Posting in Cities
Run a red light, get a fine in the mail: a new study shows most drivers support the use of red-light cameras.
You know when you just miss the yellow light at the intersection? Well, in 539 towns and cities around the U.S., you can receive a fine in the mail weeks or even months later for the infraction, thanks to a system of cameras intended to stop drivers from running red lights. And a new study shows that a majority of Americans favors the use of these cameras as a way of making intersections safer.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) carried out a survey of drivers in 14 major cities in which red-light cameras operate. Poll results showed that two-thirds of these drivers support their use. A majority of those polled in all but one of the cities favored the use of the cameras, which photograph cars that drive through red lights and send them fines through the mail.
The study was intended to follow up on a recent finding that red-light-related crashes have dropped by 24 percent in those cities.
Ninety percent of respondents said it is unacceptable to run a red light, while eighty percent said it is a threat to personal safety. Among the cities polled, support for the cameras was highest in Washington, D.C. (78 percent), and lowest in Long Beach, C.A. (48 percent).
According to Consumer Reports, 676 people were killed and around 130,000 injured in accidents red-light-related accidents in 2009.
Those who criticize the use of red-light cameras say they are an invasion of privacy and are intended not to increase safety but to increase cities’ revenue by issuing tickets. Moreover, more than one in four of those polled believe the cameras can make mistakes and actually make roads less safe.
The cameras have become a heated issue in Houston, T.X., whose residents voted last November to do away with the them. Last month, however, a federal judge threw out the vote’s results on a technicality. Red-light fines are expected to resume in the city shortly.
Critics of the practice also argue that some systems are rigged to increase the number of fines -- by shortening the yellow-light interval, for instance. In cities where budgets are already tight, furthermore, the cost of implementing red-light cameras would be high, in exchange for what critics believe would be only marginal increases in safety.
Miami had expected to reap $10 million from the 32 cameras installed throughout the city this year. But infractions dropped, as drivers tried to avoid fines, and the projected revenue is now less than $2 million. The shortfall may add to a $15 million projected budget deficit for 2012, which could force the government to give workers one unpaid day off per week, Bloomberg reports.
The survey results, showing widespread support for the red-light cameras, have raised questions from some. Jonathon Ramsey at AutoBlog points out that the sampling of respondents - 3,000 - was miniscule compared to the millions of residents of the cities polled, so its results may not be entirely representative.
What do you think about red-light cameras? A government invasion of privacy? An easy revenue stream for city coffers? Or a legitimate way to make drivers more careful around intersections by hitting them where it hurts -- their wallet?
Photo: Horia Varlan/Flickr
Jul 7, 2011
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The law says, right turn on red means a complete stop and proceed when safe. Europe has had red light and speed cameras for years. It's an accepted way of life over there, so get used to it. Everyone complained about seat belt laws, now we know they save lives and most "smart" folks wear them. If you intentionally run a red light, then be prepared to pay to play. I'll bet statistics show that the % of people who loan their car to someone that get red light tickets is very low. like less than 1%. Yellow lights warn one that red is coming and if one chooses to speed up and ends up running the red, that was their choice. Why not just slow down safely and stop? Not all yellow lights are timed the same. Each intersection is programmed based on many variables such as pedestrian crossings, number of lanes, etc. Most red light cameras are installed and maintained by a private company that gets a % of the ticket for their trouble. Most red light tickets are screened by a law enforcement officer to insure that the infraction is valid. Did you know that video is recorded in addition to pictures taken. The video is used to determine if someone did in fact run a red light, such as someone coming to a complete stop and then turning right would not get a ticket. I 100% support red light cameras. And if the government makes some extra money off of them, so what. They are just enforcing the law!!!
If a death occurs because the city intentionally shortened the yellow light so that a motorist would be surprised and fail to stop in time (seems to be the point of shortening the light- creating a greater incidence of failures in order to increase revenue), shouldn't the city itself be held culpable for intentionally creating a situation where the accident was more likely? Why would we let them get away with THAT?
