Anger Against Red Light And Speed Cameras Going Mainstream

from the people-don't-like-'em dept

A bunch of folks have submitted this recent Washington Post article about the growing anger and resentment towards red light and speed cameras. We’ve posted similar articles in the past, but this is one of the first times I’ve seen the topic discussed in a major mainstream paper. The discussion basically hits on all the high points, showing that people really hate the devices and that the reason they’re so popular is not safety, but revenue. It also looks at the stats, talking about a few different studies. It does mention one study claiming that the cameras have decreased accidents and fatalities, but then notes numerous other studies that disagree, and digs into the details of the original study to find that it does not account for multiple other factors. At best, the studies seem to indicate that red light and speed cameras do not decrease accident rates (in one damning study, a town that got rid of its cameras saw a bigger decrease in accidents than a neighboring town that installed them). In the end, it’s quite clear that the cameras are entirely about money, and have nothing to do with safety — and it’s nice to see more people recognizing this issue.

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Comments on “Anger Against Red Light And Speed Cameras Going Mainstream”

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Brendan (profile) says:

Red light runners should be penalized harshly

But the current “red light cam” system doesn’t help. They (the contractor or the city) shorten the yellows because they want (or guaranteed?) the revenue. Then the driver just gets slapped with a ticket that does next to nothing to change his behaviour.

I say go the other direction.

Make yellow lights very long. Say, 10 seconds or more, such that any driver going any speed in any weather should be able to come to a stop. Then implement red light cameras with a zero tolerance policy. You run a red light, you lose your license for 30 days. Repeat offenses get longer periods.

each person can dispute the charge, as with any regular ticket, and any “right turns” are not treated the same way if the camera accidentally grabs them. The bad drivers have a right to defend themselves, but it will be very difficult, given the long yellows, to argue they couldn’t stop safely.

Anonymous Bad-ass says:

Re: Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

I don’t know about you chump, but I’m not gonna let a suspended license keep me from making a living. They’ll eventually generate more revenue by issuing citations for driving on a suspended license to “incompliant” citizens such as myself.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Then I suppose the penalty for driving with a suspended license would start to include jail time.

I would think impounding the vehicle should work fine. First time you’re caught driving without a license, 30 days impound (plus fees to cover the cost of storing the vehicle). Second offense, 90 days, third one year. After that point maybe jail time is necessary as they obviously aren’t getting it.

The point of a suspended license is that there are supposed to be consequences for the (supposedly) monumentally bad driving/judgment, such as having to take the bus, ride a bike, or get a ride from a friend.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

The penalty for being caught for this “moving violation” is a simple fine. There are no points issued to your license, etc. That is for one very crucial point — which is that an automated system is not able to positively identify the driver of the car committing the violation.

How do you propose you identify the person who is to lose their license for a brief period? What if that person was unlicensed already?

Longer yellows will also make the intended meaning of the yellow signal to assume they have more time to cross the intersection. There comes a point when too much yellow becomes not “yellow” at all, but “green with an attitude”.

Brendan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Yes, “green with an attitude” is a good way of putting it.

Drivers _should_ be scared and _want_ to stop when they see yellow. That is, after all, the point: “Stop if you can do so safely.”

Long yellow = you can almost always stop safely, even if speeding.

I agree the driver ID is a sticky issue. Perhaps better camera technology, coupled with a second camera at a lower angle to get a shot inside the windshield?

For drivers without licenses, there should be criminal negligence charges and jail time.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

“Long yellow = you can almost always stop safely, even if speeding.”

What? Incorrect. The length of yellow is totally unrelated to the driver’s ability to stop at the intersection after observing the light change from green to yellow. The ability to stop is related to distance from the intersection, vehicle speed, traction & brakes, and driver reflexes.

Au Contraire: a long yellow = you can almost always cross safely, even if going slowly.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

“Long yellow = you can almost always stop safely, even if speeding.”

What? Incorrect. The length of yellow is totally unrelated to the driver’s ability to stop at the intersection after observing the light change from green to yellow.

The timing of the yellow does not affect how long it takes to stop, but affects whether a driver is able to stop before the light turns red.

Au Contraire: a long yellow = you can almost always cross safely, even if going slowly.

This is not correct. If you see the light turn yellow from half a mile away, you’re not going to make it (or if you are, the inevitable accident will be horrific considering how fast you would be going). However, a long yellow does mean that it will be possible to stop before the red even when long stopping distances are required.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

“If you see the light turn yellow from half a mile away, you’re not going to make it”

This is true, but how is that affected by KEEPING the light yellow longer? You correctly noted that the important signal to try to slow down is the CHANGE from green->yellow, not the later change from yellow->red.

