Open Letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on the Proposed Use of Red-Light Cameras

Dear Governor Baker,

Don’t do it! Don’t allow red-light cameras to become entrenched in Massachusetts under the guise of traffic safety. For years, state lawmakers have been trying to bring in these automated traffic enforcement devices. They might indeed improve one area for the state by bringing more cash to hard-hit municipalities. “Policing for Profit” or “Taxation by Citation” is never a good look.

Here are the many reasons not to deploy red-light cameras in your state:

Ticket Cameras Do Not Improve Safety

Despite the claims of those private companies that want to sell ticket cameras and related services, there is no independent verification that red-light cameras improve highway safety, reduce overall accidents, and certainly do not improve traffic flow. Cameras do not prevent most intersection accidents, and they certainly do not reduce right-angle crashes. Motorists do not casually drive through red lights. More likely, an intersection accident is caused by a road user’s distraction, impairment, or unfamiliarity with the area. Putting cameras on poles and taking pictures will not stop these kind of accidents.

There Is No Certifiable Witness to the Alleged Violation

A camera is not a person and cannot serve as an “accuser” for motorists to confront, a constitutional right of due process.

Ticket Recipients are Not Adequately Notified

There is no guarantee that an accused motorist will receive an automated ticket in the mail and let alone understand it and respond. The government assumes that the ticket was received. If a motorist fails to pay the ticket for whatever reason, a warrant may be issued for their arrest.

Ticket Recipients are Not Notified Quickly

If a vehicle owner does receive a ticket, it may not reach them until weeks after the alleged violation. This makes it difficult to defend oneself in court. Maybe that’s the point—box the ticket recipient into believing that they are guilty no matter what to rake in cash.

The Driver of the Vehicle is Not Positively Identified

Tickets don’t always identify the driver of the offending vehicle. This forces owners to prove his or her innocence by identifying the actual driver, who might be a family member, friend, or employee. Under your bill, only license plates will be photographed and not drivers.

Automated Traffic Enforcement Sometimes Brings Corruption

Check out The Newspaper’s red-light and speed camera crime line. Since this was first posted in 2019, Illinois is again embroiled in yet another red-light camera scandal.

Red-Light Cameras Discourage the Synchronization of Traffic Lights.

Local governments are unlikely to jeopardize this newly found income source by traffic-light synchronization, decreasing congestion, pollution, and fuel consumption if properly done. Also, traffic light synchronization allows for a better flow of traffic which is safer for all road users.

If you really want all road users to be safer, properly engineer, install and operate intersection controls. Simple intersection and signal improvements can have lasting positive effects without negative consequences. Other ideas to consider: increase the yellow-light time, add an all-red clearance interval, make traffic lights more visible, repaint lane markings, and improve signage.

Of course, this kind of safety work costs more and makes no money for cities.

The National Motorists Association is against all forms of automated traffic enforcement for all the reasons above, and more. You should be too, Governor Baker!

Additional resources on Red-Light Cameras from the NMA:

NMA Red-Light Camera Issues Page

Pay that Red-Light Camera Ticket no Matter What

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