If you add this capability, are you not moving yet another step closer to the government being able to poke into your life wherever and whenever it pleases? And then, when we slowly evolve into having a government we don't like anymore, how will decent, honest people change that government when they become powerless because they can be tracked digitally by their credit cards, EZ Pass and street cameras (etc.)? Aren't we being taken advantage of enough already?
OK, most of us who have been around already understand that polls always favor whoever commissioned them. So, who paid for this poll? The IIHS is the PR arm of the car insurance industry. Are they neutral on the cameras? I think not, because at least one insurance company appears to be investing in the red light camera industry. Consider: American Traffic Solutions, Inc. of Scottsdate, is one of the two largest camera companies nationwide. And ATS is 1/3 owned by Goldman Sachs. But what is really interesting is to look at where G-S got the money to invest in ATS. In Sept. 2008 Warren Buffett (Geico) invested $5 billion in G-S. Later that same month G-S bought the stake in ATS, for $50 million. Coincidence? While there is no direct audit trail saying "Buffett/Geico bought 1/3 of ATS," we have to consider that back then G-S was in dire straits and without Buffett's money would not have been able to invest in ATS. The conniving doesn't stop with the IIHS. There is a bill in the California legislature, right now, which If passed will allow cities to reduce posted speed limits by 5 mph, even on streets with a great safety record. The lower limits will allow them to shorten yellows. The shortening permitted by a 5 mph decrease in the speed will increase red light camera ticketing by at least 50%. (Four of the sponsoring cities have red light cameras.) Worse, the shortening will increase severe accidents, by 30 to 40%. (Source: "Development of Guidelines for Treating Red-Light Running," Texas Transportation Institute, pg 2-20.) It is AB 529, by Asm. Gatto (Glendale), and it is moving along, fast, with a vote scheduled on Monday. Californians need to defeat this bill. Phone your assemblyperson and your state senator, ASAP. It takes no more than 3 minutes per call. And then phone the AAA, and ask them to oppose the bill. To the pro-camera anti-car people, and the cities thinking of supporting this bill for more camera tickets and the money they will bring in: Before you support this bill, try to remember that it will increase accidents, a lot.
I don't like the cameras because the owner of the vehicle is one who gets the ticket, regardless of whether he was the driver or not. The owner then has to seek out who was driving at the time and make them pay the ticket. Not a good situation.
If safety is your top concern, lengthening the yellow light should be at the top of your list of suggestions. It costs nothing and there is virtually no opposition to properly timed lights. At most problem intersections, a longer yellow could significantly improve safety with no cost to the city or to the drivers. There are no civil rights concerns; no public outcry; no problems from angry citizens. Just fewer accidents and a smoother operating intersection. A red-light camera should only be considered if a properly timed light does not reduce the accident rate to normal levels.
I think most people agree that "cars that drive through red lights" should not be tolerated. But as I understand it, many of the tickets issued are for "right turn on red" without coming to a complete stop -- a much less serious situation than driving straight through the intersection. In Los Angeles 80% of the tickets were for "rolling right turns". I've read that many of the camera contracts require such "rolling right turns" be enforced because that is were all the profit is. I would be much less opposed to these cameras if "rolling right turns" were excluded. I also think there would be much less argument if the two types of violations were discussed separately.
Cameras installed for safety do not have a "quick yellow" programmed into the light cycle. The only purpose of a "quick yellow" is to drive up traffic fine revenue. Drivers lock them up when they know a light has a "quick yellow." If anyone studied traffic lights with a normally programmed yellow light I'll bet the accident rate does not increase with camera use.
Here in Chicago, it seem like the yellow lights have been shortened. Red light accidents have decreased but rear-end accidents seem to have increase. Winter is especially frightening because one can slide out of control when you slam on the brakes. And if you lend you car to someone, it's a pain to get the fine assigned to them. I find myself slamming on the brakes more often to avoid paying the huge fines. And at many intersections, there has been no significant improvements in safety but huge revenue increases. One municipality got rid of theirs because it wasn't making the intersection safer, but then Cook county reinstalled it because of the revenue.
To base revenue on current violations goes against the basic idea of the cameras as a safety tool, which is to reduce the number of violations that occur. Every system deployed has seen the same revenue curve. High revenue when first deployed and then the sudden drop off as people learn not to run the red lights. For communities to still be basing expected revenue on the current level of violations is incredibly moronic. Deployed as a break even / modest revenue safety tool I can agree with. Deployed as a revenue source I would oppose them.
