Should we get rid of red light cameras? | The Tylt
Should we get rid of red light cameras?
Nobody likes getting a ticket for breaking a red light, but the cameras work. They're reduce collisions and save lives. Studies that look at empirical data and don't cherry-pick numbers see strong evidence to support the claim that cameras not only work, but also alter motorist behavior.
Hu, McCartt, and Teoh, 2011, analyzed data on fatal crashes from 14 large U.S. cities with red-light camera enforcement programs and 48 cities without camera programs for the years 1992–1996 and 2004–2008. The average annual citywide rate of fatal red-light–running crashes declined for both groups, but the rate for cities with camera enforcement declined more (35 percent versus 14 percent). During 2004–2008, the rate of fatal red light running crashes citywide and the rate of all fatal crashes at signalized intersections were 24 percent and 17 percent lower, respectively, than what would have been expected without cameras.
What nonsense. In addition to conflicting evidence that red light cameras can increase rear end collisions, the cameras really only exist to pad the pockets of local law enforcement. The cameras print out citations, and the cost to motorists can quickly spiral out of control. Not only that, local communities are reducing the length of yellow lights to increase the number of citations, solely for profit reasons. That tweak can actually lead to automobile accidents and endanger motorists.
In fact, a 2001 report issued by the Office of the Majority Leader in the United States House of Representatives showed that the typical yellow light time had been reduced by about 25 percent compared to the times prevailing in the mid-1970s.
And the companies that operate these cameras are in on the whole thing. They have local politicians and law enforcement in their pockets, with little regard to motorist safety or community interest. This is a money-making venture and any argument that says otherwise is a lie.
In addition to plying local officials with sports tickets, meals, and cash, the red-light camera industry also employs traditional lobbyists to keep the streets open to their business propositions. Industry lobbyists work in the state legislatures promoting bills that allow for the privatization of traffic enforcement, and stop bills that might interfere with the legitimacy of automated private enforcement.
And here's the deal, the red light cameras aren't very effective when you factor in the exorbitant cost of maintaining the contracts. In fact, many cities can reduce accidents through better timing of stop lights and smart city planning—without spending a dime on expensive red light cameras.
Conspiracy theories and cherry-picking are typical logical fallacies that opponents of red light cameras engage in. Sure, you'll find instances of cities overturning red light cameras and bad operators, but it's unfair to paint the whole industry in broad strokes. That kind of behavior is indicative of most local municipalities' dedication to motorist safety and the net positive benefits of red light cameras. But it's something the press routinely ignores to fuel reader angst.
Insinuations that cameras are about revenue rather than safety, or spinning neutral facts into bad news, do little to inform people about an issue that is important to just about everyone. Once a driver who is under the “threat” of a traffic ticket parks their car and has to cross the street to their final destination, they benefit from safe streets just as much as the next person.