“However, a long yellow does mean that it will be possible to stop before the red”

What the light does or does not do is completely irrelevant to whether a driver can stop. Laws of physics govern stopping, laws of towns govern the lights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

I must be mistaken, but it sounds to me like you are trying to circumvent “due process”? Especially when the Washington Post article painfully describes the ridiculously high error rate for the Montgomery County, MD machines:

He says the cameras are hardly infallible, but that courts often treat them as if they are. For example, the Montgomery County report showed that the county, in screening the tickets to mail out, has had to kick out 23,266 “violations” from May 2007 to June 2009 because “No violation occurred/operator error.” And 10,813 were tossed for reasons including “power interruption” and “equipment malfunction.”

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

“Long yellow = you can almost always stop safely, even if speeding.” -you said this in an earlier comment. That’s logically incorrect. A long yellow affects one’s ability to cross safely, not stop safely.

This applies to the critical cars that are at or about the “point of no return” as the light changes from green to yellow. Cars further away from the intersection don’t benefit from a longer yellow either in crossing or stopping, since they can be expected to easily stop safely upon seeing the yellow. Longer yellows affect nobody’s ability to stop. Only their ability to safely cross.

You should have written:

“…given a very long yellow time WITHIN WHICH the driver should have been able to CROSS.”

Since I’m fixing it for you anyway, I also went grammar nazi. You shouldn’t dangle your prepositions. As Churchill said, “That is something up with which I will not put.”

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Since I’m fixing it for you anyway, I also went grammar nazi. You shouldn’t dangle your prepositions. As Churchill said, “That is something up with which I will not put.”

You should update your grammar Nazism. That rule is a relic from Latin and really has no place in English. Not to mention I don’t think that’s called a dangling preposition anyway, is it? Are you thinking of dangling participles?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Nope. Definitely “dangling preposition”. It’s a common grammar area that’s basically accepted now, as google can show. You’d have to be anal about language to care. Guilty.

Of course the problem with being a grammar nazi is one invariably becomes also a hypocrite, because there’s no way that everything I write is perfect!

I did not post just for the grammar point, but for the logic fail on the long yellow light.

Brendan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

The longer yellow does not move the point of no return for a given speed/stopping distance.

What is *does* do, is notifies drivers earlier, before they reach that point.

You’re thinking about it backwards. I agree that a person inclined to “get through” would then be able to floor it from farther away. But a person looking to “drive safely” now has more time in which to come to s safe stop.

The trick is to place the incentives such that drivers are persuaded to drive safely. One possibility (as I proposed) is severe punishment for running red lights.

Currently, punishments are obviously not severe enough to change the driver behavior.

My suggestion of lengthening yellows is, I feel, a reasonable way to give every driver (regardless of whether they are speeding) more time to come to a safe stop. This, I feel, is a fair trade in exchange for the harsher red light punishment.

If we can create the proper incentives for people to stop before red lights, we will have safer roads. Red light cams, as they exist today, fail to create such incentives.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

A decent reply argument, but it doesn’t stick, since the common meaning of a yellow is “stop if safely possible, otherwise proceed with caution”. The length of the yellow has NO impact on whether it is safe to stop at the point in time when the light changes from green to yellow.

That remains a factor of speed of car, traction, and driver’s reflexes.

Said differently: the point of no return does not move depending on length of yellow light. It is mostly subject to the laws of physics, and not the whim of traffic engineers. The yellow, thus, only needs to be long enough to safely clear the intersection of cars at or near the point of no return traveling at or about the speed limit.

“What is *does* do, is notifies drivers earlier, before they reach that point.”

Notification occurs when the light changes to yellow – not when yellow changes to red. How can a longer yellow change the notification time of green->yellow?

Brendan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Sorry, to further address your comment: yes, the additude towards the cameras themselves needs to be realistic as well.

They aren’t perfect, and I recognize that. The courts have been told by the cam vendors that they are perfect, but thats just nonsense.

Obviously, common sense and fair rule of law should be applied.

DifferebtView (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Red light runners should be penalized harshly

Regarding your comment that the machines don’t work well and Mont Co. “tossed” 10,813 tickets, I beleive that the police (and maybe the vendors??) review each incident to see if it is a true violation. For example, I know people that got a ticket where they did stop but after the white stop line. They called up and had it tossed out and that is probably what a lot of the 10,813 are – captured events but not approved as a real violation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Red light runners should be penalized harshly

I agree! Ticket formulas are messed up. They are based on “average per-hour income levels” in the area which they are installed.

The current ticket formula in some areas may be figured using a formula of (AreaAverageHourlyWage * 2) to purposefully make people not challenge tickets.

