It’s like harassment, right? The gummint has just entered another area that should be private. And cash-starved cities have found another way to milk their citizens. Red light cameras have no fans among drivers, even those who drive safely.
The devices have been springing up all over the U.S. for some years now, and their use has generated a lot of public outrage. The issues boil down to three: revenue, safety, and legality.
A friend in California told me he recently got fined $515 when he rolled slowly through an empty intersection in Berkeley late at night. Yeah, he broke the law, but $515?! Since the state is so tapped out, it is doing everything it can to raise revenue. Don’t even ask about fairness.
This kind of “taxation” is happening in other states as well, and it’s making some drivers paranoid—and so cautious that they will stop short at a known camera-covered intersection and possibly get rear-ended.
Many studies have shown that these cameras, far from improving safety, actually have increased accidents. For Bayview, Texas, accidents at eight camera sites—mostly rear-end collisions—went up by 40 percent. Accidents more than doubled at Houston intersections, and the mayor was so angry he banned the study that uncovered this.
In 2008, the University of South Florida reported that
Comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, providing a safety argument not to install them…. Public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that enhance revenues for government and private interests at the risk of public safety.
Some fifteen states have banned automated ticketing, frequently for legal reasons. The National Motorists Association opposes the cameras’ use, and some of their objections include:
- No certifiable witness is present, i.e., there is no “accuser” for the accused to confront, which is a constitutional right.
- The driver is not positively identified by the camera.
- Ticket recipients are not notified quickly or adequately, as is their right.
- Cameras fail to prevent most intersection accidents.
Let’s add to that list the fact that camera-installing companies sometimes actually get paid a “contingency fee per citation,” which means of course the more citations the better—for both municipality and vendor. And so in some places, red light cameras have become a hot political campaign issue.
We do not advocate breaking the law, but we do advocate responsible administration of law enforcement. Automated cameras should go. Do you agree?