While some police officers agree that red light camera systems help prevent drivers from running red lights, a large amount of policemen do not advocate these devices. Neither the St. Augustine police nor the St. Johns County Sheriff is fond of red light cameras. Other police officers have mixed reviews about red light cameras.
If the red light camera system cannot pay for itself, by not catching enough red light runners than the system is not helpful to the area. St. Augustine Police Department Chief Loran Lueders said, “We have studied the issue of red light cameras and a lot of people do not understand that there is a significant cost to the system. The monitors are billed monthly and if the cameras do not produce enough revenue then the city has to make up the difference. We do not have enough of a red light problem to support such a system at this time and hopefully never will, so it is a very good system but for now we do not have the need for it.”
This distaste for red light cameras seems to be prevalent in St. Johns County. St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar said, “At this time I do not support red light cameras for a variety of reasons." It does not look like St. Johns County will be implementing a red light camera system anytime soon.
Some police officers disagree and think that the red light camera system can be quite valuable despite the cost. Sgt. Lance Blanchette of the Daytona Beach Police Department said, “The red light camera program is beneficial in many ways. The biggest benefit of implementing a red light camera program is that it makes our roads and communities safer. By implementing this technology, we can assist our officers with enforcement of various traffic rules and regulations, essentially making violators conscious of their actions and preventing future violations. This technology could prove beneficial in both large and small cities, and show equal effectiveness.”
There is some evidence to support that the red light camera systems can in some cases save lives. The Insurance Journal researchers study concluded that during the period of 2004-2008 the 14 cities that were studied had a 35 percent decrease in fatal red running car accidents. Yet, the other 48 cities that were without red light cameras had a 14 percent drop in the fatal red running crashes. Henceforth, the Insurance Journal researchers deduced that there was an approximate 24 percent decrease in fatal red running deaths in places with cameras.
The irony is that these findings are less than 50 percent and are therefore not that successful; law enforcers may have the right idea that red light cameras are too expensive and not that effective in lowering fatalities.
Cops are not the only people who are opposed to red light camera systems; Gary Biller executive director of the National Motorists Association said, “The National Motorists Association is a membership-based motorists’ rights organization founded in 1982. We oppose red light cameras and automated traffic enforcement of any kind.”
There are 15 states that have outlawed red light cameras under state law, these include: Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin. Biller said, “Fifteen states have actually banned the use of ticket cameras and 15 cities in states that do allow photo enforcement have voted to prohibit the use of the cameras. In fact, those are the only cities in the U.S. that managed to allow their residents to cast an up or down vote via a public ballot since red-light cameras appeared on the landscape. That means in 15 votes, red-light cameras have been defeated by the public each and every time. The most recent two U.S. cities that banned the use of cameras are Houston, Texas and Anaheim, California in the elections last November.”
Biller noted, “In difficult economic times, some communities are adding red-light camera programs because of the ticket revenue that can be produced but many more are dropping the programs either because the cameras aren’t as profitable as they expected or they don’t see the traffic safety benefits that were originally promised. The trend appears to be going against the use of cameras, but I can tell you, as someone having to deal with the issue daily, it will be a drawn-out battle that won’t end soon.”
Biller’s reasons for why the NMA oppose red light cameras are as follows, “Ticket cameras do not improve safety. Another problem with these devices is that there is no certifiable witness to the alleged violation. Many people find these systems annoying because ticket recipients are not adequately notified in a timely fashion. Another problem is that the driver of the vehicle is not always positively identified; in fact, the ticket is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, whether he or she was the driver or not and they are deemed guilty until proven innocent. The red light cameras do not prevent most intersection accidents. There are proven alternatives involving engineering solutions to cameras that are more effective such as longer yellow light intervals, improved visibility of traffic signals, intersection improvements to just name a few. The other thing is that taking pictures of dangerous drivers’ does not deter their behavior.”
Washington D.C. Governors Highway Safety Association’s Communication Manager Kara Macek, 35, said, “the GHSA supports red light enforcement cameras and encourages jurisdictions to use in accordance with the model law adopted by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO). This model law specifies that red light camera programs: should be used at particularly dangerous intersections only after an engineering analysis has been conducted. Red light cameras should not replace traditional law enforcement; they should include a strong public information component before and during their use. These red light cameras should NOT be treated as a revenue generator. The compensation to the manufacturer should not be based on the amount of revenue it generates and revenues should go back into highway safety. These devices should be evaluated within three years of implementation and be terminated if reductions in red light running do not occur.”
Macek noted, “Red light camera programs have been growing in popularity over the past several years, and we anticipate the trend to continue as more studies demonstrate their effectiveness and as fewer resources are available for law enforcement officers.”
Fort Lauderdale police Capt. Karen Dietrich said, “Commenting on the cameras right now is a bit difficult. They are a political hot potato right now.”
In regard to their usefulness, Dietrich said, “They definitely have come in handy when traffic homicides occur in the middle of the night and there are few, if any witnesses around. I have pulled video which refuted what an eye witness said to a fatality where a pedestrian was struck. The witness placed the blame on the driver saying he had no head lights on. We were able to pull the footage and prove the driver did have his lights on and the pedestrian ran into the path of the vehicle. I am sure the driver of the car is pro red light camera since it probably saved him a possible traffic homicide trial.”
Red light cameras can make the roads a bit safer, according to Dietrich. “As for the safety, I do think they provide a safer intersection once drivers become aware of them. As with anything once we get burned on something we learn not to do it again. It causes drivers to approach these intersection with much more caution and preparation for the lights to cycle. Even I know where they are in the city I live, and I do prepare as I approach them a little more cautiously than the others.”
Dietrich said, “As for the revenue makers people are making them out to be, not really. What people fail to figure in is the city only gets 75 dollars per violation. This entire unit has to be manned by staff and all the expenses that have to be paid come from the proceeds or some other city fund, but the money still goes out. There are expenses such as salaries, computers, printers, scanners, office supplies and many other cost that are reoccurring costs.”
As for the future of these devises, Dietrich is unsure. “Right now in Broward County, Florida, there are massive court issues. Lawyers are fighting the law is unconstitutional and the evidence is all hearsay. We have has traffic court trials that have lasted longer then felony trials because of all the motions being made in the court room. Currently I think the life of the read light camera programs is in mid air. I am not sure if they will continue to grow or will all the sudden be a thing of the past. It is too early to tell with the court system today. I see this going to the appellate court for a ruling before any cases can be heard.”
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Intersections Program Manager Jeffery Shaw said, “Based on what is known at this time, red light camera systems are a viable safety treatment for some signalized intersections. I honestly do not know what the future holds. There are ongoing public policy debates about automated enforcement of many types, including Red Light Camera systems. Our hope is that wherever red light camera systems are considered for use, experienced traffic safety, traffic engineering and law enforcement practitioners are part of the decision making throughout.”
Jeffery Shaw said, “According to the FHWA, red light camera systems can contribute to improved safety performance at signalized intersections. There is a net safety benefit as measured by the economic value of crashes; that is, the reduction in angle crashes which are typically among the most severe types of crashes at an intersection outweighs a possible increase in rear end crashes. In terms of the magnitude of the safety effects, according to the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual, a red light camera system can reduce on average angle crashes by 26 percent while increasing rear end crashes by 18 percent. This is not to say that ted light camera systems are appropriate for any signalized intersection – each location must be evaluated independently. But, red light camera systems are a legitimate safety treatment under the right circumstances. Possible spillover effects of Red Light Camera systems have not been statistically verified or validated.”
“The City’s red light program’s impact on safety in our community is undisputed. Accidents have been reduced by 38 percent at intersections where the red light cameras have been installed,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Dyer said, “The ordinance has been successful in protecting the lives and property of our citizens and visitors.”
Sgt. Chuck Long of the Ocala Police Department said, “I don’t believe that red light cameras are about increasing revenue. It is a matter of increasing safety for all who use our streets and highways. If the presence of a red light camera makes people pay more attention and stop trying to beat the light then crashes will be reduced and lives will be saved. If just one life is saved, the camera has paid for itself.”
After looking into the success of red light cameras, Gainesville Sgt. Joseph Raulerson said, “Each year around 33,000 deaths occur on our nations roadways. Research has shown that with the addition of red light cameras, red light running crashes fell 35 percent in 14 cities studied. That saved 159 lives.”
Raulerson realizes that the police workforce in Gainesville or anywhere else cannot cover every single red light intersection. “Red light cameras are a non-invasive technique that allows for more enforcement at problem intersections without adding Officers. In truth, there will never be enough officers in cities to enforce laws at every intersection 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Every community has a duty to keep the citizens and visitors safe,” said Raulerson.
Raulerson reasons that instituting a red light camera system should be something of a last resort, after all other options have been thoroughly investigated. Raulerson said, “Communities wanting red light cameras should study the problem first and then work on multiple solutions to correct the problem. Items looked at should be intersection crashes, injury crashes at intersections, causation of crashes, fatalities at intersections and ways to correct education, engineering and enforcement. Revenue will be brought up whether it is hand written citation or a computer generated citation. Enforcement efforts through fines increase the likelihood of changing driving behavior. Thank goodness, staff at my level is not involved in the budgetary processes.”
According to this Gainesville sergeant, if the red light cameras are effective in preventing severe accidents then they pay for themselves. Raulerson said, “Red light cameras affect red light runners and the people that will have a greater chance of living when driving through intersections.”
Red light camera systems may be more useful in Pensacola because it requires less on-site personnel. Pensacola Police Department Capt. Jay Worley said, “Currently, our city has not implemented a red light camera program. Most of the wrecks within our city occur at or near an intersection. Many of these crashes are caused by someone who fails to obey a traffic control device. Our officers do monitor various intersections for these violations, but this is really not an effective use of our manpower. Red light cameras seem to be a more practical way to monitor red light violators.”
Pensacola officers are not concerned about generating revenue from the devices, their primary concern if they were to implement them would be to prevent more accidents. Worley said, “I am not a proponent for implementing a red light camera program for its potential of becoming a revenue source. Our only goal would be to reduce traffic crashes at these intersections. I think these cameras could be effective in both large and small communities. The key seems to be in the placement of the cameras, making sure that they are placed at the intersections with the most accidents and violations.”