The ticket fines should be much, higher, closer to (AreaAverageHourlyWage * 20)

Ha ha ha says:

The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

Although the anti-camera people don’t want to admit it, the way to turn this into a safety issue is to . . . use more cameras.

Indisputable point 1 – A logical person, if they get three tickets a day driving through DC the first month, because every corner has a redlight camera, will stop speeding 100% of the time while in that area of DC.

Indisputable point 2 – If all these logical people stop speeding in that area of DC, that area will be safer.

Feel free to refer to this as “Ha ha ha’s axiom.”

So, what’s the problem?

Kazi says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

If a person gets 3 tickets in a month they are more than likely avoid the area and spend less money there. HA HA HA! Already done that after 1 such incident. No money for DC.

If all people stop speeding in the area of DC does not mean that area will be safer. The assumption is that speeding is the only thing that makes it unsafe.

bish says:

Re: Re: speed != unsafe

I agree — the main logical flaw is that speed is only and always unsafe. I think the main problem is one of attentiveness and environment. Was it Montana which had no effective speed limit for a while? Less accidents, since people claimed they had more attention to spend on the roadways without constantly watching their speed. As I understand it, a good portion of the accidents which did occur involved joyriding people from out of State, driving without common sense in unfamiliar territory.

How many accidents are caused by inattentive drivers? Texting or talking on the phone, for example, or those people we see digging constantly in their glove box for a CD. There’s no safe speed for these people. I’d hazard a guess that for every “speed-related” accident, the claim could also be made that the driver was inattentive. For every accident caused by the inattentive, though, a case cannot be made for speeding as a direct cause. What, do we need driver-facing cameras and cockpit voice recorders to capture the inattentive losers so we can get them into a programme?

Either way, bad drivers make a strong case for a workable public transit system. Or a live camera feed to the guy with his thumb on the SHOCK button. Don’t reach for that compact dis–ZZAP!!

Richard says:

Re: Re: Re: Cops Like You - They Are Giving You A Break!

Bish – Where do you get this information? LOL – People driving from “out of state” or in unfamiliar territories are statistically the safest group of drivers, period! Fatal and serious accidents occur within 1.5 miles of a persons primary residence!

Accidents occur not because a yellow was too short or too long, bad accidents occur because people don’t pay attention to what they are doing.

The faster you are going, the less you have to be paying attention for your problem to become bad quickly. If you are going 10 mph you could probably get away with day dreaming for a few seconds. However, if you are zipping down a street at 60 mph even 5 seconds of inattention could cost you and others their lives.

Someone earlier was wondering why cops appear to only hand out those expensive speeding tickets, well, it’s simple. It’s because speed is one of the factors that directly contributes to fatal accidents. The faster you are going, skillfully or otherwise, the less time you have to react to anything even if paying attention. Then, if you are involved in an accident, the consequences are far greater.

At slower speeds, in general the above statements do not hold true. You have time to react and if you do get into an accident, you are less likely to end up dead. Remember, this is not the “edge” case scenarios. Of course people have been killed in accidents under 20 mph, but in the 20 years I worked as a paramedic in Los Angeles I can honestly tell you I can’t remember one fatal accident that did not involve speed, not one! So – that’s the reason that speeding tickets are the most prevalent. Believe it or not, the cops are giving you a break by not citing you for all the other things they probably could have (unsafe lane change etc).

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

Yes, because those of us who are familiar with the District know that if you slow down, you are more likely to get hit by gun fire.

Seriously, though, if Red Light Cameras were there to improve safety, I’d support them. People do dangerous things at red lights. I used to live in a high-rise apartment 12 floors above a busy intersection and I used to see accidents at the intersection on a regular basis. There’s no doubt that running red lights was a huge factor in this problem.

But in too many cases, this is all about increasing revenue. Shortening yellow lights is downright evil because it increases accidents. Just another money grab from corrupt officials.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

OOh! I know this one!
Indisputable point 2” is false! (Off given the obvious misnomer.) Speed limits do very little to promote safety.

If you want safer streets; you need to remove all traffic laws and implement only 2 traffic laws–which MUST be enforced–both of which cause (temporary?) loss of one’s vehicle and possible fines.

Traffic Law 1: No reckless endangerment. (Reckless endangerment being defined as actually CAUSING harm to other persons of property.)

Traffic Law 2: No delaying traffic. If you can be identified as THE one cause of a traffic delay (from a crash, broken down vehicle, inability to drive at a reasonable speed on that one-lane road, et al).

DH's love child says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

Or, people will completely avoid that area of DC and all of the businesses there will lose traffic exposure.

How about if instead of red light/speed camera we just outfit them with sniper rifles? You speed, you get a bullet in the back of the skull. That way there will be no more speeding. See how simple it is?

And, since you’re such a fan of them, you won’t mind if I put a few camers in your house to make sure you’re not, oh, smoking pot, or watching kiddie porn, or beating your wife. Right? since more cameras = less laws broken.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

“And, since you’re such a fan of them, you won’t mind if I put a few camers in your house to make sure you’re not, oh, smoking pot, or watching kiddie porn, or beating your wife. Right? since more cameras = less laws broken.”

But, to your point, how long before government gets on board with this whole augmentation thing and figures out a way to implant something that reports all brainwave behavior back to them? That way, they don’t even have to “detect” or “enforce”, they can simply punish people when their brain patterns match up with criminal behavior.

Oh, and it’s good to see I have a love child. Wonder who the mommy is…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

“So the helmet keeps brainwave snooping in check? Is ‘Dark’ an important part of that?”

It’s a double entendre, partly describing my menacing intentions, partly describing it’s ability to keep my brainwaves off the “grid”.

Oh, it also will cook a pizza upon voice activation….

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .


I’m with you. But my motivation is partly this:

I break VERY few laws. I understand that we all break laws without even knowing it, but by and large, I’m VERY law abiding. While driving, I break extremely few laws. I signal EVERY single lane change. I pull into the closest lane when executing a turn. I drive on the right lane except to pass. Etc. Etc.

But I do break one law. Repeatedly, consistently. I do speed.

Why is it that most of the law enforcement we see is addressed to my indiscretion of choice? Why is every other driving error given a hall pass? Not just permitted by police driving nearby, but committed by police as much as anyone. When was the last time a cop write a “no turn signal” ticket, or a “merging onto the highway at 35mph” ticket? How about “no shoulder check” lane changes? Are those not dangerous? All kinds of crappy driving go ENTIRELY unpunished – and some of these are the actual causes of accidents, while speeding can increase the energy of the impact caused by some other infraction.

And speeding, though maligned, actually has two side benefits: it saves time for the speeder, and actually for everyone else. Speeding means we get to destinations faster, and thus get off the roads quicker. Small impact, I agree, but a net positive. Time IS very valuable…which is why so many people speed. Meanwhile, the other infractions committed on the road have NO benefits at all. But they are ignored by police.

Law enforcement, unequally applied, does not offer justice. And after years of me arguing this beef, technology has enabled automated traffic law enforcement. Do they install “turn signal cameras” or “slow merge cameras” or “sitting in the passing lane” cameras? Nope…speed cameras. WTF is with this boner everyone has for speeders? Is that the only cause of traffic incidents?

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

It’s very simple: speeding is easy to capture and measure. Many of the other behaviors you mentioned are hard to find. The cop has to happen to be behind someone when they change lanes and have his eyes on their turn signal to notice they did not signal. Speeding just requires a radar/laser gun.

Plus, many of the items you mentioned are subjective. Slow merge, sitting in the passing lane, etc, could be legitimate in certain circumstances. Cameras and computers could not easily detect them, and officers would have to follow an individual for a distance. Speeding is illegal in all circumstances, so once again easier to capture by a machine or a parked officer with a radar gun.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

The problem? There are numerous studies that show that red light cameras make intersections MORE dangerous, not less. (e.g. – you don’t have to go very far to find it).

Also, your assumptions are faulty. You assume that human beings are logical and will change their behaviour based on logic and not emotion. Most of us realise that’s not the case.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

You’re dead on with the behavior angle. Of course accidents will go up…in the short run.

They haven’t retrained the tens of thousands of drivers who go through the intersections as to how to respond to the new devices. Given the abject minimum of training drivers in the US receive, *any* significant change is going to cause issues.

Crashes are also much less severe than the t-bones that were previously being caused.

As people are aware of the cameras behaviors will change, but because they are few and far between right now, it’s an “oh crap” realization and people slam on the brakes causing rearend accidents.

The original article also points out that they feel the costs would be higher because of Florida’s significant elderly population. My guess is those elderly would also significantly increase costs associated with t-bone crashes too – so it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison they are drawing.

The issues with illegal shortening of yellow light times as well as giving contractors a percentage of the revenue are all serious issues. But they are ‘implementation’ issues, not systemic faults with the system or technology. Those can be easily corrected.

As people understand how the cameras work and they exist in a majority of intersections the result will be marked decrease in red-light running. Until enforcement is uniform enough nothing will significantly change. It’s still the “oh crap” reaction that causes the people following too closely to cause the accident.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

You assume that the T-bone accidence have gone down. Have they or have we just added all of those rear end collisions to the list?

