Traffic Enforcement Dollars And Cents

By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

Do you think it is ever a good idea to tie a money incentive to law enforcement of any kind? Not me. It is a guarantee of corruption and abuse. (See also: The War on Drugs.)

Let’s consider just one specific example — the use of cameras to catch (and “process”) red light violators. It’s all about “safety,” right?

Not so much. Here’s the truth:

Automated enforcement began as a completely, openly “privatized” operation, run by a private company — which explicitly, brazenly, promised local governments huge windfalls from the system.

And delivered on that promise.

The “profits” were gleefully split between the two. When this fact became common knowledge, they rejiggered it a bit to make it appear less of an obvious scam. But money is still the main motive. If that were not so, these systems would not be so focused on “revenue enhancement,” to use the favored term of the smarmy little bureaucrats who rule us.

Ask yourself how eager these state/local governments would be to turn over a law enforcement function to automation if there were no profit involved. Why are red light cameras never set up on a budget neutral, “pay as you go” basis — to cover operating costs and no more?

It is a known fact most red light running can be dealt with by properly adjusting signal timing — making sure the yellow is long enough to give people approaching the intersection time to slow and stop safely. And to allow those who can’t to clear the intersection safely before the yellow turns to red. Multiple studies have born this out. (See and

The National Motorists Association also has a wealth of material on this subject available.

Yes, of course — a few people deliberately run red lights — and no amount of signal timing adjustment will deter them. As a motorcyclist and a motorist too, I hate these people a lot. They should be dealt with harshly. Fine and good.

However, it is equally true that most people do not deliberately run red lights — because most people are not deliberately reckless and neither want to risk being killed nor killing someone else.

Most people, in a word, are not sociopathic.

Just as most people do not drive excessively fast/beyond their skill/comfort level, either. (Though they may be “speeding” — but that doesn’t tell us anything other than the person was driving faster than a number on a sign).

And: Cameras will not stop all deliberate red light runners, either. But they will and do entrap more people who get caught in the shortened yellow intervals that are typical with camera enforcement. Yes, it’s true. When red light cameras go up, very often the yellow goes down. Signals are retimed — deliberately shortened yellows — to increase the number of violators, and thus, the amount of money the system generates. Not my opinion — an established fact. See the documents referenced above — and specifically, the court decisions where RLCs have been thrown out because of the obvious flim-flam, including deliberately cut-down yellow signal intervals.

You have to have your head up your hind quarters not to see that, to a very great extent, traffic enforcement in this country — and the laws/regulations underpinning it — are set up to extract money from people on the basis of trumped-up “violations” administered by rapacious officials whose bottom line is the bottom line …. money.

It’s not about “safety” — or “the children.” It’s about cold cash, dollars and cents. The sooner you come to grips with this fact of life, the better your mental filter will be at properly sorting whatever new law comes down the pike.

And the sooner you will begin to understand the true nature nature of The Beast.

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