State sacrifices safety for traffic fines
Many U.S. local governments are installing red-light cameras in busy intersections. Proponents of these cameras argue that they make streets safer. However, according to the New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook, red-light cameras are being used primarily to generate revenue, even when they cause unsafe traffic conditions.
For example, in Montgomery Country, Maryland:
Local officials retimed the yellow light from four-seconds to two-seconds to get more drivers to run red lights.
This generated additional revenue, but made traffic less safe as more people accidentally ran red lights.
Similarly, in Washington, D.C.:
The company that operates the cameras in the District of Columbia gets a bonus when tickets exceed a quota.
If the real goal was to reduce red-light running, the District would be happy when the number of tickets declined, because that would mean fewer violations.
Instead the programme is structured to increase the number of tickets issued, because the real goal is securing money.
Moreover, what are the legal implications of red-light cameras, asks Easterbrook? Under other laws, the state has to prove that a person committed a crime. However, with red-light cameras, the driver is presumed guilty. This establishes a dangerous precedent whenever machines say you do something illegal, you are assumed to be guilty.
Source: Gregg Easterbrook, Lights, Camera, Action, The New Republic Online, February 28, 2005.
For article: http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050228&s=easterbrook022805
For more on State and Local Regulations: http://www.ncpa.org/iss/sta/
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 15 March 2005
Publish date: 23 March 2005
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.