Let me ask you this. What is the danger to me or others if I’m in the intersection when the light turns red? Who am I endangering? The guy who is still sitting at a red and won’t move until approximately 1.7 seconds after my light turns red (our lights have a 1 second delay between red and apposing green)? Even at 25Mph I’ll be over 100 feet away before that guy gets near where I was.

If the cameras were about safety there would be longer yellow lights, delays between red and green, and the cameras would delay until the apposing side was green. This would allow the red light cameras to be there but not piss everyone off. Doesn’t that sound better to you?

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

Whether the T-bones are included as part of the total number of crashes is an interesting question. Goes to getting actual independent data on the subjects rather than studies funded by one side or another. Something that seems harder and harder to do these days.

As you point out it’s the time differential between the opposing traffic directions. From a standing start, yes there isn’t much chance unless someone is coming through at a significant delay. But when the opposing traffic is moving with knowledge of when the light will turn green, whether based on local knowledge or whatever, your margin for error is much smaller.

No yellow lights at all? I’d say that’s not really a good plan. Giving people warning is usually better than not doing so.

Also, by only having red lights, you would make people more accustom to driving through red lights since it is now a perfectly legal thing to do depending on how long it’s been red. Not exactly encouraging the desired behavior IMO.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

I agree that drivers need to be retrain to be more law abiding. They should install devices that give little electric shocks to drivers that speed or violate other traffic laws, and that pet them and give them treats whenever they stop in time or correctly signal a turn.

AC says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

The problem is that monetary punishments in the form of fines do little to nothing to associate the driver with the infraction. Monetary fines de-emphasize the meaning behind the punishment. I think the “punishments” should be community service. Not necessarily in the form of giving stupid presentations about not running red lights, but picking up trash, or painting benches in public parks. That type of thing. For many people paying a fine is the least inconvenient consequence. However, taking up their free time would probably have a higher cost.

first offence: 4 hrs on a Saturday
second offence: 8 hrs on a Saturday
third offence: 8 hrs Saturday + 8 hrs Sunday
forth offence: revoke license 30 days

Unfortunately, I agree that the camera aren’t for safety’s sake, but for revenue generation, so that idea probably wouldn’t fly.

DifferentView (profile) says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

So why don’t people get this reality that money talks? Behavior modification is what is needed (and I don’t think anyone disputes that) so what’s the problem? Oh, yeah, I forgot that too many people want the freedom to break the law when they choose and then claim its an invasion or privacy or something else at fault. I agree with this comment entirely – pay enough hard-earned dough and see if you want to continue risking the consequences.

Blah Blah Blah says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

I dispute your “indisputable” points.

1) WRONG. Only an idiot would reach that conclusion. More likely, they will speed between lights then slam on brakes to miss the yellow, creating MORE unsafe situations and accidents… especially in bad weather.

2) Logical people may or may not stop speeding and then, there’s the illogical people.

Apparently, your “indisputable” facts are VERY disputable. And I didn’t even try hard.

Harry says:

Re: The solution is, unfortunately for Mr. Masnick, to use more cameras. . .

The problem is, that would bankrupt the towns. They don’t want safety. They *need* to give out tickets. It’s part of their budget. If no one ran reds, got parking tickets and buckled their seatbelts, cities would be scrambling to make up the revenue for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

What are Redlight Cameras funding?

Citizens should become vigilant and ask for an audit that shows where the money is going.

In reality, the revenue collected by the city or county that should offset property or sales tax revenue while also automating something that used to be accomplished by a living traffic cop.

Now, normally, a windfall results in a end-of-year tax surplus, and when you take into account HR reduction costs associated with taking traffic cops off the street, each could easily net $1M per annum or more. Plus, a redlight camera doesn’t ask for a raise or health insurance.

However, no one has asked for an audit yet, and we don’t know where the money is going, or what special projects they fund.

Only after we determine what it funds can we determine it’s usefulness.

Bradley Stewart says:

You Didn't Say Mother May I

Sure one can make an agument for safety but we all know what the real reason is. It’s to turn us all upside down and shake out our pockets. If there are say for an example where for one reason or another an incredible number of accidents at a particular intersection, fix the intersection. If that doesn’t work set up clearly marked signs saying as an example. CAMERA MONITORED, YOU WILL BE TICKETED. Under a circumstance like this I believe that there is a legitimate reason for the use of a camera.

Todd says:

Did you the article or the studies?

