Stop-Light Cameras: Safety Feature or Revenue Stream?

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Recently, cameras positioned to catch potential red-light runners have come under fire from cities and local municipalities. From Dallas, Tex. to Mill Creek, Wash., city governments are discovering that red-light cameras don’t make as much sense.

In Mill Creek, for instance, the cameras do not catch enough red-light runners to make the cameras worth the cost. In Dallas, where the cameras have in some intersections accounted for a 50% reduction of drivers running red lights, the city has idled over one-fourth of its cameras. The system is too expensive to maintain and the revenue has come in at least $8.6 million short of the city’s initial projection.

This raises the question: What is the purpose of the cameras? Are they meant to actually improve safety, or are cities simply using them to increase revenue through fines? Or both?

As we previously reported, several studies have shown that stop-light cameras can actually increase accidents because drivers who spot the cameras tend to slam on their brakes and end up getting rear-ended. Couple this with a Tennessee judge who ruled that the city of Chattanooga had to refund paid red-light tickets because the yellow lights were improperly timed, and one begins to see the problem.

Even though numerous studies have shown that longer yellow lights decrease traffic accidents, the yellow lights had been reduced from 4.5 seconds to three seconds without any authorization.

We have to ask: Do cities simply see traffic-light cameras as a means to pad floundering budgets? Let us know what you think. Have you ever gotten a ticket from a traffic-camera?

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