Why You Should Care About Red Light Cameras, and Why They Don’t Improve Safety
had as many people approach me about any issue as I have red light cameras. Despite that level of passion – virtually all of it appropriately against the devices – there are still folks who say, “this is a minor issue”, or, “just don’t run red lights and you have nothing to worry about.” those people are wrong on both counts. Let’s agree that it wouldn’t be fair – or safe – to do away with yellow lights all together, with lights changing from green directly to red. By the same token, yellow lights that simply flashed for a split second wouldn’t be fair, or serve their purpose – which is supposedly to permit people who are too close to the intersection to stop, to have enough time to travel through safely. So we must conclude that yellow lights should be of an appropriate and fair duration. Problem is, they invariably aren’t at red light camera intersections. They are designed not to catch scofflaws – but to entrap and fine reasonably-behaving, law-abiding motorists.
Red light cameras don’t improve safety. We know this from decades of data collected throughout the US and Europe. If you watch the videos of people causing major accidents at intersections virtually all of them are not caused by scofflaws choosing to blindly run red lights – they are you or me on a bad day after a fight with our spouse or screaming kid in the back seat or worried about our jobs. If the prospect of death isn’t enough to stop someone from absent-mindedly running through a red light, then an $85 or $140 – or $5000 – fine isn’t going to either.
Additionally, if you increase yellow light times at these supposedly hazardous intersections – as has been done with uniformly successful results in other states and municipalities – you reduce red light running more dramatically than cameras do.
Given those facts it is unquestionable that the devices are all about raising money. And here is why everyone should care about this issue. If we let our government pick our pockets with irrational policies and laws that aren’t based on any sound engineering or factual basis just think of the pandoras box that opens. How about blanket 15 mph speed limits on every stretch of every road? How about a blanket prohibition on left turns? How about installing traffic lights in the middle of every block – or hell, every 100 feet – with cameras of course. Would these things be ridiculously arbitrary and outrageous? You bet. But it is simply taking the red light camera program rationale to it’s logical (or illogical) extreme. If we don’t demand that our government behave in a reasonable, rational way taking into account the laws we can’t change, like those of physics – then we open ourselves up to government-designed and sanctioned anarchy and oppression.
Unless lights with cameras are set up to entrap motorists with short yellow lights, there are not enough red light runners to pay for the devices. Short yellow lights make intersections more dangerous too – so in the name of il-gotten revenue we are sacrificing safety. The red light camera companies know this. The officials presiding over and advocating for these insidious devices should too. The camera companies are more than happy to sacrifice the health and welfare – and lives for that matter – of motorists in order to keep the hundreds of $ millions flowing out of our pockets and into theirs. Some of that $ is “invested” into the campaign coffers of passively corrupt elected officials – who then vote to keep the gravy train rolling – best interests of New Jersey residents be damned. It’s disgusting. And if we continue to permit them to so blatantly take advantage of us, we will only have ourselves to thank for their next attempts at picking our pockets – and endangering our families.