Those of you advocvating more cameras in some misguided hope of making the roads safer apparently failed to read the studies. The studies indicate that they don’t improve traffic safety, but instead simply generate revenue for the installer and the company. I can attest to the shorter yellows, at least in Boulder. There if you basically don’t slam on your brakes when the light turns yellow (which simply increases the number of rear end accidents) you get a ticket. Brilliant.

Enforcement is key, but enforcement by a person that can examine the circumstances and determine if the driver used good judgement or not. But then enforcement of all traffic laws would be a novel approach in this country where I suspect most drivers violate one or more traffic laws once an hour or more. Turn signals? Proper lane usage? Yielding the right of way? Stopping for pedestrians?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Did you the article or the studies?

i live in boulder as well and the worst intersection is at 28th and Arapahoe. It is ridiculous how short the yellow is. i specifically aviod that intersection because i have seen so many people get rear ended there when everyone stomps on their brakes to stop for the yellow that is gonna get you flashed when it turns red immediately after. speeding in that part of boulder is not really a problem because traffic is so heavy you dont get a chance to get up to the speed limit. its driver attentiveness and all of the sorority girls who’s daddy buys them a nice big range rover

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ll just respond to everyone who thinks people running red lights are a danger to society… Where is the evidence that people running red lights cause a ton of accidents? Also with the accidents that involve people running red lights was the running of the red light due to other far more dangerous activities so the red light camera would not help at all? IE Drunk Driving/drug abuse, trying to out run the cops, simply not paying attention to the road for whatever reason.

Everyone I’ve seen run red lights do so in a safe manner, and I live near Philadelphia and these people treat red lights like yield signs. Yea, they are mr all important jerks for doing it, but they aren’t going to drive out into the intersection if they see anyone coming down the road. And typically they look all over the place to make sure there’s no cops looking either.

Everyone knows, even the jerks, that if you drive out in front of cars when they have a green you are probably gonna get hit or a beating. The red light cameras serve no purpose. None at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m in the Philly area too, though I can’t say I’ve seen a whole lot of red light running during my visits to the city itself. The traffic usually takes care of any speeding through lights.

I do live near a route 476 on-ramp that had traffic light, er, instructional? intentions (green means clear to merge, red means wait), but not ONCE have I ever seen them operational. They were installed maybe 5-7 years ago and have still have their tattered black canvas wraps on.

Guess what – people are able to merge just fine without them. They always were!

You run a red light and cause harm or damage, the full weight of the law will come down on you. Laws already exist to punish offenders. But am I going to sit at an empty but well-sighted intersection waiting for a green so I can make a turn when the sign says don’t right on red? Get a ticket for doing so if I get snapped?

People don’t like stupid. But stupid is what they got when towns bought into the expensive snake oil these remote traffic control companies are selling.

Kazi says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s against the law for someone, say a Police Officer, to bring a loaded assault rifle to an elementary school? If it is then I see no reason why more shooting at schools wouldn’t be happening since that someone, say a Police Officer, abides the law.

Concealed weapons for protection are OK. Whether it’s an assault rifle or a rocket launcher!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh yes. Because carrying assault rifles into schools is exactly like making a right turn on red at a dead empty intersection.

Proper road signage, well thought out design, and effective enforcement of existing laws is how you create safer roads.

But that’s not what traffic cameras are really for or effectively aid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Publicly-available resources

Here are some studies.

Two that are quite relevant are:
The US Transportation Research Board Study. This study was compiled by cross-functional team representing Educational, Governmental, and Commercial interests. The study was commissioned by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP conducts research in problem areas that affect highway planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance nationwide.

This report was prepared by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s staff

Links to additional studies:

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Publicly-available resources

and Dick Armey is such a reputable source. He’s an anti-government zealot who got fired from his law firm job because of his supposed ‘grass roots’ Freedom Works fear mongering and propoganda. How bad are you when *lawyers* feel like you’re giving them a bad name?

Pair being anti-gov with opposing new law enforcement activities and of course he’s going to be all over it.

Red light running either is or is not a serious issue. I tend to think it is. If it isn’t, we really don’t have much to discuss. The systems should obviously not be ‘tweaked’ to increase revenue, no should the contractors/operators of the system be given a ‘cut’ of any revenue.

I don’t know of a single study that had drivers ‘train’ to use the new system and then tested how properly trained drivers would react. That’s a key key point that is usually glossed over or ignored completely. Currently you have very few intersections with the cameras, and a public that doesn’t really know how they work. That leads to snap decisions to slam on the brakes causing rear-end collisions by cars following too closely in the first place.

If yellow lights are too short, by all means increase them. But catching people who run red-lights is still a worthy goal.

James says:

The money is the problem

The fines are excessive and it largely becomes about revenue generation because they put these system in the hands of outside companies to install and manage.

