View Poll Results: Do you support automated law enforcement such as red light cameras?

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  • Yes - I do

    14 63.64%
  • No - I don't

    8 36.36%
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  1. #1

    * Warning: Photo Enforced - Red Light Cameras

    What does everyone think about the use of red light cameras - the ones that mail you a ticket automatically in the mail?

    I've pasted a paper I wrote about it if anyone cares to read it, I think it brings up some interesting points.

    Warning: Photo Enforced
    By: Jimmy Boykin

    Everyday lives are placed at risk by those who break traffic laws. Everyone would like to see a reduction in often severe accidents at intersections, especially those caused by willful law breakers who are merely trying to save time by squeezing the light. The technology to catch red light runners is here today and is being implemented throughout the United States and many other countries. Unmanned pole mounted cameras snap photos of those who enter intersections after the light has turned red, and the violators are sent citations. The effectiveness of this technology is shaky though, especially compared to other methods, and the ramifications of its use haven't been thoroughly examined by the citizens and those who are using this equipment.

    The concept of red light cameras is simple as explained by safelightraleigh.com, the website ran in cooperation with the camera contractor for Raleigh ACS, inc. and the City. Sensors are placed beneath the pavement, immediately before an intersection, that can detect the speed of an approaching vehicle. Based on the speed of the vehicle the camera system can determine if the vehicle is going to stop or not (ACS). If the vehicle does not stop, a camera or multiple cameras will take two pictures of the vehicle in violation and one close up of its license plate (Cunningham 11). �These pictures show nearly irrefutable evidence that a driver indeed ran the red light� (Cunningham 11). Newer systems even take closes ups of the driver. While the processing procedures vary from place to place, most are similar. In North Carolina the photo is reviewed and the license plate number is entered into a computer which sends a $50 citation to the owner of the vehicle of which the violation occurred (ACS). If the payment is not promptly made, the fine is doubled and the option to appeal is void. Appeals are performed by a non-judiciary board, usually composed of two people and often done by and in the building of the camera contractor, controversially due to the conflict of interest. Once one has pleaded or been found guilty of a violation the citation can be costly.

    Most municipalities, such as those in North Carolina, assess no insurance points for violations (Kimley-Horn, 5). If current trends hold true penalties will increase with time both directly in the form of monetary fines and indirectly through insurance points �making automated enforcement the gift that keeps on giving in the form of higher insurance premiums� (Labash). A report by the Office of the Majority Leader for the 2001 House of Representatives, �The Red Light Running Crisis, Is it Intentional?� highlighted increasing fines throughout the country (6). In Maryland proposals requested fines be increased from $75 to $250. Phoenix raised fines from $125 to $175 in addition to two insurance points. California direct monetary fines were remaining the highest at $271 per infraction plus one insurance point assessed (OML 6).

    Municipalities state that automated enforcement are used to improve safety. For example, the Greensboro Safelight program specified three primary objectives to be accomplished by their program.

    1.Enhance safety at signalized intersections in Greensboro by reducing the frequency and/or severity of crashes caused by red light running
    2.Provide an additional method of violation enforcement so that police can use resources to fulfill other objectives
    3.Raise awareness of safe driving practices in Greensboro (Kimley-Horn 3)
    According to the report which was prepared for the city by Kimley-Horn and Associates, �Red Light Camera Program Review and Analysis,� the city was successful in all three of these areas with the implementation of the SafeLight program. Multiple studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of reducing red light intersection entrances and crashes.

    In general studies found that total accidents decreased very slightly, angle crashes reduced slightly, and rear end collisions increased very slightly. In Greensboro after �summing the citations annually and normalizing for the number of cameras and months each was active each year the amount of citations decreased overall 17% from 2001 to 2004 (Kimley-Horn 4,23). After accounting for average daily traffic intersections with cameras saw a 14% reduction in angle crashes, a 2 % increase in side crashes, and an 8% increase in rear-end crashes, overall a 4% reduction according to the report (Kimley-Horn 31). The report notes that the reduction could be argued statistically insignificant but labels the program a complete success (Kimley-Horn 31).

