How to fight Red-Light Cameras in Your Neck of the Woods

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the NMA’s Driving in America Blog in February 2018. The information is relevant because communities around the country are still dealing with red-light cameras.

Click. Click. Click. That’s the sound of money being made by your city’s red-light cameras. Officials brought them in for “safety” but now cities cannot live without the cash. In reality, this is a tax on motorists that is unfair and completely unnecessary for the sake of “safety.”

The NMA opposes the use of photographic devices to issue tickets. If speed limits are posted at the 85th percentile and yellow lights are appropriately timed, there should be no need for red-light cameras. They make intersections less safe and cause numerous headaches for all involved. Here are some reasons the National Motorists Association objects to red-light cameras.

They do not Improve Safety

Florida released a study in early 2017 that stated total crashes were up 10.14 percent when comparing data before the cameras were in place. A ten-year Australian study, released in February 2018, found that red-light cameras have no benefits.

There is no Certifiable Witness to the Alleged Violation

If there is no witness to answer to the crime, this affects a driver’s right to due process, a constitutional guarantee under the Fifth Amendment.  Every motorist who has received a ticket, whether automated or from a law enforcement officer, has the right to defend themselves in court.

Ticket Recipients are not Adequately Notified

This could cause a motorist to lose their license if they never receive a ticket in the mail. In some states, if you don’t pay there can be some dire consequences. Cities can also get into trouble. In summer 2017, Chicago reached a $38.75 million red-light ticket class action lawsuit because the judge found that the city did not adequately notify motorists of their automated tickets. (Editor’s Note: Here is additional information on the most recent Chicago red-light scandal.)

The Driver of the Vehicle is not Positively Identified

News stories abound of motorists receiving tickets even though they were hundreds of miles away. In Denver, the media has reported in the past that one in three tickets have been dismissed because the photo was unclear on who was driving.

Ticket Recipients are not Notified Quickly

Sometimes it takes weeks for a ticket to find the suspected violator. This makes it difficult for a driver to recall the place and time in question.

These Devices discourage the Synchronization of Traffic Lights

Profit-motivated cities do not want to jeopardize their income. Traffic-light synchronization allows the elimination of unneeded lights and partial deactivation during periods of low traffic. Not only good for moving traffic, traffic-light synchronization decreases congestion, pollution, and fuel consumption.

Cameras do not prevent most Intersection Accidents

Accidents do happen and not always because drivers are driving against the red light. With red-light cameras there are more getting hit from behind accidents because a drivers stop abruptly to avoid the camera.

Better Alternatives to Red-Light Cameras

From the motorist’s perspective, government funds should be used on improving intersections, not on ticket cameras. Five of the six safest states ban photo ticketing entirely. Cities do not need to spend a lot of money to make improvements.

  • Increase the yellow-light timing. Maryland officials recently admitted that longer yellows reduce red light violations. Same in Chicago.
  • Add an all-red clearance interval
  • Make traffic lights more visible.
  • Improve intersections for motorists.
  • Re-time traffic signals

How can You help rid their City or State of Red-Light Cameras?

Advocacy to start with—write letters or emails to elected officials, to your local papers and even to your family and friends to ignite them as well to help defeat re-light cameras in your city or state. Learn as much as you can about the issues swirling around red-light cameras.

If you think a red-light camera intersection has a yellow light that is too short, do your own investigation on the timing and if it is true, contact your city traffic engineer to change the yellow light to the correct timing. If you get no satisfaction this route, contact the local TV reporter responsible for consumer or transportation news and show him or her your findings.

Testify before your city council or state transportation committee against red-light cameras. Don’t forget to prepare a one pager of talking points on the NMA position.

Credit: Elizabeth Jenkins

Join a Group—if a red-light camera protest group has formed in your area, join them. Help set the advocacy work and recruit your friends and neighbors to help.

Start a Group—if you have the time, start a protest group and again solicit family and friends for funds and hands to do the work. Work towards a new law or even a statewide petition for a citizen vote banning red-light cameras.

With patience and some elbow grease it is possible to make a change with regards to red-light cameras.

If you would like to learn more and gain access to the NMA’s motorists’ rights advocacy toolbox, become a member of the National Motorists Association today!

Check out these additional NMA resources on advocating against red-light cameras in your area.

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