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The real reason behind red light cameras

Original post made by Claude Leglise, another community, on Dec 13, 2006


The decision by the Menlo Park City Council to install red-light cameras is motivated by greed, not public safety.

I was recently falsely accused by the San Diego Police Department of running a red light in their fair city. Even though I was not in the car they alleged had run the red light, proving my innocence turned out to be complex and lengthy. This incident led me to learn more about red-light cameras and their negative effects.

Red-light cameras create accidents. Bakersfield, Middletown, Ohio, and numerous other cities have found that red-light cameras increase accidents and injuries at the intersections where they are installed due to increased rear-end collisions.

In a comprehensive study covering an eight-year period, Regina, Sask., found a 12 percent increase in accidents, 8 percent increase in injuries, and 14 percent increase in property damage at intersections equipped with cameras.

Red-light cameras violate civil rights and create lawsuits. In Minneapolis, all pending red-light camera tickets are on hold after the city lost a suit by the ACLU. Wisconsin has outlawed ticket cameras altogether after lawsuits mounted. San Diego itself has lost several lawsuits after it was shown the contractor had shortened the yellow lights to increase the number of tickets. Scottsdale's cameras were deactivated in October. Girard and Steubenville, both in Ohio, shut down their programs after losing class action lawsuits. In almost every court around the country, red-light camera programs have been found to violate due process and to be unconstitutional.

Red-light cameras make money. RedFlex Traffic Systems, the contractor selected by Menlo Park, is an Australian company whose U.S. headquarters are in Scottsdale. Ninety percent of its estimated $6.7 million in profits come from 660 red-light cameras installed in the United States. RedFlex is one of the major lobbyists promoting the use of red-light cameras, and it is telling that the company will install the cameras in Menlo Park at no cost to the city. This is about their profits.

Red-light cameras turn police officers into modern-day revenuers. Police Chief Bruce Goitia acknowledged in your article that Menlo Park would make as much as $500,000 a year from the program. Additional police staff will be hired to collect the money. There is something very perverse about a program where the police (department) benefits from increased bad public behavior. This is the exact opposite of what police work is all about.

Running a red light is a terrible thing to do. Beyond being a violation, it puts drivers, pedestrians and bystanders in physical danger. There are many studies and statistics showing that simply increasing yellow light times by a second or two reduces violations and accidents. A simple engineering solution will address the vast majority of the problems. In more difficult situations, better coordination of traffic lights, larger and brighter lights, and removal of visual obstacles can further reduce violations and accidents.

I sincerely hope the Menlo Park City Council will reconsider its terrible decision before accidents increase and lawsuits get filed. The council should do something constructive about public safety and apply sound engineering principles to reduce accidents, not set up a system where the city benefits financially from increased violations.

Claude Leglise
Resident, Portola Valley

Comments (2)

Posted by Mr. Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 13, 2006 at 1:23 pm

Using cameras to catch red light runners seems un-American to me. One principle operating here is to create citizens capable of being civil under their own recognizance, is it not?

But if there are lots of people running red lights in Menlo Park, we have to do something. Parking police cruisers nearby intersections isn't going to cut it; it's too expensive.

Maybe we could park volunteers at intersections with signs to wave at violators: "Running red lights can be harmful to children, the elderly, the common good and your conscience."

Do people who run lights even get the idea of a common good, much less worry about it? I doubt it.

If Menlo Park and/or an Australian camera vendor happen to make money from people who endanger lives and flagrantly break laws, where is the harm?

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 13, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Yep, running red lights is bad. Everyone knows that.

So what are our city's finest going to do now that they will not have to write tickets for red lights?

Before we install these lights, I really hope someone actually does a study (read: looks) at how many people run red lights, when, and why. Does it just happen at rush hour in the evening? Are some just caught behind a big vehicle and did not see the light turn yellow fast enough. Realistically, these things happen.

Or, do we simply want the money "promised" to us by some company. I for one will be going out to the intersections and video record the light sequence and timing. I personally want to know if there will be a change to the amount of yellow timing once the cameras are installed. That information was really interesting.

But I really do understand, "its free money RIGHT!" and it should be ours, lets just ignore that there are problems, they are in the future, but for today, show me that money....

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