National Motorists Association Takes Red-Light Camera Fight to Airwaves

February 2014

The drivers’ rights organization National Motorists Association (NMA) launched its 2014 national campaign against red-light cameras with the debut of two television advertisements in the New York City metropolitan market.  In front of a television audience exceeding 20 million, the “The Red-Light Camera Rip-Off” and “The Red-Light Camera Rip-Off:  Rigged Yellow Lights” spots take aim at the safety claims made by the photo enforcement industry and their supporters, including elected officials.  The video advertisements encourage the motoring public to contact their state and local legislators to voice opposition to red-light cameras.

“Privatizing automated traffic enforcement for profit is a recipe for abuse and corruption that leaves motorists paying the price.” Gary Biller, President of the NMA said.  As examples, he pointed to  the bribery scandal that ticket camera vendor Redflex became embroiled in with the City of Chicago’s enforcement program, accusations by a former Redflex executive of wider-spread misconduct by the company, and the case of a vice president from American Traffic Solutions who misrepresented himself in order to boost support for ATS’s camera programs.

The production of the videos, funded by grant money from the NMA’s Community Support Program, was initiated by a NMA New Jersey member who decried the use of photo enforcement.  In 2012, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) temporarily shut down many of its pilot-program red-light cameras.  The cameras were matched with traffic signals that had yellow light change intervals not certified in compliance with state statutes, bringing into question whether some of those yellow light cycles were too short and whether the photo tickets issued at those intersections before the NJDOT corrective action were valid.

NMA Spokesperson John Bowman noted, “The majority of red-light violations recorded by the cameras are for vehicles crossing an intersection stop bar less than half a second – the blink of an eye – after the light cycles from yellow to red, or for slow-moving right turns on red.  Those actions rarely cause safety concerns.  But drivers slamming on brakes to try to avoid a ticket do, often causing significant hikes in accident rates at camera-equipped intersections.  Red-light running and rear-end collisions can be almost entirely avoided by setting yellow light intervals to meet the minimum standard set by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.”

Bills to limit the profit incentive of ticket cameras or to prohibit their use outright are currently under consideration by the legislatures of Florida and Ohio.  On the local level, many grassroots efforts have successfully launched petitions to require a public vote on whether to maintain or eliminate their red-light camera programs.  In 27 of 30 cities where the initiative made it to the ballot, the public voted to toss the cameras out.

The videos continue to be highlighted in an extensive social media campaign by the NMA and other groups opposed to red-light cameras.  The spots will also be broadcast on television in key markets around the country.