Politicians, the media, and others are missing the point when it comes to the issue of red light cameras. They point out privacy concerns or due process failures. True, these are legitimate complaints, but they distract from the heart of the issue.
Obeying intersection traffic signals is one law that is universally agreed upon. The majority of drivers obey traffic lights and expect others to do the same. They view signals as inviolate. The vast majority of red light violations are not the product of willing or casual non-compliance. Therefore, they can not be addressed or corrected by enforcement measures.
So why do intersections with high numbers of red light violations exist if the majority of drivers agree that these signals should be obeyed? Take a close look at those high-incident intersections and the answer will be found. The majority of these violations can be traced back to a flaw in the installation of the signal light, improper maintenance of the signal light, and/or operation of the signal light. None of these failings can be corrected by adding a ticket camera.
This point is repeatedly proven by intersections where violations continue in large numbers, even after ticket cameras are installed. It is also repeatedly proven at intersections where red light violations literally disappear after a simple change in yellow light duration. One further proof is that the same driving population that is punished for violating the red light at one intersection shows 100 percent compliance at other similar intersections. It’s the same drivers; the only real variable is the intersection, most likely the traffic lights!
This is not an enforcement issue. Ticket cameras greatest detriment is not that they infringe on our privacy. Their greatest practical harm is that they reward and perpetuate improper installation, maintenance and operation of traffic lights. Motorists should not be penalized and cities rewarded because the city has failed its responsibility to ensure intersections that are properly engineered. Ticket cameras do not eliminate intersection flaws and they cannot correct traffic signal flaws.
Ticket cameras may be an affront to many peoples’ sense of privacy, but they are even a greater affront to the safety, integrity and convenience of American motorists.