Do Red Light Cameras Help?

from the not-so-easy... dept

We've had a number of stories about problems with speed cameras, but similar problems apply to red light cameras as well. Of course, the biggest question is whether or not these cameras help make the roads safer. The problem is that the incentive of those installing the cameras is often to maximize revenue. Thus, they choose locations that are high traffic -- but not necessarily dangerous. In some cases, such as in San Diego, it turned out that officials reduced the length of the yellow light on traffic lights where speed cameras were positioned, in order to create more violations. While studies have shown that locations that have red light cameras do reduce side impact accidents, they increase rear impact accidents, because people slam on the brakes to avoid getting caught by the camera. The net effect, however, is in dispute. Some say that the reduction in side impact crashes outweighs slower rear impact crashes -- which may be true. Of course, if officials really want to stop side impact crashes from people running red lights, it seems there's a much simpler and more effective solution. Some locations do this, but I've never understood why it's not more popular: have a period of time when lights in both directions are red. That is, when the lights for one roadway turns red, don't immediately turn the cross traffic lights green. Give it a second, allowing the stragglers to get through, and then let the other traffic go. Of course, if this were all about safety that's what would happen -- and it's pretty clear that safety is coming second to revenue in many of these cases.
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  1. identicon
    Steve A., 10 Jul 2008 @ 11:53am

    Re: Knoxville red light cams

    I have received two of these "camera" volitions in Knoxville in the past year or so, and have had conversations with the Knoxville city traffic court Judge about the red light cameras. He has indicated that he would throw out most, (if not all) contested (meaning you have to show up to court) red light volitions in his court.
    He also stated some concerns about a private company receiving revenue from these cameras, while using public assets (Local law enforcement, and courts) to collect the monies.
    There is (or was) a law suit challenging the authority of this company, (based in Ohio I think) to decide the guilt of those getting the tickets.
    I received one ticket in the mail about a light on Clinton Highway, and at the same time received another (separate) letter stating that the light had fouled up, and that I did not have to pay the fine.
    I received a second ticket from a light on Ashville highway, and ended up paying it, because I could not get off from work that day to contest it.
    The first light, turned yellow as I was approaching it, but immediately flipped red less than a second later.
    The second ticket on Ashville highway only gave me 3-4 seconds warning between the yellow and the red light on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 MPH, not nearly enough time to stop, although I tried my best to do so.
    It's a good thing that there were no vehicles immediately behind me either time, or I would have been rear-end as I tried to stop for these lights, not because I was doing anything wrong, but because the cameras were fouled up.
    When I was in court, I pointed out to the Judge that there were red light cameras on Lovell road, and that they were falsely recording red light volitions there also. Because there are two large truck stops on Lovell, the cameras were recording violations of cars going thru the red lights while following large trucks with their trailers. The problem was not that people were “sneaking” thru the lights behind the trucks, but that a driver in a car could not see the traffic light when he is behind a large trailer, until after the light has turned red. The cameras did not delineate the difference between the two, and many drivers paid for violations that they were not guilty of. Since then, one of the cameras has been taken down, and I think the other one has been disabled. These lights were installed all over the city along with the Mayor’s statement that not only would the lights pay for themselves, but would actually generate revenue as well.
    I, for one, am less than impressed, either with his motives, or the results.

    What is needed here is not an "increase in awareness that the cameras are there", but better planed intersection/traffic light combinations that allow the greatest opportunity to obey the laws, not break the laws.
    (p.s. we need to remove the greed factor as well, private companies should not ever, under any circumstances ever, NEVER ! profit from unlawful activity, even when someone else is breaking the law)

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