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Red Light Cameras: Safety Tool or Revenue Maker?

Recently, a survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that two-thirds of drivers in 14 major cities that use red-light cameras are in favor of the cameras. Even though local and out-of-state drivers are notified that the cameras are being used to record traffic violations in certain areas, law enforcement has faced several questions about their red-light camera initiatives.

There are many arguments raised by opponents of red-light cameras, including:

  • They actually cause more accidents they prevent, due to rear-end collisions that happen when drivers have to stop suddenly
  • It is difficult for the cameras to determine who is actually driving the vehicle
  • Tickets can take too long to process, meaning the vehicle's owners do not receive notice until the alleged incident has long passed
  • Officials simply assume that those ticketed actually receive the ticket in the mail

One alternative opponents of traffic cameras have proposed is simply making the light stay yellow for a longer period of time. Various studies determined that longer yellow lights not only lead to less red light violations, but a decrease in accidents. A Texas Transportation Institute study concluded that a mere 1.0 second increase in the time the light was yellow resulted in a 40 percent reduction in intersection accidents.

In fact, some cities have not only refused to lengthen the yellow lights, but have been accused of purposely shortening yellow lights in an effort to increase red light violations. Recently, a driver who had been issued a ticket in Glassboro, New Jersey, learned that the light at the intersection in question only remained yellow for 3 seconds, even though the state minimum was 4 seconds. The city was forced to throw out 12,000 tickets, leading to a loss of $1 million worth of fines on those who were cited.

Critics of red-light cameras also believe that the cities do not use the cameras to improve safety in dangerous intersections; instead, they feel the cameras are just a way for cities to make money. The high fines raised by each one of the cameras provide sufficient income, which is extremely important in a difficult economy.

If you feel you have been wrongfully mailed a ticket in connection with a red-light camera violation, contact an experienced traffic attorney in your area to determine your rights and options.

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