side impact accidents, they increase rear impact accidents, because people slam on the brakes to avoid getting caught by the camera. The net effect, however, is in dispute. Some say that the reduction in side impact crashes outweighs slower rear impact crashes -- which may be true. Of course, if officials really want to stop side impact crashes from people running red lights, it seems there's a much simpler and more effective solution. Some locations do this, but I've never understood why it's not more popular: have a period of time when lights in both directions are red. That is, when the lights for one roadway turns red, don't immediately turn the cross traffic lights green. Give it a second, allowing the stragglers to get through, and then let the other traffic go. Of course, if this were all about safety that's what would happen -- and it's pretty clear that safety is coming second to revenue in many of these cases.
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