What do you guys think of red light/speed cameras?

The city I live in has a couple dozen of these and is buying more. To their credit, the speed cameras seem to be calibrated to only nab you if you’re going more than 5 over the limit, and do not seem to flash when the light turns from yellow to red if a car is in the intersection at the time. I think in my state getting caught by a camera is a fine but no-points violation.

I don’t run red lights, and hopefully most people don’t either. I did get busted by one about 7 years ago when I was just being inattentive–it took a nice picture of my car, had the speed I was going, the road conditions, etc. I do however resent the speed cameras, especially when they’re obviously a revenue ploy–when the limit goes down 10MPH a half mile or so before the camera. There are none like this in my town, but I’ve driven through other bergs where this is prevalent.

Since I know where they are in my town (and routinely speed somewhat), it’s easy to slow down just before the camera, then speed back up as soon as I’m past. I anticipate these so I don’t slam on the brakes, but I maintain that these cause more problems than they solve because I have seen other motorists almost cause an accident when they hit the brakes hard because the light turns yellow or they’re speeding and they notice at the last second that there’s a camera at the intersection. Admittedly there seem to be fewer really nasty crashes at one notorious intersection since the red light camera was installed.

What do you guys think?

I don’t run red lights. In a high traffic area I don’t speed. So, the cameras don’t bother me.

I visited the Tampa FL area and drove my car on the trip. I didn’t have the toll sticker they use on the windshield. Which means they take your photo and send you a bill for the toll. It was confusing, but a week or so later I got the bill, and the picture showed the PA license plate very clearly. These cameras certainly do work and it free’s up police time for more important stuff like fighting crime.

They don’t bother me either. I also don’t live or drive in an area that has a lot of traffic or needs them. Maybe in Boston it might be a good idea…but when I go into Boston I usually take the T.

Red light cameras have been known to tag cars as having run the light because their bumper was 6 inches over the stop line. They’re generally run by a private company that works a deal with the city - the city gets a cut of the take from the cameras, while the private company makes a lot of money. As such there’s little incentive toward fair application of justice, and a lot of incentive toward getting as many violators as you can, whether they’re violators or not.

I’m never a fan of private industry seeking to profit by taking over a role that should be the government’s. Especially when that role involves law enforcement (which is why I also don’t like private prisons). There should be absolutely no conflicting interests regarding profit vs justice in the justice system.

Especially when that role involves law enforcement (which is why I also don’t like private prisons).

NH is now getting bids for private companies to take over some of the State prisons.

Their sole purpose is to raise money for cities. Some cities are desperate,

Red-light cameras generated $69 million for Chicago in 2010, and speed cameras likely would grow that number considerably. Speeders going 6 mph 10 mph over the limit would face $50 fines. Those going 11 mph and over would face the full $100 ticket. Under the new law, zones where cameras could operate would cover nearly half the city, the Tribune found.

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I live 20 minutes outside the Chicago city line (I lived in the city until about 25 years ago when I smartened up). I have been in Chicago only twice in the last year. In the last two years I got hit twice ($200) to the red light camera scam. Now I avoid ChiTown like the plague. We go to restaurants and movies in the 'burbs, as well as do all of our shopping out here. Chicago and its traffic cameras can go to you-know-where.

The Arizona based red light trap company seems to offer city governments a sweet deal that cost the cities nothing while the city gets a 40% cut of the fines collected.It’s quite a money maker for the Arizona investors who get control of the light timing to improve their odds of getting your money.

I have a principled objection to prosecutions without witnesses and cross examination. I try not to be unreasonable, though, and might support a violation of principle if it were found to be needed for safety.

In Texas, every traffic violation is a criminal matter; it was all criminalized in the 90s. Even parking tickets are criminal, except in some big cities and airports where they can be classified as “civil offenses.” Rather than seeing a “commissioner of revenue collection,” you can see a judge and even get a six-person jury to hear the case. This is as I believe it should be. Calling it a civil matter is just a way to prosecute someone without them having the rights of criminal defendants.

Red light cameras are different. The statute in Texas says that a violator caught by a camera becomes liable for the payment of a civil penalty. That’s an accusation with no information or indictment and no witnesses, and a penalty assessed while the defendant has no rights. Maybe it’s justifiable, but I’d say there’s a high barrier to such a violation of principles. Cities needing money may justify more human traffic enforcement, since that doesn’t violate our principles, but it does not justify the violations caused by these cameras.

The cameras also give a perverse incentive to decrease yellow light times in order to increase violations. This actually sacrifices safety to increase revenue. It’s an excuse for cities to ignore real safety solutions, such as increasing yellow light times, which often makes an intersection safer, costs very little, and violates none of our principles, but since it doesn’t make money it can now be ignored as a solution.

I’ve seen traffic in Dallas cause such frustration that people simply go through red lights. A line of several cars proceeded through an intersection after a light had already been red. No accidents resulted because drivers on the other street saw that they couldn’t go. There may be situations that require these cameras, but I find casual placement “just because we can” to be offensive.

My feelings on these cameras are no different than my feelings on radar and on police authority in general. Properly used, I have no problem with them. Improperly used, such as described by Shadow and others, they do nothing to promote safety. Used for the purposes of generating revenue, they’re a violation of the principles of law enforcement.

Installed and run as the revenue source for a private company, with the state splitting the revenues with the private company, they’re an abomination. Such collusion should be illegal. Traffic controls, enforcement of the statutes, and penalties for violations should all be the sole and private province of public agencies operating under the legislative, judicial, and executive mandates from the proper state agencies. Private companies involved in enforcement and/or citing and fining private citizens is an abomination. Doing it in collusion with state officials is, well, criminal.

