Red Light Camera Vendor Not Doing So Well With Public Opposition Driving Down Its Revenue

from the awww...-too-bad dept

There's been significant growing opposition to red light camera programs, which have a long history of showing absolutely no safety benefit, and are often run for-profit by local governments in combination with private companies. That opposition is leading more and more cities and towns to dump the red light cameras -- while some operators are getting caught illegally decreasing the time of the yellow or amber lights to try to issue more fines.

Jeff Nolan alerts us to the news that one of the biggest players in the space, Redflex, has announced that public opposition to its cameras has created a real drain on revenue, and its profits were down significantly. This would be the same Redflex that just so happened to fail to live up to its contract in Denver to deliver data that could be used to determine whether or not the cameras were really effective.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    fogbugzd, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Fines as revenue = Bad practice

    One thing I remember from an "economics of government" course years ago was the principle that fines are a poor revenue source. Fines should discourage behavior, so ideally income from fines should be zero.

    Still, fines as income is a very popular concept politically because the perception is that it is a way to make someone else, or some unpopular group, to pay faux-taxes. However, when fines are seen as a major revenue source the government will inevitably try to broaden the base of those paying fines, or they will begin over-enforcement of fine producing activities to the detriment of effective enforcement mechanisms.

    The effect is especially bad when the revenue goes to the ones enforcing policy. We had a classic example of this locally. Our "drug strike force" is financed mostly by drug seizures. The strike force announced that it was shifting more of its resources to "revenue generating" enforcement activities. This meant backing away from highly effective activities such as education and treatment programs. As it turned out, they were also watching drug transactions, and letting them pass if the purchaser was driving a clunker, but swooping in on anyone in a fancy car with good resale value.

     

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  2.  
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    Yohann, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    They might work

    I think one of the problems with the red light cameras is that most people either a) don't know what intersections the cameras are located, or b) don't remember that the cameras are there. Red light cameras would be a fantastic idea if there wasn't so much bureaucracy.

    Since the city is enforcing the law with the cameras, the company that installed them shouldn't get a cut of any money made. They should be paid in full, or the city allots a payment from the city budget each year. If the money from the cameras isn't working, that means the cameras are doing their jobs.

    Honestly, it's the company that put them cameras in that made the poor decisions here. Their product does exactly one thing: stop people from running red lights. When everyone is trained, the money stops coming in. Plain and simple.

    But since money is the root of all evil here... *shrug*

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 9:56am

    Re: Fines as revenue = Bad practice

    Not surprised. I've maintained this viewpoint for some time now. Thank you for stating it well.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    I think the real problem is...

    The one guy, Phil, who was originally hired to "compile the data and determine if the cameras are effective" was re-purposed to opening wheelbarrows full of envelopes stuffed with cash.

    Things like that happen. You gotta to draw your priorities, man.

    You know, we shouldn't have to keep talking about this, children. But someone has to stick the CEO of RedFlex (Karen Finley) in the corner and pull her pants down.

     

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  5.  
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    Shawn (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:22am

    Re: They might work

    How does a camera stop someone from running a red light?

    Their product does one thing: Take pictures

     

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  6.  
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    Overcast (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    I don't think the city where I live has bothered with them - but I know when I'm traveling out of town and come to a red light - no matter what the circumstances, I won't run it. If I have to jack on my brakes and get read-ended - so be it. As long as I don't run the light, all is well.

    Good reason for driving rental cars out of town too.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    I was going through a camera light last week. The light turned yellow just before I got to the intersection. The person behind me was riding my bumper and I was scared to aggressively hit the breaks, for fear I'd get hit.

    Instead, I gunned it to make sure I made it through the yellow in time.

    How is that safer, St. Louis?

     

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  8.  
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    Kazi, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    That's unsafe driving ... hopefully that was sarcasm.

     

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  9.  
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    Faith, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Red light camers

    As a cab driver I have no problem with the cameras, except when there is no visual counter to let you know when the light is about to change.

    People either stop on green or slam on the breaks when the light has turned yellow to avoid getting a ticket.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re:

    Kazi, That isn't unsafe driving, here in orlando flordia people tail gate really bad. If i come under circumstances that I have to break really hard such as for an ill-timed yellow/Red light then my likelyhood of getting rear ended is fairly high, where as the risk of getting hit by a car perpendicular is next to null seeing as that at the latest my vehicle will be 3/4 if not all the way through the intersection by the time the perpendicular traffic gets a green(Due to a delay in between one right of way's red light and the turning to green in the other right of way) many times over the years the car behind me has even hit the gas to make it through the light and if I had hit my brakes to stop at the same time they hit the gas, given how close they are and the crappy braking distances and poor reaction times of most drivers I woulda been hit. unfortunately these cameras dont discriminate whether it was safer or if it truely was someone not paying attention or just in a rush. Nearly all statistics show intersections with red light cameras in-fact have more accidents at them once the cameras are installed than they did before the cameras. The only statistics that point the other way i'd be carefull of due to the whole "Fox watchin the hen house" ordeal in which company's that sell the cameras present those figures or cash hungry government entities. Government has become to much of a business.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Re:

    "You haven't been around that many teachers, have you?"

    I think the plan is to have enough violent accidents that the entire population of St. Louis drops sufficiently so that there is no longer significant traffic on the streets, ergo no or nearly no traffic accidents.

    Having spent time in St. Louis to watch the Cubs, I wholeheartedly endorse this fantastic St. Louis plan....

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    I left last comment, not to mention i drive a motorcycle so getting rear ended isn't exactly one of those things I say "oh well; their insurance will pay for it" seeing as that i might very well die(unlikely- but possible)[All of you anti motorcycle folk need not reply with your narrow mindsets- I spend less on gas than you do :P and probably have a better driving record as well]

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    Re: Re:

    Wow.

    So you just managed to quote someone in another story which has no bearing in this story and then write something from this story about St. Louis and try to tie it to baseball.

    I think your helmet is severely affecting blood circulation to your brain, Dark Helmet. You may need to get that checked out. To make it easy, I found you a doctor with some things on their website you can read prior to your first visit:
    http://www.chicagopsychiatry.yourmd.com

     

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  14.  
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    wnyght, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    damn cagers, can't stand them. *2 down, peace on the road*

     

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  15.  
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    Yohann, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: They might work

    How does a camera stop someone from running a red light?

    Their product does one thing: Take pictures


    Same way that security posts at a store's exit stop a shoplifter: Deterrent. If you faced an $80 ticket, would you run through a red light? It keeps the people abiding by the law honest, and punishes the red light runners.

    If someone with car insurance runs a red light and causes an accident, they pay the $500 deductible, and the insurance company picks up the rest. That turns into higher rates, even for those who don't have any accidents. If nobody ran red lights (or even yellow ones), how many intersection accidents would there be compared to everyone running red lights? Given, this shows both limits and somewhere in between is what is happening now. 1%, 5%, 8% of drivers run red lights? Either way you look at it, running a red light can and will eventually cause an accident which might also kill someone.

    Your wife, children, mother or father could be killed by a red light runner who might've slowed down and stopped if he/she knew they were going to be caught. It's the same way DUI checkpoints deter drunk driving. If nobody got caught for DUI or DWI, then most likely more people would do it.

     

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  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, thanks! That's good looking out.

     

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  17.  
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    Kazi, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What I do to people like that is force them to stop by slowing down and watching them in the rear view mirror.

    I may stop in the middle of the intersection but if anything I clearly have evidence that I could have stopped but someone was tailgating me thus they should be the ones having the ticket.

    Almost had someone rearend me once on a light. Stopped 2/5 into the intersection with them honking behind me. Guess who got the ticket?

     

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  18.  
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    GJ (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: They might work

    But what is the objective? Are we trying to stop people from running a red light, or are we trying to punish people who run a red light?

    This is an important difference.

    In Europe they've started with small fees for traffic infractions. A couple of euros (dollars if you will) for speeding 5km over the limit, staying in the left lane for too long (seconds)... It's a huge revenue generator. It has also created a lot more nervous drivers.

    If the punishment is so important as a deterrent, then I would propose this: anyone who runs a red light is to be sentenced to 40 hours community service. Now you have the financial deterrent (people would have to take time off work), without anyone government body getting rewarded for citizens' bad behaviour.

    You can even make it progressive. First offense: 10 hours, second offense: 20 hours, third offense: 40 hours.

    There are lots of soup kitchens that can use the assistance.

    --GJ--

     

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  19.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: They might work

    I like the idea of community service in place of fines for community-related infractions. Running a red light without hurting anyone is by definition a victimless-crime ... it's not even a "crime" at all, but a law infraction. The ultimate victim is the community, because of the threat of said driver is to other community members that proceed on a green light without looking to see that they are actually clear to go.

    Since the "victim" is the community, the government should not receive financial compensation, but the community receiving service for the danger the driver posed is far more palpable.

    "Your ideas intrigue me. I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter."

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Fines as revenue = Bad practice

    One thing I remember from an "economics of government" course years ago was the principle that fines are a poor revenue source.

    Poor for whom? It seems to work out pretty well for those collecting the fines.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: They might work

    Same way that security posts at a store's exit stop a shoplifter: Deterrent. If you faced an $80 ticket, would you run through a red light?

    It seems to me that the possibility of being injured or killed would be much greater deterrent than the possibility of an $80 fine, so that logic just doesn't hold. No, the main purpose I see for red-light cameras is just to take people's money.

    Oh, and I've got news for you: stores still have shoplifters.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I clearly have evidence that I could have stopped but someone was tailgating me thus they should be the ones having the ticket.

    Umm, no you don't. That's the thing about red-light cameras, they don't show what led up to the situation like a cop watching the intersection would have seen. They're zero tolerance.

    Almost had someone rearend me once on a light. Stopped 2/5 into the intersection with them honking behind me. Guess who got the ticket?

    If it was from a red-light camera, that would have been you.

     

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  23.  
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    Thomas (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    never about safety

    Red Light cameras have never been about safety; it's always been about issuing tickets and collecting fines. They enjoy doing things like shortening the yellow so you have no time to react. Accidents always increase with red light cameras.

     

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  24.  
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    Big Al, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    Camera Timing

    In Adelaide we have a number of red-light cameras (some of which also double as speed cameras, but that's another story). The one thing all the cameras have in common is that they won't trigger until 1.5 seconds after the light has turned. This allows anyone caught in the junction turning against the traffic time to get out before the flash goes off. It also means that anyone driving normally has no problem. Yellow lasts about 2.5 - 3.5 seconds (depending on the speed limit of the road), enough time to stop before the red comes, or make the decision to go through.
    Of course, what this really means is that anyone caught out by the camera has either made a conscious decision to run the red, or is so inattentive they shouldn't be driving anyway.
    Is that really so hard to handle?

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Camera Timing

    Is that really so hard to handle?

    It's generally not that way in the US, which is what is being discussed. Is that really so hard to understand?

     

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  26.  
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    flattire, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    Intersection Cameras

    One of the unknowns amongst all of this is the uncertainty and anxiety that is experienced when one approaches an intersection with enforcement cameras. If the signal is Green, for how long will be remain Green? It could suddenly change at any moment, and that moment could be the timing as one approaches the threshold of the intersection and not able to suddenly stop. My only recourse would be to affix a caution sign to the back of my vehicle indicating that I stop at every camera enforced intersection, even if the signal is Green. I'd rather wait for the light to cycle again than take my chances. I know other motorists will be mad and it's potentially unsafe, but if the municipalities are extorting us, then there is little recourse.

     

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