Photo Enforced-Red Light Camera Controversy

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Red Light Cameras,
Is their Only Purpose For Revenue?
by Maria Protine

Instructor Ream
February 15, 2010

The debate over whether red light cameras are effective or not can cause a great divide among any group of people. Proponents of the cameras say that they are effective in reducing accidents and those against them are adamant that they are only in place to increase revenues for local law enforcement. This paper will bring forth facts that indicate that red light cameras are in place to make communities money and not for reducing accidents.

Red light cameras are cameras that are placed at intersections and connected to traffic signals. The camera is triggered by any vehicle entering the intersection above a certain speed and after the signal light has turned red. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing losses from crashes, the cameras record the date, time of day, time that has elapsed since the red light, speed, and license plate. (IIHS, 2009) While many red light camera scoffers argue that driver's insurance rates will go up, these types of violations are similar to parking tickets and should not affect rates or driving record.

Employees of RedSpeed, one of the two major companies that are the technology behind the cameras and review violations, said that when revenue decreases due to a decline in violations, many cities relocate their cameras. (Tribune, 2008) This would lend some credence the statement by many that red light cameras are only in place for city revenue.

To further support this view that cameras are in place only for revenue, a report from the National Motorists Association revealed that were six cities that were being investigated for allegedly reducing the time of a yellow light to increase red light ticket revenue for their communities. Most state laws require the yellow light to be 4.0 seconds or greater, the six communities reduced their yellow light times in a range of 3.8 to less than 3.0. These yellow light reductions resulted in millions of dollars of revenue for these communities; much of which had to be returned to the alleged violators. (National Motorists Association, 2008)

CBS Reporter David Goldstein did some investigative reporting regarding red light cameras in the Los Angeles area and was very surprised by what he discovered. The LAPD was not forthcoming with requested information and became defensive. In an email to the reporter, the Sergeant in charge said, "The city would hope that it is the goal of KCBS/KCAL to discuss the positive aspects of the photo red light program." (Goldstein, 2009) Data from 32 cameras installed in the Los Angeles area was recorded for six months prior to the installation of cameras and six months after the installation of the cameras. The results were that 3 of the cameras recorded no change in accidents, 9 showed a decrease in accidents and 20 cameras showed an increase in accidents. Some data in the Los Angeles area is reported as being skewed because the accidents that are reported are red light runners only and not rear end collisions caused by drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid a red light ticket. Those types of accidents were being excluded from the accident data collected.

According to Vito Rispo, a reporter for Ride Lust, he agrees red light cameras are just another way to increase city revenue from traffic tickets. He indicates that most of the reports and studies completed regarding cameras causing a reduction in crashes are funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or researchers funded by them. (Rispo, 2009) While insurance rates do not increase...
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