In my jurisdiction at least, there are no points attached to the incident, making paying the fine a purely economic decision (one I had to make recently) even if the ticket seems to be in error (as I maintain mine was; I was already in the intersection when the photo was taken). Do I want to lose income by going to court and contesting the ticket or pay up and move on? With no safety implications, or even insurance rate changes, which would actuarially be safety based, the safety aspects factor out. Am I a safer driver now that I realize there are cameras in at least a few of the intersections around town? I would like to think so, but at least part of the safety is economically motivated, and that's just human nature.
Circles or roundabouts are a better way & the maintianance is much lower. They keep the traffic flowing and slow the commuter. They reduce the accident rate to between 50% & 100% at junctions relative to traffic lights.
Communities deploying these constantly make the same mistake. They view them as a revenue source and not a safety tool. As a safety tool they should make a modest income to make them self-sufficient. That is it. $2 million in revenue for Miami should be more than enough to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the program. To complain of falling revenues after the cameras get people to stop running red lights is moronic. And the idiots who claim they cause accidents by making people slam on their brakes need to learn to drive. If a traffic light turns yellow you should already be slowing down.
Here in Florida judges are invested in Traffic schools. Conflict of interest? Certainly. Florida was also heavily sold on red light cameras only to find that they were losing money with all of the people fighting the tickets. It created a new cottage industry for lawyers that couldn't join a real firm. Now we have all of these cameras and cities not bothering to enforce or issue the tickets. I used to think early on that it was just scofflaws who were whining about the tickets/cameras until I started looking into it. A lot of government agencies were sold a bill of goods when they were presented with a combination safety as the hook and revenue generator as the close. The only people making out on this are the companies making and installing the cameras.
If you can't trust the person to drive safely, and pay any tickets incurred, then don't let them have the keys!
@JimWillette who said "there are no points attached to the incident, making paying the fine a purely economic decision" The result of this would of course be that of unequal consequences to an individual's finances. The more money you make, the less consequential the fine would be. Conversely, the less money you make, the greater the financial implications of the fine. We already have enough of the "rich can do what they want and the poor have to be in strict obedience to the law" situation in this country without adding to it with things like this.
If there are a lot of errors, that needs to be brought to their attention. Too bad the thought of injuring or killing someone isn't sufficient to motivate you to drive safely...
You don't want to slow traffic at every intersection. There may not be room to add a roundabout & retain the same number of lanes in each direction. And use spell check if you can't do without it.
That's exactly what happened where I live. They work great! There's one major street that logged an average of 1.5 accidents per day. It's now rare to have 2 per month. People hated them at first but now (with the exception of a few) wouldn't give them up. There are no U-turn problems (just go around again). Traffic moves much smoother. In a neighboring city cameras were tried. In spite of the comment above ("Great safety tool"), the accident rates went up drastically - and that's what traffic engineers who are not interested in revenue generation are finding out. Not to mention it cost more in officer time and accident investigation due to the induced accidents. The induced paranoia is amazing. People were locking them up immediately, even in a crosswalk to avoid the quick yellow and a ticket. Drivers paid attention to the light only and nothing else that was around them. They ended up pulling the cameras, everything went back to normal.
First, let me say I've never "rolled" through a stop, mainly due to the fear of being caught. But typically, well before I have come to a complete stop, I have looked around and accessed the safety situation, and on many occasions could have "rolled" through safely (the times when I could not have I would have stopped anyway for safety!). So are you saying you can't focus on other things (such as pedestrians) without coming to a complete stop? And if you are focusing on coming to a complete stop (does this really take focus?), it's much harder to focus on your surrounds, which I think is more salient task while driving.
If the yellow is too short, that is not the fault of the camera. It is the fault of the municipality. Officer time would be freed up by making the lights conform to the laws of physics.
If you have a 18-wheeler on your tail who doesn't seem to want to stop, it may be preferable to speed up through the yellow light rather than be rear ended...even if it's not your fault!