ATE Racket Report for December 19, 2018

The ATE Racket Report is a weekly feature of the NMA blog. We want to bring the issues of automated traffic enforcement to our supporters in a more coherent up-to-date fashion.  

Compiled by NMA Foundation Director James C. Walker and NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn. 

This Past Week…

Editor’s Note: The NMA does not condone violence of any kind against automated traffic enforcement.

The French Yellow Vest Protests continue and a lesser reported part of the story is on the protest against speed cameras:

A California man was caught red-handed trying to vandalize an Encinitas red-light cameras with a baseball bat. A deputy tried to stop him and a scuffle ensued. Luckily, the man was arrested without further incident.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council adopted a proposed surveillance ordinance last week after two years of working with the community, the police department and the American Civil Liberties Association. The ACLU praises the new ordinance. Surveillance technology covered by the plan includes ALPRs, video surveillance, biometric surveillance (face and voice) and databases, social media monitoring, police body-cams and predictive policing software.

Wait and See…

A big review and editorial was written in the Bakersfield, CA newspaper about the city’s red-light camera program.

Monday night, the Denver City Council voted to delay until January 2, 2019 a decision on more red-light cameras and photo radar van.

Monticello, Illinois has been considering stop arm cameras for their school buses.

Road construction industry leaders in Indiana are calling for safety improvements in work zones which could mean speed cameras or even shutting more roads down completely.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Metro Council rejected extending its current red-light camera contract which ends at the end of the month.  The decision could be reconsidered in January. In the meantime, the cameras will not be turned off even though motorists will not be ticketed. On Friday, two lawyers filed suit on the behalf a number of motorists against the city and are seeking reimbursement of all camera fines since 2007, the year the red-light camera program began.

Bad News…

In Australia, Sydney police have started using cameras to detect drivers using their phones.  In a trial in October, 11,000 motorists were caught using their phone each day with the installed cameras.

Two cities announced this week that they have or will be obtaining Automated License Plate Readers for police use:

New study bolsters support for keeping red-light cameras in Miami Beach, Florida. Yikes!

First weekend for red-light cameras in Waterloo, Iowa: 151 drivers were caught and will only sent a warning except for one motorist who blew past a red-light at 70 mph. The one week warning period is already over though…for the second weekend, motorists will begin receiving actual tickets.

In November, Franklin, Ohio police recently started using a new dragon cam which is a handheld automated radar camera that can later send you a fine. (Can we say automated speed trap?) Public push back has already begun. Rossford, OH city council voted this week to bring in dragon cams. The police will likely use them on I-75.

Kent, OH will be raising their school zone speeding fines from $124 to $136 per ticket.

Jersey City, Texas will be reinstalling 11 cameras soon. The city had cams from 2008 to 2011 along Highway 290 but removed them so that the TX DOT could widen the highway. All the intersections have been reengineered and at the November 19th City Council member, the cams were voted back unanimously. Boooooooooo.

NMA’s City/State Lists of RLCs and Speed Cameras

The NMA has compiled a list of which states and cities are using red-light and speed cameras. This may not be a complete list and please send any additions or subtractions to the for updating the list.

Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week

The French are very militant and sometimes violent in their protests of speed cameras, fuel tax increases, and lots of other objections to government actions. These actions are not OK in the USA, but the feelings behind those French protests to government revenue rackets are just the same.

Legal challenges like the one in Baton Rouge are getting more common. Many will lose in court as local courts often protect the revenue to local governments regardless of the legal issues, but the negative publicity helps build overall opposition to the for-profit ticket camera rackets.

Venues like Waterloo, Iowa; Franklin & Kent, Ohio, and Jersey City, Texas will end the use of camera rackets ONLY when forced to by law.

The press in Bakersfield, CA is questioning the effectiveness of the red-light cameras.  I sent the editors this comment by email.


OUR VIEW: It’s time to study the effectiveness of red-light cameras

Dear Editors, 

I agree it way past time to study the effectiveness of red-light cameras. And if the studies are done by truly unbiased groups like investigative reports or neutral academics, the findings frequently come out that the cameras are neutral to safety or cause higher total crash rates. 

The drivers that cause the dangerous T-bone crashes and dramatic near misses that the for-profit cameras like to show in videos are the ones that enter the intersections several seconds after the lights have been red. These drivers never recognized they were approaching red lights until too late because they were heavily distracted by something, DUI, in medical distress, under the influence of legal or illegal drugs, or some other reason that caused them to not recognize the red lights until too late. Sending those drivers a $500 bill in the mail some weeks later will NOT prevent those violations. 

Almost all the red light camera tickets go to safe drivers for two types of harmless technical fouls.   

1) The yellow intervals are left or set slightly too short for the actual conditions by less than one second and those drivers make inadvertent split second violations of less than one second into the red, violations that would not happen if the yellow intervals were 0.2, or 0.5 or 0.7 seconds longer to match the actual conditions.  These split second violations are utterly harmless because those drivers clear the intersections during the all red phase plus the short start up delay for the cross traffic to actually move into the intersections after they get green lights. The crash risks of these split second violation drivers are zero.  Note that these harmless violations were sharply reduced but not quite eliminated when California authorities required more realistic yellow intervals a few years ago. 

2) Cameras ticket safe slow rolling right on red turns or drivers who stop slightly over the stop line before turning.  Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a Report to Congress showed that right on red turns, including those with or without full stops, are involved in only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of crashes with injuries or fatalities. Thus almost every right on red camera ticket goes to a safe driver who endangered no one.  Many California red light camera systems now issue the vast majority of $500 tickets to drivers for these almost-always harmless violations. 

Californians are increasingly aware that red-light cameras are for-profit revenue devices, not safety programs. There are now only 39 active programs in a state that once had 105 red-light camera programs. If Bakersfield gets a legitimate and unbiased review of the cameras effectiveness, it will show they are between neutral and negative for safety. At that point, it will be a moral decision for the city officials of whether to end the program or to keep collecting profits from mostly safe drivers who endangered no one. 

The moral decision is clear, the revenue decision is murky. 


James C. Walker
Life Member, National Motorists Association
Board Member and Executive Director, National Motorists Association Foundation


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