Another Look at Red Light Cameras…

redlight cam pictureRecently, we posted an article (https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/making-the-case-for-automated-enforcement-newark-nj/) about a success story for traffic safety in Newark, NJ – specifically about how they had selectively used automated red light cameras to help control and reduce pedestrian collisions.

The use of automated enforcement is not without controversy and another article has appeared – in TIME magazine – celebrating the relative explosion of automated enforcement and the grassroots backlash it has spawned.

I find it interesting that the article cites how “…the number of local red-light camera contracts awarded around the country has exploded, from 155 in 2005 to 689 last year.

Clearly, municipalities have bought into the concept either by networking about the success or by being contacted by equipment sales teams.  Think about it, the rewards of installing cameras are significant – fines are rolling out (since people won’t change their behavior without a stimulus) and more people are paying attention to spot the warning signs of a camera controlled intersection.  From a safety standpoint, the worst argument I’ve heard is that the total number of crashes (in aggregate) hasn’t gone down considerably, but the nature of the crashes has shifted from intersection meets to “rear-enders” when the first car stops short and the following car hits them.

Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of skepticism out there, too.

Fueling the doubt are stories like the one reported in the TIME article –

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that in June the city will be dropping its contract with Redflex, a Phoenix-based firm that operates 384 cameras in the city, due to what the Chicago Tribune described as “a $2 million bribery scheme involving the former Chicago official who oversaw the red light program for a decade.” Four Redflex executives resigned as a result of the scandal.

Its not surprising that some people might be tempted by all the money these systems tap….the cost of a red-light ticket in California can be as high as $480…and with millions of cars, trucks and buses on the highway, that’s a lot of dollars on an annualized basis.

Still, from a safety standpoint, enough studies have shown that lengthening the duration of the YELLOW light can make a huge impact (pardon the pun) on collisions AND violations at traffic signal controlled intersections.  A recent column at the Wall Street Journal stated;

In Tampa, hundreds appear to have received tickets because a busy yellow was set at three seconds when the state minimum is 4.5. In Georgia, after a new state law adding a second to the yellow, several towns canceled their camera programs as no longer profitable.

Regardless of automated enforcement, those fleets using our safety hotline program still receive reports of red light running (6 reports per day so far in 1Q2013 for just this category alone), and all sorts of risk-taking behaviors that would not normally show up on most GPS or electronic safety systems (tailgating = 55 times per day!).  This doesn’t detract from those electronic-on-board systems, but complements them with added insights, training, behavioral safety modifiers and more.

The TIME article can be viewed by clicking HERE.cropped-cars-rushing.jpg

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