    Some studies did show non detrimental statistics for the cameras. The analysis �Evaluating the Use of Red Light Running Photographic Enforcement Using Collisions and Red Light Running Violations� found collisions with the cameras installed had a 17% decrease in accidents, with an uncommon 25% reduction in rear end collisions compared to other studies such as Kimley-Horn (Cunningham 6). The study states its methods are more robust than other �naive� before and after studies, using comparison and treatment sites to analyze data (Cunningham 15).

    In 1998 Ontario, Canada began a project in which 48 intersections were modified. The �Evaluation of the Red Light Camera Enforcement Pilot Project� by Synetics Transportation Consultants Inc. predicted an expected number of accidents at the locations in which cameras were placed (Synetics 8). Based on the estimated number of accidents versus actual the evaluation found that injury and fatal accidents saw a reduction of 25.3% in angle collisions and a 4.9% increase in rear-end collisions for a overall reduction of 6.8% (Synetics 9). Property damage only related accidents saw a reduction of 17 percent in angle collisions and an increase of 49.9% in rear-end collisions for a total increase of 18.5%. The study concluded that monetarily the cameras were economically viable for the towns that used them and saved lives (Synetics 11). Studies clearly indicate that red-light cameras can alter driving behavior, rather it is beneficial or not. and rather it is worth the trade-offs is not agreed upon.

    Some state that the statistics can not be trusted. As of 2001 virtually all studies, and most of those today, were published by the same man (OML 3). Richard Retting is known by some as the father of traffic cameras, today a key proponent for the cameras, researcher, and senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Labash 4). �Taking Retting's word on the safety benefits of camera enforcement, say the critics, is a bit like trusting the Tobacco Institute that smoking increases lung capacity� (Labash 4).
    Curious about some of Retting's crash conclusions, the National Motorists Association's Jim Kadison secured accident data for the red-light-camera intersections Retting used in his latest Oxnard report. Retting had estimated that the use of red-light cameras had resulted in a tiny 3 percent increase in rear-enders at all signalized intersections. But after expanding
    the definition of an intersection to include 100 feet into the approaches, where rear-end accidents would logically occur, Kadison found that during the time of Retting's study, rear-end crashes at red-light camera intersections increased from 18 (before installation) to 156, for a total rear-end accident increase of 767 percent. (Labish)

    Furthermore studies commonly ignore changes to yellow light time at the intersections which the effects are being determined, improvements at other non-camera equipped intersections are not considered important, and crucial data is omitted that portrays the cameras in a negative way (OML 17).

    Figures consistently show around 80% (OML 10) and as high as 85% as places such as Raleigh (Cunningham 77) of red-light violations occur within .3 and 1 second after the light turns red. The .3 second grace period is trivial as it is merely the clearance time for a full sized truck (Cunningham 77). Since most accidents occur after 2-3 seconds one might wonder why grace periods or yellow light time is not increased (Cunningham 77). Cunningham points out a study that concludes doing so might make drivers think that other lights have longer yellow times, worsening the situation (78). Still, others have shown that a little over a second increase reduced red-light entries from 70% in Arizona, Virginia, and Georgia to virtual elimination in Maryland (OML 2). �Red light violations are a problem created by government agencies, not the typical driver� states Schwartz, �it has been well proven that sound engineering practices improve compliance with traffic laws and traffic signals while reducing accidents� (Schwartz). The same practices that have been modified for the advancement of traffic cameras. New standards that have reduced average yellow time by almost half over the last 30 years and support enforcement over time modification at troubled intersections (OML 3).

    After reviewing a great deal of literature it is apparent that there are serious issues that everyone should be concerned about. When asked the average person seem not to be crazy over the cameras, but what is a little bit of privacy if it helps stop crime. The sad truth is the privacy being given away today is being lost by misguided lawmakers who are lobbied by companies that stand to make millions and millions per year. The cameras have not been proven effective and even if they were the ramifications and true cost to society is unacceptable.

    The studies available today do not prove that red light cameras are effective. All of studies appeared to be biased when presenting information, placing great emphasis on any reductions or benefits of the system while deemphasizing any increases. Even the studies that find great increases in crashes justify the use of automated enforcement by attempting to calculate the cost to society and failing to take into account reality. For instance, court cost are considered a savings over the traditional means of ticketing � is the lack of a fair trial something to be considered a savings? The savings over paying traditional law enforcement is no savings at all. Contrary to the conclusions in many reports, society does pay for automated enforcement in the form of citations. A single camera can easily cost over $50,000 per year, over the salary of most police officers.

    Conflict of interest exist across the board in the automated enforcement world. The conflict by those who publish and are hired to publish the studies is alarming. Equipment manufacturers and local governments consistently fund news studies which do little more than any previous study, other than. Considering the studies we do have are not that impressive � a 30% increase in yellow time consistently beats reducing red light entries over the use of expensive and obtrusive cameras. Private companies stand to profit greatly from increasing citations, which is unacceptable. By nature companies try to maximize profits, when the government gives a private company authority to ticket citizens and keep most of the fine the company will naturally have no motivation to reduce citations or improve safety. Local governments to whom profit millions will again have little incentive to do anything about reducing such �problems.� One may ask why so many local governments are trying out these devices if not for profit.

    The practice of posting a sign warning drivers of cameras ahead demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the use of automated enforcement. Who in their right mind would run a stoplight with a sign posted well in advance that states �Warning: Red Light Photo Enforced.� The only logical situations are when yellow light time is inadequate to safely stop a vehicle, an emergency situation exist, or a driver is in a state where they do not care or do not understand the consequences of their actions. A state such as drunk driving, which is great news for criminals because drunk drivers and drug abusers don't have to worry about law enforcement at the time of their violation. Since minor traffic violations often result in arrest for much more serious offenses, the use of automated enforcement puts a damper on everyones safety by leaving both dangerous drivers and criminals on the streets. Studies fail to calculate the cost of lost lives and property of leaving criminals on the street that would have been apprehended if traditional law enforcement had stopped them. Not only that, society can only allocate so much of its resources on enforcing laws, the ever increasing millions of dollars could be better spent on traditional law enforcement or on productive industries. Virtually all halo effect of improving driver behavior is eliminated by posting signs before photo enforced intersections, drivers who purposely run the lights can simply check for a sign if they wish to run a intersection.

    The practice of posting signs, imposing non-criminal penalties, and assessing no insurance points in initial installations is proof that citizens do not welcome such enforcement with open arms. Automated enforcement offers no discretion in which an officer can use, so penalties being low as to not anger citizens. Once the system is put into place, local governments are force fed propaganda from equipment manufactures and along with the large money incentive fines and insurance penalties begin to increase. There is an eerie connection between many safety organizations, camera manufactures, and insurance company organizations. When insurance points are given, insurance companies begin profiting greatly alongside local governments and automated enforcement equipment manufacturers. The average citizen stands to gain nothing from the advancement of this technology.

    The expanded use of automated enforcement is scary. There is virtually no limit to what can be enforced with electronics. Technological advancement, especially in an area that can easily bring so much research capital, will be fast paced in this field. Unjust laws that once would be impossible to enforce will actually become money makers and beneficial to governments that implement them. Civil disobedience will be effectively eliminated as a tool to fight unjust government, an extremely important element of our history in triumphs such as civil rights. With expanded use of automated enforcement and possibly even automated punishment one day the government could become corrupt. One small group of people or even one person could take control of government and be virtually unstoppable. While some of these ideas are outlandish today, it is no doubt that the people must decide how close to George Orwell's 1984 we want our society to be.

    In conclusion, the effectiveness of red light cameras at improving safety is shaky. Alternative methods of reducing entries on red exist that are much less costly to society, monetarily and principally. Autonomous enforcement is an issue that must be thoroughly examined before its use explodes. The implementations and limitations put in place today will ultimately decide the freedoms of everyone in 2084.


    Works Cited
    Cunningham, Christopher and Joseph Hummer. Evaluating the Use of Red Light Running Photographic Enforcement Using Collisions and Red Light Running Violations. Final Report. 2004.
    Kimley-Horn and Associates. City of Greensboro SafeLight Program � Red Light Camera Program Review and Analysis. Final Report. 2004.
    Labash, Matt. �Inside the District's Red Lights.� The daily Standard. Online. weeklystandard dot com. 23 Apr. 2005.
    Office of the Majority Leader U.S. House of Representatives. The Red Light Running Crisis Is It Intentional? 2001.
    Schwartz, Brian. �Saying 'No' to Red Light Cameras. Colorado Freedom Report. 23 Apr. 2005.
    Synetics Transportation Consultants Inc. Evaluation of the Red Light Camera Enforcement Pilot Project. Final Technical Report. 2003.

    Last edited by NOTALC; 04-27-2005 at 06:08 PM.

  2. #2
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    As I did not read the entire essay, I can only state that I agree with the first several paragraphs (not much to dispute there) and with your conclusion. In addition to the ineffectiveness of the photo enforcement at the time it occurs, pictures are taken of otherwise-innocent citizens' license plates, and even, as you said, citizens themselves! This is blatantly unconstitutional and, in my opinion, is a very shady process for law enforcement to be practicing. In my county (perhaps even in my state, I'm not quite sure), the use of automated red light cameras has been disallowed, and they will (or at least, should -- of course, being the government, they'll probably prolong their use so they can keep raking in revenue) hopefully start taking them down soon.

  3. #3
    Thats interesting.. What country are you from if you don't mind me asking?

  4. #4
    I did not read it. Sorry....

    I lived in Europe where it is common practice.

    You own the vehicle, you are responsible. period. Prove you were stupid enough to let a frind break the law in it... cool. Otherwise, your car, your problem.

    Do not break the law... do not give your car to friends. Problem solved. No?
    Don't you walk thru my words
    You got to show some respect
    Don't you walk thru my words
    'Cause you ain't heard me out yet

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by NOTALC
    Thats interesting.. What country are you from if you don't mind me asking?
    The U.S., what do you think? Virginia, specifically.

  6. #6
    Sorry! I read your post wrong - I thought you said it was banned in your country not county..

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by NOTALC
    Sorry! I read your post wrong - I thought you said it was banned in your country not county..
    Oh, okay, no problem. They do look similar; by simply removing the "r", you form a completely different word. Gotta love the English language.

  8. #8
    They take a picture, and mail you the tickect with the photo, so just write the check, take a photo of the check, and send them the photo...

    LMAO
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  9. #9
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    Nov 2001
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    I don't like the redlight cameras, if we were fined EVERY TIME we screwed up, by speeding, running a light, rolling a stop sign, not wearing belts, I'd venture to guess MOST if not ALL of us (who drive) would quickly lose our licenses.

    How often do you speed? How often do you push a light too close to red? I don't do it on purpose I STOP for redlights but I screw up once in a while. I don't feel like a ticket making its way to my door every time I make a mistake.

    If it starts with redlights where does it end? Remember robocop? haha
    Gary Harris - the artist formerly known as Dixiesys
    resident grumpy redneck

  10. #10
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    Mar 2003
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    Originally posted by Dixiesys
    I don't like the redlight cameras, if we were fined EVERY TIME we screwed up, by speeding, running a light, rolling a stop sign, not wearing belts, I'd venture to guess MOST if not ALL of us (who drive) would quickly lose our licenses.

    How often do you speed? How often do you push a light too close to red? I don't do it on purpose I STOP for redlights but I screw up once in a while. I don't feel like a ticket making its way to my door every time I make a mistake.

    If it starts with redlights where does it end? Remember robocop? haha
    Or how many people would quit pushing the limits, and drive within the confines of the law, pay better attention, and slow down faster for yellow lights.

  11. #11
    Originally posted by Trifolic
    They take a picture, and mail you the tickect with the photo, so just write the check, take a photo of the check, and send them the photo...

    LMAO
    And what are you going to do when you get a picture back of handcuffs?