Red lights cameras have been known to ticket police and emergency vehicles. Any city/town/state/province installing these assinine things should be required to own, operate and manage them and police should be involved in every single instance of any photo being reviewed from the moment the photo is taken to ticket issuance, and should be required to show up in court as well.

Anything less and we basically have an automated bullsh*t abusive ticketing and revenue generation system which will never gain any serious respect except from a few marketing people and safety nazis.

Pwdrskir (profile) says:

Arizona Initiative to Ban

The powers that be put cameras in AZ some years back to raise revenue. My parents, who live there, are always talking about the issue and now it looks like they are going to have a chance to vote on the camera’s future.

There is currently a signature drive to place the initiative on the Nov 2010 ballot to remove all cameras. I see a landslide coming.

People really hate these cameras, there was even a police officer shot by a disturbed citizen while sitting in his car at the site of a portable camera location.

Richard says:

Red Light Cam Revenue! Yeah!

So, why exactly don’t people like the red light cameras? If you’re not running red lights, and you are generally a safe driver then why not generate revenue however possible? After all, it won’t effect all you “good” drivers out there!

I LOVE them!

Just as a side note, with over 15 years as a paramedic in Los Angeles, I can tell you that in most cases fatal accidents have nothing to do with red light cameras.

Most “fatal” or critical accidents DO NOT occur when someone attempts to “beat” the light, but rather, the nasty accidents occur when the driver does not even see the light at all and just plows through the intersection at full driving speed. I know it sounds crazy, but it happens all the time.

The only accidents red light camera’s increase are minor rear end accidents when the person approaching the light slams on his or her breaks when they probably should have just proceeded through the yellow. Of course, if the person following was driving at a safe speed and distance AND paying attention, the accident would never have occurred.

So, for all of you who are arguing for the removal of red light cameras, maybe it’s your privilege to drive that should be removed.

grubs (profile) says:

Re: Red Light Cam Revenue! Yeah!

And yet you just made the most important point about not having them. The are totally ineffective at preventing the accidents used as reasons for installing them. Personally I always thought that all revenue from ticketing and fines should be removed from the area of enforcement to prevent ticketing for revenue.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Red Light Cam Revenue! Yeah!

The only valid reason to have a red light camera is to help with the situation you bring up, with people running the light well after it’s red, BUT if that were the only concern the yellow lights would be longer and the red light cameras would not activate until the other side turns green.

This is why we hate red light cameras. I don’t want to have to worry about getting flashed just because some asshole decided that revenue increased by 50% by shortening the yellow light by 2 seconds. I’m sorry but 1.5 second yellow is not enough time to come to a stop from 45Mph.

Key phrase here, It’s not about safety.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Red Light Cam Revenue! Yeah!

that shortening of the yellow can happen whether or not there’s a red light camera present. They can have a cop sitting there waiting for violators too.

If someone shortened the yellow below the determined safe threshold, then frankly a law was already broken. It would be a threat to public safety.

The implementation details are certainly an issue, but they aren’t the fault of the system, just the owner/operators. And that can be mitigated with proper oversight.

Richard says:

Re: Re: Red Light Cam Revenue! Yeah!

Come on people, please have a little basis of fact if you are going to carry on this conversation. First, the “city” and or “contractor” does not set the time of a yellow light. It’s done by traffic engineers through known calculations and environmental factors of which there are many at any given controlled intersection.

Also, if you want to see fatal accidents INCREASE then lengthen the time of the yellow as many have suggested then watch what happens. The data is clear in traffic engineering that if you over extend the time a light is yellow, the end results are a far greater chance of serious traffic collision. It’s the behaviour of “pushing” the yellow that is dangerous and needs to be changed.

Yellow lights are designed at every controlled intersection for a driver to stop with a margin in a safe and controlled manner. Remember, this includes bad weather because it is illegal to drive the posted speed if it’s NOT SAFE FOR CONDITIONS! Now, next time you are zipping through a 40 mph intersection at 50 mph understand that you are going more than 20% faster than the posted speed thus greatly reducing your “margin” for safely stopping. Maybe the problem is not the red light camera’s or enforcement, but the driving habits of the public at large.

I have cut far too many badly injured and dead people (mom’s, wives, kids, dads and grandparents) out of cars that where hit broadside at a controlled traffic signal. In MOST cases, these really bad accidents would have happened regardless of yellow timing, red light cameras etc. When there is a bad 90 degree accident at a controlled intersection (I’m guessing here based on experience only) but about 80% of the time, the car at fault never even saw the light! Just cruised right through it, and I’m not even talking about an intoxicated driver!