The only red light camera in my city was shut down due to a court challenge. I support anything that prevent red light runners or penalizes the drivers. Those types of accidents often result in injuries and or fatalities! I was tagged by it one time (at least a car I had owned was) and got a ticket in the mail. As it turned out the car caught on camera was one I had sold the day before the ticket happened. It was a bit of a hassle getting out of it; I had to show a copy of the bill of sale and have it notarized. Even so I would still support having it turned back on, if the legal challenges can be overcome.

I’m not a fan of them and in my opinion the main reason for their existence is to generate revenue. It’s far less expensive to operate a camera as compared to a uniformed officer.

If anyone follows the BBC show Top Gear there was a segment on there in which the number of accidents was compared in a certain area. The statistics were the same with the cameras up and running and after the officials decided to turn them off.

Regarding private prisons, that’s been a real thorn in the side of OK for many years. The Dept. of Corrections is constantly whining for more operating money while importing prisoners from other states. Not too long ago there was yet another riot at a private prison here and if memory serves me correctly, these prisoners were from New Mexico. One of the previous riots involved prisoners from Hawaii…
Locally, a prisoner released here some years ago abducted, raped, strangled, and stabbed a 6 year old girl to death after being released and the news reports stated that he was one of those “imported prisoners” from Minnesota.

Personally, I believe each state should take care of their own rather than raising my taxes constantly to pay for the upkeep of the imports.

The cameras are not about safety but instead are about revenue generation.

For instance, a local town was considering putting in some red light cameras. The town performed their own historic study and found that a certain intersection had vastly more accidents than other intersections on the same road due to people blowing through the light and decided that a camera should be at this intersection.

The red light camera company did their own study which they presented to the city council which shows that they would catch way more speeders at a different intersection.

The camera went to the intersection where more violators could be caught.

If safety were the primary concern cities would take studies which have already been done on this topic into account which show that extending the yellow light by a second vastly reduces the number of accidents at traffic light controlled intersections. Instead many municipalities have been found guilty of reducing the length of the yellow light in order to bump up their revenues from red light cameras and have actually increased the number of accidents at these intersections.

I approve of red light cameras. I have occasionally spent some winter time in central Florida and a few years ago red light running was epidemic; I saw red light runners almost every day that we were out and about. Since red light cameras were put into use, red light running there is almost never seen by me including intersections where there is no camera. Some would argue that stopping suddenly for red lights instead of running them would cause rear end collisions but that has not seemed to have happened. People can and do adjust to known and unknown red light cameras and drive accordingly. It’s unfortunate that some people need to be watched to get them to behave.

When big city freeways were fairly new where I live, low speed rear end collisions occurred almost every day during rush hour traffic tieups on urban freeways but drivers adjusted to that too; learned to not follow too closely and be unalert at the same time.

Drivers can be smarter than some would want to admit.

I approve of speed cameras too as long as they permit some speed limit tolerance.

Two answers;

  1. paint ball guns
  2. raw eggs

I don’t like them at all. If the town/city can’t afford to have a police patrol to catch speeders then they should not benefit from the tickets. Where do we draw the line? Justice should be fair and not meted out by a privately owned company.

That’s my biggest concern. Should private companies using technology be using traffic citations and fines as their revenue stream? And should the state/municipality be getting a “cut” of the profits? Is this the direction that law enforcement is headed?

I’m glad there are red light cameras. A past (and passed) neighbor of mine was hit by someone running a red light. His wife also passed in that event. IMO, having these cameras will reduce the likelihood that someone will speed up when they see a yellow light, as was probably the casein the incident I mentioned. Speeding cameras have their uses, too. In MD, they are primarily used in construction zones to keep the sped down.

Part of me wants these cameras, as I cannot stand fools who blow through red lights and severely speed on public roadways. If properly executed, with no profit incentive, and reasonable & clear definitions for what constitutes a “violation”, they probably have great potential for decreasing dangerous behavior. The difference between the potential and the execution is what scares me, though, for reasons described by others.

Politicians are incompetent and corporations are greedy. Combine the two, and watch out.

Are the tickets going to be non moving violations? That is how the red light cameras in IL, are, so it does not get sent to your insurance company and your premium will not be effected. Of course if you get a ticket in IL you can request traffic school to prevent the ticket from going to insurance. A 4 hour class will save big bucks. Second ticket in a year, an 8 hour class. 3rd ticket in a year judges discretion to do an 8 hour class again. It is all about the money IMHO.

There would be a real problem with them around here. A number of the traffic lights are absolutely horrible when it comes to changing. It can be common to sit there for10 minutes, or even forever, at an intersection with no traffic. At times it becomes a standoff with reds in all directions and no cars moving at all.
More than once I’ve tired of it and after making sure no traffic or cops are around have gone ahead and proceeded through the intersection on red.

It would torque me off to get ticketed because of the hokey traffic light system and according to the city traffic engineer, “you can drive all the way across town without stopping. It just doesn’t seem like it”. Apparently this guy never sits foot on a public roadway and based on the snarled traffic I’d say he was wrong.

Look at the red light camera debacle in Lubbock, TX which ended in a dismal failure. It was costing the city money to have those cameras in place and the accident rate at those intersections went up over 50% after the cameras were installed.
Some cities have also been caught playing games with the yellow light timers when they shaved parts of a second off the yellow interval. I don’t remember the stat but it was something like a 40% increase in tickets mailed out when .3 seconds was shaved.
Yep, it’s all about safety. :wink: