Florida's Redlight Program Designed To Make Driving More Dangerous By Shortening Yellow Lights

from the putting-lives-in-danger dept

For years, we've been critics of red light cameras, which have been shown time and time again to actually increase accidents rather than decrease them -- which you would think should be the goal. Of course, we all know that's not really the goal. The goal has always been revenue generation for cities. If they actually wanted to increase safety there's a very simple way to do it: you increase the timing of yellow lights (and for the places, like where I live, that don't have an interval between when one direction turns red and the other turns green, you add that brief interval where all directions are red). Do that, and you increase safety and decrease accidents. And it's incredibly easy and cheap to do.

But, of course, various governments hate that idea, because it would decrease the massive revenue from red light camera fines. That's why over and over and over again, we see that various governments are caught redhanded lowering the time for yellow lights. Make no mistake about it: this increases the danger, and puts many more people at risk. Stupidly, it probably also could end up costing the city more in terms of having to respond to more accidents and deal with more injuries. But, boy, I'm sure it pumps up the revenue on red light camera violations.

The latest example of this comes via Darby Keene, who points out that the Florida Department of Transportation quietly tweaked its own standards for yellow light intervals in 2011, allowing them to be shorter without breaking the law (after many cities have been caught violating official standards). And, of course, various cities quickly did lower the interval timing. Yes, revenue at the expense of public safety. Research has shown that reducing the time of a yellow light by a mere half a second can double the number of red light camera citations -- and in some cases, the changes to FDOT's regulations meant cities reduced the length of a yellow light by an entire second. Smell that? It's the smell of revenue for cities, intermingled with wrecked cars and destroyed lives!

Even worse: while FDOT is claiming that it changed its regulations to clean up some wording, and not because of potential revenue, the report from WTSP, also found emails from FDOT engineers telling local government officials to lower their yellow light intervals to the absolute minimums allowed. That is, they weren't even saying it was just an option, they were being told to decrease the timing to make the intersection less safe, but more profitable.

And, while FDOT defended the whole thing claiming that they changed the policies to "match federal guidelines," the report explains that federal guidelines actually recommend longer yellow light times, just as we discussed above.

USDOT/Federal Highway Administration (FHA) report said cities should not use speed limit in the yellow interval equation because it results "in more red light violations and higher crash rates." And if drivers' average speeds cannot be calculated, it's recommended engineers use the "speed limit plus 10 mph" variable to producing more conservative, and safer, yellow intervals.

Another report stresses the importance of using 85th percentile speed to calculate yellow intervals, while slide 28 on this report indicates when yellow light times are lengthened, severe crashes drop.  

USDOT also recommends an extra half-second of yellow time at intersections with lots of trucks or elderly drivers to allow them to react safely. And despite the fact that Greater Tampa Bay is home to five of the nation's 12 oldest counties (by median age), it's also home to some of the shortest yellow lights.

Don't you feel safer now?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 10:59am

    Reminds me of that one Simpsons episode where they eliminated yellow lights because it reduced traffic jams.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    Yeah these camera's are worse. There's a terrible main road where I live where its littered with these lights.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    That's nailed-down FACT, not opinion. When you accept a "driver's" license, you agree that you're a "driver" meaning engaged in commercial transportation, NOT a private citizen using the public roads -- that you own in common with other citizens -- and that every citizen has a RIGHT to use.

    Problem is that most people are unaware of common law and so makes the few who do easy isolated prey for REVENOOERS. Yes, that's what that OLD term means: they're just out to steal your MONEY under "color of law"; it's CONTRACT law not Constitutional, and they keep you ignorant of that.

    Just look right at the cop and say, "So? Tain't a crime." Many of them will back off just from that.

    And red-light cameras are just outright FASCISM transfers of money, not any law to it. Now's time to show a little backbone, people: just don't pay the alleged fines.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re: A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    You don't live in reality.

     

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  5.  
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    Rich, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    Re: A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    Reload. Reload. Reload. Oh! Posts stupid comment.

     

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    AzureSky (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:13am

    Having visited FL, I can tell you, their drivers are INSANE, anything to make it less safe deserves a law suit and possibly criminal charges(they can always trump something up, they do it to us normal people all the time)

    and OMFG OOTB posting something that was of any use....*faints*

    as to this story, i really hope some citizens sue, also hope somebody sees some gain in criminal charges for those who caused this, they are causing injury and death in the persuet of monetary gain....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    This is why I'll never ever take a job in Philadelphia, because it's the ONLY part in my state at the moment allowed to have these red light cameras, as part of a 'experiment' for the rest of the state.

    And it's also why I'm through with driving to ANYWHERE in New Jersey, even if it's for a much better paying job, because those red light cameras are all over there.

    I've never gotten a ticket for it, but I have nearly gotten into an accident because I braked hard when a light turned yellow and I really should have gone through, because the GPS said there was a red light camera there. I was going so fast I was almost in the middle of the intersection by the time I managed to completely stop, and had to backup what little I could. I'm lucky the person behind me braked quick enough to not hit me.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    I am going out on a limb here to raise some defense for the Florida DOT. I still think red light cameras should be abolished, but there may be some other factors in timing.

    I used to be a Transportation planner. There are legitimate reasons for reducing timings on yellow lights in very heavily congested areas. Under some circumstances increasing timing by half a second can cause gridlock and other congestion problems. Reducing timing can sometimes resolve traffic problems. The average commuter stuck in a traffic jam is going to be frustrated and maybe complain to elected officials. The person who avoids an accident because of the increased timing is not even aware their life may have been saved and thus says nothing.

    I have had a number of courses in public policy. Generally it is a very bad idea to have fines go to the entity that is responsible for enforcement. The entire enforcement mechanism gets warped by the drive for revenue. I remember a case study in one of my classes that allowed a drug enforcement strike force keep vehicles seized in drug busts and sell the cars at auction. Drug enforcement almost immediately switched from busting street corner dealers to dealers who worked out of cars. Over time enforcement efforts shifted to wealthier neighborhoods which were likely to have more valuable cars. Dealers adapted by driving junker cars that didn't have much resale value. This resulted in police letting the dealers go so they could focus on picking up the buyers driving SUV's and luxury cars.

    Missouri considered and rejected a law that said revenue from photo-enforcement went to school districts. That would have been a step in the right direction.

     

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    crade (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    They've done the timing thing around here, increasing the timing of yellow lights beyond what is needed to notice and stop or providing of lengthening the interval between the red and green only really helps for a short while until people adjust to it. Then those who run lights just run the red for a bit longer than they used to after the yellow and everyone else just has to wait more and gets worse general traffic flow.

     

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    cosmicrat (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:35am

    I can attest to this

    One Intersection near my home is a cash cow for the city. Every other intersection in the area has pedestrian lights that count down to zero, then there is a pause, then the main light turns yellow. On this one there is no pause. Plus the yellows are the shortest around.

     

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    crade (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    Re: A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    So traffic rules are fascism but keeping people from repeating something you say or do is a natural right.. Got it! :)

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    [OT] Subcommitte finally coming to order

    [Off-Topic] The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet is holding a hearing today on copyright reform.

    An hour late, the hearing has finally come to order. Webcast has started.

    A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project
    Thursday 5/16/2013 - 2:00 p.m.
    2141 Rayburn House Office Building

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 11:59am

    Re:

    There are legitimate reasons for reducing timings on yellow lights in very heavily congested areas. Under some circumstances increasing timing by half a second can cause gridlock and other congestion problems. Reducing timing can sometimes resolve traffic problems.

    Those may be reasons, but I'm gonna disagree with the "legitimate" part. Removing all speed limits everywhere would also help some commuters stuck in traffic to have a shorter commute time, but that doesn't mean we should do it.

    There are better ways to resolve congestion - more lanes, rerouting roads, better alternate routes, adding and encouraging mass transit options, and plenty of others. Those solutions are far more expensive, so lowering a few yellow light times might get some people re-elected on the cheap, but it makes the roads less safe.

     

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  14.  
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    zerostar83 (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    Redlight cameras are horrible

    In a city nearby, the provided a study that "proves" that red light cameras decrease traffic accidents. In the actual study, it shows that they compared the data after increasing yellow light times WITH the traffic cameras. Fortunately enough, there were previous studies that show that increasing the yellow light times alone had the same effect, but it was apparently overlooked.

    In a recent experience, I almost did get a ticket with a traffic camera. It was snowing, and the light turned yellow at a very uneasy time. I slid, spun around, and ended up sideways in both lanes (while ducking my face behind the steering wheel), barely making it to the line without crossing it. If it wasn't for that camera, I'd have rolled through it since it was very icy on that road.

    Also, I've had my picture taken numerous times when the lights were faulty. One time, the light turned from green to red with no yellow light, and I got a picture taken. Many times the flash when I've been going through a green light. There was even one intersection where the lights would flash constantly (light a strobe light) blinding everyone in the intersection whenever a car was stopped in a certain right turn only lane with a red light. I have never received a ticket from those cameras but it seems they don't work very well to begin with. Perhaps it's too expensive to have proper working ones.

    And just to show I'm not some camera hating person, I will tell you there was ONE instance I liked seeing a red light camera in place. It was at a very busy intersection, the kind where you are extremely lucky if you made it through the intersection the first time you saw a green light. Lots of cars used to run the red light, up to half a dozen of them after the light turned from yellow to red. I think it works for intersections where there's always congested traffic and there's those A-holes who block the intersection or just run the red because they don't want to wait their turn.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Re:

    They eliminated greens - because people drive faster through yellows, thereby reducing traffic.

    Right church, wrong pew.

     

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  16.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    Blood on their hands?

    If it isn't already true, at some point one of these governments will have blood on their hands when these shorter yellow lights cause a fatal accident.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    And when there's no cameras...

    I'm in the panhandle of Florida. It's a small town with one of the most traveled highways running through it. There are NO cameras here yet I'm not the only one who noticed the length of yellow has decreased dramatically. In the 45mph section traveling at 45mph you could safely stop a couple years ago. Now you almost have to panic stop. To make it worse the lights on the access streets have very long red light times.
    This ensures all cars are at full (plus typical speeding overage) speed when the light trips yellow...or the cars on the access street WILL run the red light so they don't have to sit through another red light cycle.
    The light in front of my shop with sidestreet access back into a large neighborhood had at least 1 major wreck every month. Wrecks so bad Life Flight had to respond.
    So for any of you driving on Hwy 98 between Fort Walton and Pensacola I hope you have nerves of steel or really good insurance.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    Re: A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    Well go ahead and run it I have no problem in my rig. You can rename yourself to pancaked_ninja_taco_sauce_rapist. "Makes more sense than anything you've ever said here."

     

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  19.  
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    Michael Whitetail, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    I have lived in Orlando, Florida since Aug 1981. I can tell you with complete honesty that light running was completely out of hand here. I would see, daily 5-8 cars go through red lights at EACH intersection on my 35 minute commute from Maitland, across I4, and down to the east side of Goldenrod (for those that might know where I am talking about)

    EVERY light, I would see it, and I would incur road rage of the other drivers when I didn't run the light. It got so bad that several people died over the years to road rage fist fights and pedestrians were always in mortal peril even when the cross walks gave them the walk sign. Something needed to be done.

    BUT red light cameras are not the answer, especially not the system they have here. I got nailed for a right turn on red that was LEGAL. There was a designated turn lane, and no oncoming traffic.

    The camera took 2 still pictures to get my plate, and a 10 second, wide angel clip to show the alleged infraction, which also showed that there was no oncoming traffic. Yet the only way to contest this was to wait 30 days for the 'discounted' fine to expire at which time I would be issued a $262 fine by the state and ordered to court.

    This is an extortion racket no different than the copyright pre-settlement BS, and it needs to be stopped. But it wont be stopped or changed in any way because it did what the cops wanted, it drastically lowered the amount of people running lights. I only see maybe 1 person in a day run a light now...

     

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  20.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    Re: And when there's no cameras...

    So what you're proving is the timing changes are independent of the cameras...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re:

    It is widely known among engineers that at some points of load more lanes do not help solve congestion, but the rest are good ideas.

    I would still call it somewhat "legitimate" to reduce yellow timing, though it might not be as good a way to solve the problem of congestion as the other suggested ways.

    There has been a massive switch towards roundabouts here to reduce the number of severe crashes. They work far better on 2 laned roads as opposed to more lanes, but it is in no way the only reason to avoid more lanes. By reducing the number of lanes, you encourage drivers to take alternative routes, you reduce the number of hazard lane-changes and generally improves the ease of use for non-regulars.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: And when there's no cameras...

    The point is that the timing changes result in more violations that end up being more money for the city which is the whole point of the change as well as the installation of a camera if there is one. The driving force behind the ticket is to make the money not increase safety. The expressed desire to increase safety is merely the means of selling the action to the public on which they prey.

     

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  23.  
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    ShellMG, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    Is part of the driver rage the fact your red lights are so danged long?

    Michigan roads are so old their layout -- especially interstate ramps -- are dangerous, don't have shoulders, crumbling pavement after just 2 years, etc. One of the few things done *right* is our stoplight timing. The intersection may be poorly engineered but the timing of lights is tailored towards time of day and the prevailing direction of traffic. We go to Florida once a year and the light timing makes my husband tear his hair out...not something he can afford to do anymore.

    SPUI's are here. God help us.

     

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  24.  
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    Bengie, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:30pm

    Need a rule for federal funding

    If a city decides to reduce yellow lights below some seconds per MPH algorithm, then the whole state should have its federal funding pulled for roads.

    That would stop the issue.

    Really, it should be easy to determine a base length on speed.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re:

    I agree with you that this reason for reducing yellow light times is totally unacceptable, but please let me defend the use of "legitimate".

    (Disclaimer, I am an engineer and look at these things through that lens). This is a classic case of an engineering tradeoff. Optimizing for one variable (reducing gridlock) often deoptimizes another variable (reducing intersection accidents).

    To reduce the yellow light timings to ease gridlock is a legitimate engineering solution. It is not an acceptable public policy decision in my opinion, as it is optimizing for the wrong thing -- but that's not the sort of call an engineer typically makes. He's just told "optimize for 'x'" by his bosses. If he's really good at his job, he'll already have submitted an analysis to his bosses explaining all the various consequences of doing what they want, but it's still their call.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 10:32pm

    Re: Re: A traffic stop is not a policing, it's a REVENUE action.

    Up until the fascism comment, he was actually quite correct. You do have a right to freely travel the highways in the US without restriction unless you waive those rights.

    Plenty of reading available on the topic of sovereign citizens.

    http://www.land.netonecom.net/tlp/ref/right2travel.shtml

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 1:11am

    It's the classic strategy of picking up dimes in front of a steamroller: a steady revenue stream of traffic fines interrupted by the occasional $50 million dollar lawsuit.

     

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  28.  
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    The Real Michael, May 17th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    Re:

    Uh, yeah, that ought to resolve the issue. Like the state wouldn't just pin all their legal expenses on the taxpayers. A class-action lawsuit might do some serious publicity damage, but they wouldn't scrap the system over it. They'd come out with some PR stunt about putting more safeguards in place and making the system work more accurately and efficiently, but that's about it.

     

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  29.  
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    Niall (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    Re:

    That's ok, in a month or so 'Philly' will be trashed by zombies... ;)

     

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  30.  
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    Niall (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 7:02am

    Re: Re:

    Like several European cities have found that actually reducing the numbers of red lights in total helped improve traffic flow without adversely affecting safety.

     

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  31.  
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    tb2, May 17th, 2013 @ 7:56am

    Sign me for the short bus. The traffic lights in this county are especially obnoxious. Coupled with speedtraps on a winding parkway, you really don't get any sense of safety, mentally or physically speaking, while driving in this area much less on the express way.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2013 @ 8:18pm

    Re:

    I was with you t the point where you said that what the cops wanted was less people running red lights. They don't want that. They want the money generated from writing more tickets.

     

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  33.  
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    hugh mc Neill, May 19th, 2013 @ 3:44am

    FL is out to kill pedestrians: toddlers, mothers, retirees, slower handicapped walkers\\wepK

    The laws appear in Florida and Michigan to regress 400 to 800 years in to the past effective 2011 to 2013. MI ceased to have hearings on laws, which should be rescinded since 2011. Florida likewise as has MI, reduced the time of hte orange light or terminated it completely to run down toddlers, school kids, handicapped, elderly, wheel chair folks. Retirees beware and exit Florida and Mi as soon as possible. Both state altered their laws to protect big business owners.
    Stanford, UT of TX law school professors and federalist society proclaimed bulk of US states as an 1812 to 2012 illegal, ironclad monopoly for 200-years. Vermont wants to exit the 50 states if they are not allowed to decommission nuclear reactors (not built underground: 280 globally).Air Force states we need only 331 nuclear missiles, Congress approved at $65-million each, 5,113 to be modernized. Only 2% of each $65million reaches jobs or wages on all military contracts. Congress remains "clueless" and a "stalemate" to renige on illegal laws and spending.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    John85851 (profile), May 21st, 2013 @ 3:17pm

    It's just a money-maker

    If anyone is defending red light cameras, let me point this out (from experience, since my wife got one): there is no room for debating the ticket, period.

    If you run a red light in front of a police officer, you can can explain what happened: maybe the guy behind you was tailgating and you couldn't stop safely, maybe it's an emergency, or whatever. In ALL cases, the police office can use his or her judgment to decide whether to give you ticket. Maybe you'll get a warning, maybe you'll get a reduced ticket, or maybe the full ticket. If you do get a ticket, there's information on the back about how you have the right to a court date, and if you don't pay the fine, you will be sent a summons from the local courthouse.

    With a red light camera, there is no judgment call: the camera has a picture of your license plate, your car, and maybe your face, and it doesn't care why you did it. On the ticket itself is text explaining that you MUST pay the fine. (On a side note, the instructions say to send the payment to the company, NOT the local law enforcement.) There is NO information about how to fight or appeal the ticket.
    And if you're good about paying on time, then you don't get any points on your license and the ticket is not reported to your insurance company.

    If you do NOT pay the fine by the due date, you can have your legally-entitled day in court. However, you run the risk of getting a judge who sides with the ticketing company. (Put more bluntly: a judge who has been told by the state that the red light camera company is giving money to the state, so the judge should throw the book at anyone who argues against a ticket.) Now, sure, maybe you'll get a judge that agrees with you about the evils of red light cameras, but are you willing to take the risk?
    Like other posters have said, the fine doubles (or more) if you go to court. And if you lose, you have to pay the full fine AND court fees AND get points on your license, which could lead to higher insurance rates... not to mention any income you might lose by taking time off work to go to court.

    Yet politicians like these cameras because of the quick infux of income. But how many accidents do these cause and how long will it be until the expenses of sending police and rescue services to the accidents overtakes the income?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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