Thursday, May 6, 2010

Red Light Cameras

Are they fabulous? Or not? In full disclosure I should say that though I do not run red lights, I have been a passenger in a vehicle that ran one. This instance resulted in a crash that totaled three vehicles. We were hit sandwich style on both sides by cross traffic. There were zero injuries. And we attribute that fact to divine intervention. Back then red light cameras were non-existent. I'm fairly certain they would not have prevented this crash however. I was a teen ager and in a car with 3 other teens and we were headed to the mall. The music was pumping and the conversation lively. Roads are made with sensors now. I used to think it had everything to do with timing traffic signals. Nope...there's another purpose. Notice that a red light in the diagram below will trigger the camera to take a photo of the vehicle before it enters the intersection on red and then take a video as it crosses. Then you get a ticket in the mail...with a link to the video of your infraction.

So what's the debate all about? If it's all about safety then let's put the cameras everywhere we can! But what if it's not all about safety? What if there's more? 
Views of those in the FAVOR of red light cameras:
  • Reduction of violators at monitored intersections.
  • Reduction of violators at UNmonitored intersections.
  • Combination of extending the yellow light by one second and cameras reduce the number of violators even further.
  • An IIHS study showed a reduction in collisions associated with red light running by 30%.
  • For more details see the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. They've got a video right under the date on this page that outlines the safety argument.
  • Biggest argument: if you don't want to pay the fine, don't run a red light. It's your choice.
Some views of those AGAINST red light cameras:
  • Red light cameras do NOT stop offending behavior as it happens.
  • Red light cameras generate millions of dollars for the city of Seattle.
  • Cameras are owned, serviced and monitored by for-profit companies who take a significant portion of the earnings (IIHS). Washington uses an Arizona-based company, ATS. Burien contracts with Redflex to the tune of $19,400 per month to the company regardless of how much "revenue" or tickets are issued/paid.
  • Nine studies across the US, Canada and Australia indicate that red light cameras actually INCREASE crashes and injuries.
  • Making the focus on ticketing (not stopping) violators who do NOT cause collisions instead of finding ways to alleviate why drivers are running lights (I'm talking mostly about the congestive intersections around the mall that have at least a few cars running the lights every cycle) indicates that the primary purpose of the camera is to make money. Otherwise, the cameras would only ticket those who cause collisions or near misses.  
  • Those who run the red lights often don't even realize it until their ticket comes in the mail. This delay doesn't alter driving habits. It angers people and fuels distrust of the government.
Sometimes, civil disobedience takes care of injustices. See Santa's Helpers in Tempe, AZ at their finest. Ha ha ha, is this for real? Yup. Ha ha ha. My three year old loves this video.

The National Motorists Associations have published "Five Proven Ways to Stop Red Light Running, which makes a lot of sense to me. Turning to revenue-generating cameras to enforce a broken system doesn't seem right. Click here to read each point its entirety.
1. Increase the yellow-light time.
2. Add an all-red clearance interval.
3. Make traffic lights more visible.
4. Improve intersections for motorists.
5. Retime traffic signals.
There's one group that has a $10,000 challenge to help cities rid themselves of cameras in favor of actual engineering solutions. Cities have nothing to lose here...if safety truly is their number one concern.
Show us any camera-equipped intersection that still has high numbers of red-light violations and we will guarantee a minimum 50-percent reduction in red-light violations through the application of engineering solutions.
After some discussion and education on the matter of red light cameras, my view of them has turned sour. Maybe it's like that for you, too. For more information on how to get involved, see a group that actively protests the cameras, a Dori Monson show on Kiro FM, and***What do you think about the cameras? Please vote in the sidebar poll! 


  1. This has nothing to do with traffic lights but

    I saw a lady driving with her little dog standing on her lap this morning. I thought how gross would that be if she crashed and the air bag went off.

    Distracted driving and the potential of doggie guts all over you. YUCK!

  2. So true Colleen. I can only imagine how distracting a dog would be loose in the car. She probably wouldn't even notice if a camera got her while she ran a red light. :o)

  3. So one thing that annoys the heck out of me is the lights in Lynnwood. Every single traffic light has those cameras. I'd like to see a study about the length of yellow lights in municipalities with cameras. I swear that they are two seconds shorter. No joke. It's very smart on the part of the city, to cut the yellow short to catch more people.

  4. Wow that Facebook group had a link to a website that sells license plate spray. Ha ha ha, This makes it hard for a camera to see who it is because of the glare;-)

  5. When I first heard about them I figured Red Light Cameras were a way for more traffic enforcement to happen without a city having to hire more officers. Now, with government giving you the choice at the airport of groping you to find weapons or else participate in an X-Rayted photo of you naked being kept forever somewhere, I have changed my opinion.

    That Arizona firm, ATS, who makes millions from the cameras has been invested in by Goldman Sachs (with taxpayer TARP money I am told)in order that they can buy tens of thousands more cameras. Likewise the parent company of Geico has invested in Goldman Sachs because their customers who get red light tickets have to pay higher premiums.

    The cities are getting rich from we poor slobs who try to make it through a yellow light which is probably shorter now that there is a camera. Our alternative is to jam on our brakes and hope the guy behind us is paying attention. Some studies show there are more accidents because of the cameras.

    Let's get government out of our personal lives. We are paying for red light cameras as motorists to enhance city coffers and to make billionaires richer so that they can now invest in new ways to extract our diminished wealth from us.

    It's time to speak up and find leaders who represent us and get their hands out of our wallets and off our private parts.

  6. Wikipedia has a great article on red light cameras with links to various studies. They cite the collisions happening in many cities have changed from right angle to rear-end. Thus, the rate hasn't changed - just the type. And the latter from what I understand is more expensive to fix. They also talk about some cities shortening the yellow light time to catch more people. Read more here:

    1. Ohio judge ruled that speed cameras interfere with due process and are unconstitutional.


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