Traffic Light Cameras – The Evil Racket to Take Your Money
The proliferation of traffic light cameras has been justified as a safety policy, but it's also about money. These cameras are becoming a nice little money-spinner for local governments and the companies that make and operate the cameras. Insurance companies also benefit as tickets give them a pretext to increase auto policy premiums. You're being fleeced, and you have every right to be upset about it!
Traffic Camera Tickets – An Opportunity That's Too Good to Resist
There are two easy ways for local governments to increase revenue from traffic cameras at intersections. The most insidious is to significantly shorten the yellow-light time. While independent researchers have confirmed that longer yellow lights lead to much less red-light running – which is what we're supposedly trying to reduce – several towns have done the exact opposite and reduced yellow-light times in order to trap more motorists and make more money writing tickets. In 2008, CBS News reported a case in Maryland in which an intersection equipped with cameras had a yellow-light time of only 2.7 seconds, while other intersections in the neighborhood were set at a more normal 4 seconds. Similarly, Atlanta's NBC affiliates found that most of the city's camera intersections violated a state law passed in 2008 that required yellow-light times to be increased by one second. These were the main revenue-generators for the state, but an increase in accidents finally led to some of the cameras being taken down.
Right Turns on Red – The New Cash Cow
The other way to make money from traffic light cameras is to ticket rolling right turns on red. This strategy has worked nicely for several towns in Los Angeles County. The City of Montebello brings in about $ 90,000 per month from five approaches to three intersections, according to an investigation in the Los Angeles Times . This is three to four times better (or worse, depending on your point of view!) Than some other cities in which revenues have declined to a level that just covers operating costs. The idea to target right turns often comes from the vendors of the camera systems. In the city of Walnut, Redflex Traffic Systems surveyed several intersections and set a threshold of violations to make the operation financially viable. The city's managers were contractually obligated to meet that target and needed right-turn tickets to achieve it.
Safety experts agree that right turns on red are a far less significant hazard than running the red light itself. Turning cars are usually traveling slowly, giving much more time for evasive action by other road users (including pedestrians). If an accident does occur, it tends to be more of a side-swipe than a broadside. Interestingly, civil engineers do not needlessly need to put the cameras in the same spots as the camera vendors. While engineers look at collision rates, sellers want high violation rates, which are not the same thing. You can trap lots of people turning right at quiet intersections at six o'clock in the morning ….