That’s why the numbers don’t show a decrease in the types of accidents we all want to reduce – keep in mind, even if a cop would have been sitting there with a radar gun, the bad accidents would still occur because the person behind the wheel is completely driving autonomously…

Nate (profile) says:

Punished harsly?

Really? Punish red light runners harshly? I’m not reading a modern “A Modest Proposal” am I? Believe it or not, where I live running the red light is lay of the land. Drivers here expect people to run the red light and take that into account before pushing the pedal when the light goes green. Instead of increasing the duration of the yellow light, I think increasing the duration between red and green light switches would be more effective.

Also, I’m not sure, but when have harsh punishment worked successfully as a complete deterrent for a behavior? It’s better to reward the good behavior instead, right?

John says:

Yeah...that is what will make us safer.

I live in constant fear of someone running a red light and killing me and my family. I also live in fear of Bigfoot raping me to make an example out of me to the Abominal Snowman.

Please people! Wakeup and smell your delusion! This is an easy excuse to charge the middle class with another hidden tax without raising the levy to a vote. Over 65% of our police officers are busy protecting the tarrifs they are told to generate through speeding tickets, parking violations, DUI’s… If you got shot, you would have about the same number of police officers working on your attempted murder case as we have working the typical speeding case – 10. 2 police officers to pull you over, 2 to repair his vehicle, 1 at dispatch to run your license plate, 2 scheduling and supervisory officers, 1 to purchase and acquire his toys (radar/lasar gun, police car, shotgun/pistol…), 1 to file the paperwork to the city, 1 person at the court to take your money, and if you decide to fight it then a whole courtroom of people to hear and record your case. If you get shot you probably ony have 2 officers investigating and roughly the same number of support personnel.

Does this sound far fetched to you? Is this really how you want your police force managed? HELL NO! If we want or really need traffic control as a population so badly, then we really do not need police with guns and 100,000$ cars chasing us to implement it. Put out the BS cameras and start giving the BS tickets anynomously and take the police off the street and save the money. Take all of our police and use them to fight and stop crime. Real crime. The kind of crime that infringe on others freedoms. The expectation should be that if a police man has a gun, he can and will use it on you if you do not comply. Give the police back the power to kick ass in the name of the law, and let us respectable citizens go about normal life without being harassed with hidden taxes. Police are fighting the wrong people!

Back to the red-light camera idea: How would you feel if we put a “tattle-tell” on your car that sent a message to the police force every time you violated the speed limit for a little fine? How about crossing over a double yellow line or not stopping for 3 seconds at a stop sign? We already gave the state the power to save us from ourselves by forcing a seatbelt law, child seat law (for “kids” up to 4’9″ – holy shit that is a big kid), no riding in the back of a pickup, helmet law for motorcycles, helmet law for BICYCLES (yes fucking bicycles I said). Why are we so convinced that we need to live forever? Doesn’t there at some point need to be a quality of life versus quantity of life conversation occuring somewhere? Enough with the safety argument already you drones. For me the conversation for quality of life starts and ends with choice – the cornerstone to freedom. Let me make the choice to take or minimize risk. Let me decide if my comfort, convienence, or fun is worth the risk that goes along with it. If I get killed, that is just one less person we have to pay social security and medicare for in my 80’s. And for fuck’s sake, let me decide by vote if I want to raise taxes for a new high school football stadium -don’t cheat me out of the money through the guise of safety – which our decision as a society anyway, not government’s.

BBT says:

Derek, you are wrongly assuming that lengthening the yellow time would actually lengthen the total time (green + yellow). No, if you lengthened the yellow, you would cut into the green time. So if now you have 20 seconds of green and 4 seconds of yellow, then 15 seconds of red, after lengthening the yellow you would have 18 seconds of green and 4 seconds of yellow. This would mean that the notification of an impending change to red would happen 2 seconds earlier, giving drivers more time to stop.

It’s not “keeping the yellow longer”, it’s “changing to yellow earlier”. It doesn’t matter since you’re just being pedantic and not even arguing a real point, but it’s really lame when you’re pedantic about something that you’re not even correct about.

Ted Sebastian (profile) says:

no court date?

I am proud to say I am one of the safest, most careful driver’s out there. I got a speeding ticket in OK in 1984 for doing 62 in a 55 at 6 am. The speed limit there is 75 now.

I just got my red light letter in El Mirage, AZ. There’s NO COURT DATE! I have to go to a traffic “survival” class and wait 120 days.


I was going to start my business here and employ 4 people. This made me decide to move. And the pet store I was traveling to is going to hear about why I’m not spending $50 a month at their store any more. Naming REDFLEX as the reason.

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