Red-Light Cameras Continue To Be Questionable As Some Towns Ban Them

by Cornelius Nunev

Red-light cams first came into use in the early 1990s. Since then, their reputation has exploded with cities worldwide. The cams are intended to automatically take a picture of any vehicle that crosses through an intersection while the traffic signal indicates red. Tickets are then issues and sent out the vehicle's registered owner. Opponents say they are distressing and put profits ahead of public safety. Fans reason that they keep drivers accountable and are cost-effective.

What is it for?

As reported by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Redflex and American Traffic Solutions are contracted by several municipalities. They take half of the traffic ticket income when money comes in. Revenue increases become very important after that. Municipalities require more tickets to be written in order to improve the revenue.

Ross Kenneth Urken of AOL Autos said the best way to minimize rear-end collisions at controlled intersections is to lengthen the time the light stays yellow. However, he says, some cities, to maximize earnings, shorten the duration of yellow lights. A ticket was given to a former mayor in a neighboring town in Glassboro, N.J. It became clear that the four second federal minimum for yellow lights was not being followed in the city.

Letting in the small business sector

Some contracts give private companies an inordinate amount of power, states the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Some contracts penalize municipalities if they waive more than 10 percent of red-light tickets. Some have the right to veto locations of red-light cams if they think the location won't yield sufficient income.

Banning cameras

Red-light cams aren't legal everywhere. They have been banned in several towns already, Urken explains. The most recent large municipalities to get rid of red-light cams are Los Angeles, Houston and Colorado Springs.

Last week the use of red-light cameras was suspended in Naperville, Ill., for the time being. The town uses cams at three intersections, two of which will be shut down for more than a year for a significant road expansion project. However, because one light won't generate the revenue necessary to cover the contract extension, the city council decided to suspend renewal at this time. One intersection in the contract isn't enough. Redflex said it won't be renewing the contract unless there are more intersections.

Monday the city of Albuquerque, N.M., is set to vote on whether or not to discontinue the use of its red-light cameras. City council member Dan Lewis said, if the cameras are taken down, "the city will be forced to engineer traffic intersections for safety and not revenue."

A lot of people like them

There are several people that support the system. They argue that there is traffic safety and the municipalities are able to continue to work with them. Mayor Richard Berry explained that many intersections show improvement in security. In fact, it was shown at 14 of the 20 intersections being monitored.

Albuquerque Police Sgt. Jana Ryan cited motorist responsibility as another reason to leave the cams in operation:

"People think that it's their God-given right to drive however they want, and they don't think the cameras give them a sporting chance."

About the Author: