Compiled by NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker and NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn
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.
This past week…
NMA’s Driving in America Blog featured this post: Writing Editorials against Automated Traffic Enforcement (and other Topics that Support NMA Positions). Gives some great tips putting it all together for print and on-line editorial advocacy efforts.
Kingman, Arizona has decided against Red-Light Cameras. (See James Walker commentary below.)
Another editorial in the Orlando Sentinel on Red-Light Cameras entitled: Is my History for Sale to the Highest Bidder? Curse You, Red-Light Cameras!
Slate.com ran a story this past week on How Cities are Reining in Out-of-Control Policing Tech.
Wait and See
West Palm Beach, Florida city commission considers funding crime center plus shotspotter technology.
Sioux City, Iowa officials say they are unlikely to reactivate traffic cameras in wake of Iowa High Court Ruling. Will the other two Iowa cities follow suit?
Due to road construction, the village of Lakemoor, Illinois has removed its red-light cameras temporarily. The village is facing an ongoing lawsuit related to the cameras. Officials say the devices could go back up after the construction project is over and they re-evaluate the intersection.
St. Louis, Missouri continues to keep “Photo Enforced” signs up despite the fact that there has been no photo enforcement since the court struck down the city’s red-light camera ordinance a few years ago. The city streets director says they’re still waiting to see what direction the law takes in the future. Really?
Since January, Fort Worth, Texas grassroots activists have been circulating a petition to put a red-light camera ban on the city ballot, November 6th. They hope to collect 25,000 signatures of registered voters by July 3. If you live in the area, sign that petition and encourage friends and family too!
Dayton, Ohio turns on five more red-light cameras this week. Motorists will have a month of warnings before the tickets with fines begin.
Even though automated traffic cameras are banned in Wisconsin, Milwaukee lawmakers say they want 40 cameras in Milwaukee’s high risk intersections in a five year test run. They plan to re-introduce the proposed legislation in January. (See Jim’s comments about his response below.)
NMA’s City and 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 email@example.com for updating the list.
Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week
The “good guys” won in Kingman, Arizona last week when the city decided not to restart a long dormant red-light camera program. We won in April when Cathedral City, California decided not to renew their red-light camera program and became the 80th CA community to end or ban red-light cameras. In many news articles, the principle of setting posted speed limits at the 85th percentile speed for safety is now recognized by reporters and/or readers posting comments. Education, backed up by data and research by unbiased groups wherever possible, make our arguments against ATE programs and deliberately improper traffic safety engineering stronger and more likely to prevail.
The NMA and several other groups frequently provide the data and reasons why local authorities should end red light and/or speed camera programs, or not start them if none are operating currently. Sometimes hearing various views from the NMA, www.highwayrobbery.net, www.saferstreetsla.org, www.mddriversalliance.org, and others causes officials to do more due diligence – and not just swallow the sales pitches of the for-profit camera companies.
As in last week’s blogs on May 18 about writing Editorials and the May 15 ATE Racket Report, it is important for us to use rational arguments presented in a businesslike manner. Our website and those like the others mentioned above have a wealth of information, data and examples that can be accessed to back up our points.
When a news article shows an ATE program is about to be discussed at an upcoming council meeting, most cities now have online agendas for those meetings. The advance agendas sometimes contain reports from city staffs showing the arguments the staffs are making in support of the programs. It is common for these staff reports to be incomplete or obviously biased toward the financial side, with poor if any safety data about the programs. Some local officials are fixated on the profits, but others are really trying to decide if the programs would really improve traffic safety. Showing those officials “the other sides” can sway a few votes that can lead to a victory.
Several things are almost always true about ATE programs. They are despised by residents and visitors. Correct engineering of posted speed limits and traffic lights almost always yields better results than for-profit enforcement programs. If allowed to, voters reject ATE programs about 90% of the time. ATE programs send thousands or millions of dollars out of a community to permanently circulate about six times a year in other states, causing serious losses of economic activity in communities using cameras. Red-light cameras frequently increase crash rates, and higher crash rates are never the mark of a safety program. Camera tickets for slow rolling right on red turns almost never cause crashes, per NHTSA data in a Report to Congress. Setting speed limits 10 mph or more below the safest 85th percentile speed levels guarantees the majority of tickets will go to the safest drivers on the road, the ones at or near the safest 85th percentile speeds, and ticketing the safest drivers is a perversion of the very purpose for traffic laws and their enforcement. Using artificially low posted speed limits does not reduce traffic speeds, it just enables for-profit speed traps operated by cameras and/or officers.
When I and some of our like-minded ATE opponents write to city officials, we can usually find the email addresses of both the elected officials and some of the others that can influence decisions. I include the emails of the top economic development and Chamber of Commerce executives, because it is the business community that suffers when thousands or millions of dollars get shipped out of state to the camera companies. I include the executives in the tourist bureaus, because tourists hate these “gotcha” programs and may well not return if they get stung once. I include the engineering department because there will be engineers that understand the safety issues of mis-engineering the parameters.
Using the ideas here, I wrote to the Milwaukee officials and the state Representative who proposes to introduce a bill in January to legalize ticket cameras in Wisconsin. It had a list of 11 reasons why they should reconsider the issue and not consider using ticket cameras. The letter ended with the offer for the officials to talk to the NMA National Office which is located in Wisconsin or myself for further discussions. It will be interesting to see if we get any replies.
In almost every case, the facts are on our side. Presenting the issues as clearly and completely as possible with as many unbiased references as possible, gives us the best chance to influence the views and votes of honorable officials to reject for-profit ATE programs their constituents will despise.
James C. Walker is a life member of the National Motorists Association. He is also a board member and executive director of the National Motorists Association Foundation.