  12. #12
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    Jun 2004
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    Enough people run the yellow-red light here in Boise that it might not be a bad idea.
    In Taiwan they use these cameras a lot, but they try to turn it into revenue by making yellow lights very short. That can be counterproductive for safety, as people have to either race through or make panic stops.

  13. #13
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    Sorry, but I think it has more to do with money than safety. Safety is only a scapegoat they use.

    What would happen if enforcement becomes so good, that you cant break the law without getting caught? People will stop trying. What happens when people stop trying? The law doesnt earn it's money from lawbreakers and goes bankrupt.

    So then they would come out with stricter laws that are much easier to break "by accident". I know one guy who got a ticket because in order to move out of the way of a firetruck, he had to run the red light. The judge dropped it, but the fact was, it was attempted.

    If nobody broke laws, it would only make it tougher because they would come out with much tougher/rediculous laws to make their money.

    There is a trick to cameras though. CB users know the trick. Get yourself a 500watt kicker and a 102inch steel whip antennae, and you can jam them. While you have it powered up, they will record nothing but static. With a sweet16, you can even jam police radio, and they cant give you a ticket for you as they have no authority over the airwaves. You can also jam all tv, radio, and phone signals. Even local cell phone signals if you sit close enough to the tower. FCC is so undermanned and underfunded, it takes them weeks to investigate reports if ever.

  14. #14
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    I dont see a problem with them, you wouldn't be able to make the same argument validly if a cop watched you do it, it's just a pole mounted policeman. ( pleasant images? ) But it's not legal to do in Texas atm, so I'm ok. The paper also says most municipalities wont assess points for tickets from the cameras, you're getting a financial slap on the wrist, I dont see a problem with it, after all you did break the law in someway to get the ticket.

  15. #15
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    I've run a red light here and there (especially when making left turns), who hasn't? But I do it w/ caution.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    Run a red light = get a ticket! what is wrong with that. Yes I agree that things happen and it happens by accident and I think in this case a person should be able to get off for one ticket per "? time" but gosh think about this.. What if the one time you accidentally ran a Red light and someone was in the cross walk and you kill someone's mother or father or kid? Yes a pole "cop" will not stop that but if people know that they are there they may just slow down and stop instead of racing the light.

    I like the idea of it.. I like the idea of speed cameras also. I am 37 and have had a total of maybe 3-4 tickets in 21 years of driving and they happened not because I slipped and accidentally ran a light or accidental sped it was all on purpose because I was in too much of a hurry and I deserved the ticket and paid it without question.

    Now as far as someone else driving your car and getting a ticket.. well if your "friend" does not pay then I guess they are not really your friend are they?


    Oh and see this link... http://comments.big-boys.com/?id=2650 Very bad accident when someone ran red light and person in crosswalk got hit.

    My 2 Cents.

    Robert
    Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

  17. #17
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    Here in Minnesota, for the most part, when approaching an intersection with a stoplight, the centerline goes solid. I've figured/estimated that if I am travelling the speed limit, and the light turns yellow BEFORE I enter the "solid line" zone, the light will turn red before I hit the intersection, and I'll have enough time to stop safely.

    If the light turns yellow once I'm already in the "solid line" zone and I'm travelling at the speed limit, I can continue and make it through before the red (without changing speed).

    This is something that I have noticed, not all intersections have the "solid line" but most have some form of difference in how the driving lanes are marked.

    So, fire up those cameras and take pictures of everyone running the red light. As long as you don't speed, the system is set up to allow you to make the best decision of whether you can make it through the light safely or not.

    Remember, the yellow light does NOT mean "Slow down" (or "speed up"). It technically means, "the light is about to turn red, stop if you can do so safely".


    As for speeding, I know EXACTLY how long it takes me to get from home to school, or to the office at a given time of day with traffic etc. I how how long it takes if I do the speed limit, and how long it takes if I speed. So if I'm speeding, it's because I didn't leave early enough. We have enough bad drivers around here (I admit, I'm one of them), that the speed cameras would help quite a bit. I'd just have to get used to waking up earlier (boo hoo, poor me).

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