The use of red light ticket cameras has spread to almost 300 cities across the United States. The ticket camera promoters publicly proclaim that these cameras improve traffic safety. Privately they tout the cameras’ revenue generating potential to state and local officials.
By masquerading as a public interest organization named “Stop Red Light Running” the ticket camera merchants attend trade shows and put on “dog and pony” events complete with victims, (courtesy of the MADD playbook) and local officials who tout the wonders of red light ticket cameras. On the public podium its all about safety, in the backrooms the name of the game is how much revenue can be generated.
Where’s the press? Why isn’t it pointed out that the “Stop Red Light Running” organization is nothing more than a public relations/lobbying organization funded by ticket camera companies? There are numerous independent studies that document the fact that red light ticket cameras increase accidents, injuries and property damage, but the average news article tells readers just the opposite and regurgitates the self-serving claims of ticket camera merchants and the cities that use this equipment.
One exception to this “asleep at the switch” pattern was the Washington Post’s review and analysis of Washington D.C’s camera enforcement program. The city proclaimed great safety benefits through the use of ticket cameras and, by the way, raked in tens of millions of dollars. However, when Washington Post reporters dug into the actual records they found traffic safety had declined in general and specifically at camera enforced locations.
When cameras took North Carolina by storm the press dutifully parroted the safety motivations for installing red light cameras. But, when the cameras were shut off because the cities couldn’t keep the fine money (constitutional requirement that fines must go to local school districts) no media sage was asking “why aren’t the cameras kept on for safety purposes?” The obvious answer is there was no safety purpose, the red light cameras were/are just a politically expedient way to rip off motorists.
The overwhelming majority of red light violations can be traced to poorly designed, improperly maintained, and incompetently operated traffic signal systems. To exploit these correctable shortcomings to raise revenue is unethical if not criminal.