The NMA staff spends a lot of time responding to media requests. Everyone from local radio reporters to network news correspondents contact us looking for quotes, comments or background information on a variety of driving-related stories. Recently, we’ve seen an uptick in national media interest in red-light cameras.
Three major networks, NBC, Fox and CBS, have run feature stories on red-light cameras in the last few months (see the links below). The NBC and Fox pieces included extensive input from the NMA, even though our on-air presence was minimal. And while we would have preferred greater visibility for the NMA, it’s more important to counter the pro-camera propaganda machine.
In general, the coverage has been fairly balanced, and perhaps even tilted slightly in our favor. We’ll take this as a victory, given the vast public relations resources available to the camera companies and their partners in the insurance industry and government.
The message that cameras have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with money is starting to sink in. Consider a recent piece from Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., titled The Answer is a Longer Yellow. The title alone tells you that mainstream media outlets are starting to acknowledge the inherently corrupt nature of red-light cameras.
Jenkins uses the ongoing Redflex Chicago bribery scandal to condemn ethically challenged public officials who hop into bed with profit-seeking private companies—all at the public’s expense. He insightfully links the short-yellow-light scam to what he calls “the most insidious form of taxation of all: speed limits themselves.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The column points out that red-light cameras only thrive when motorists are put at a disadvantage (in the form of short yellow lights and aggressive enforcement of right-turn-on-red). This reflects a deeper understanding of the issues and is something the NMA has been talking about for years.
But here’s the irony: The NMA had no direct input on the WSJ story. And we’re OK with that. The facts about red-light cameras speak for themselves, and thoughtful observers, like Jenkins, are starting to pay attention.
Public backlash against red-light cameras already had Redflex in its heels. Company profits for the last half of 2012 were cut in half, and the firm experienced a net loss of 47 camera installations. Let’s hope the increased media scrutiny hastens its implosion.