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Are Traffic Cameras Dying a Slow Death?

The District of Columbia is adding more cameras to catch traffic offenders, but some states and cities are banning them.

By Claire_Martin Sep 6, 2012 6:10AM
Springfield, Ohio traffic camera photo by Derek Jensen.

The District of Columbia is doubling down on camera enforcement of its traffic laws: It already uses the devices to catch speeders and red-light runners, and this fall it plans to add them at stop signs, according to reporting by The Washington Post. But high-tech policing is a surprisingly divisive issue; cities such as New York are contemplating it, but others are banning the use of cameras.


Twelve states have prohibited the cameras while 13 others and the District of Columbia use them, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Last year, Houston and Los Angeles turned their backs on the technology due to difficulties with enforcement. 


The cameras' Achilles heel is that the person driving the car (and breaking the law) may not be the car's owner, who is the one who receives the ticket in the mail. "Los Angeles County Superior Court officials ... said that for the last decade they have chosen a less forceful approach partly because the person receiving the ticket may not be the person who was driving the car," the Los Angeles Times reported. Last year it was revealed that payment for camera-enforced tickets in LA is voluntary. Only one-third of offenders reportedly pay up.


Critics of the technology say many of the cameras are installed at intersections considered likely to generate revenue rather than those in need of a boost in safety. Certainly, they do make money. The District of Columbia's existing cameras helped bring in $55.1 million in fines in 2011. 


Camera use is up across the country. Speed cameras have been installed in 93 communities since 2005. But will it stay that way? New Jersey is conflicted on the topic; some municipalities continue to add cameras, but the state considered a law earlier this year to pull all of them down. 


It may be a matter of time before more legislators and drivers adopt the mentality of New Jersey state Sen. Mike Doherty, a Republican, who sponsored that state's anti-camera bill. “The cameras are not about safety; they’re about generating revenue for municipalities,” Doherty said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “The towns are using their citizens as cash cows.”

120Comments
Sep 16, 2012 2:19AM
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Radar is not perfect. Unlike other normal tickets, citations resulting from cameras do not have a tracking history or a visual estimation by a

qualified officer to back them up. Thousands of tickets can be generated between routine maintenance and calibration inspections, potentially

resulting in just as many faulty readings.

Sep 16, 2012 2:10AM
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The biggest problem that I have with photo enforcement is that it is direct contradition of your consitutional rights. Judges are trained by the equipment vendors and are biased against violators. Many people who fight their tickets report being railroaded - judges will not even consider that it is possible for a machine to be inaccurate or malfunction.
Sep 16, 2012 1:57AM
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I would agree that cameras are more about generating revenue than safety.  So what?  I would much rather have the municipality or state make money from those breaking the law than a blanket tax that would include everyone.

I suspect that most of those against traffic cameras are those that are chronic speeders and feel it's okay to go through a traffic light five seconds after it turns red.  I say if you are willing to break the law, fine. Just be willing to pay the price.


Sep 16, 2012 1:49AM
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An incorporated area adjacent to our larger city banned them altogether because all the business suffered a 50% loss of customers because of the cameras. The shoppers simply  chose to shop
in another section of town, as a result the store owners as well as the  local government lost so much revenue that many of the business shut their doors in turn cut out the business tax revenue and almost cause the city to go into bankruptcy because of a total loss of revenue. The greedy idiots in  power finally realized " hey we've bit the hands of those that have paid our salaries" and voted to take all the cameras down, but the damage is already done and many of the customers will never shop in that part of town again . Many of them say they will avoid that part of town altogether.  Good enough for the greedy politicians that only know one phrase "Raise taxes and government revenue at all cost".  Do politicians think??
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The slime buckets in government are just using it as a revenue producer just as all traffic enforcement has been for years.....It should be out lawed due to it's intent.........It creates millions of dollars for them to squander on useless projects!!!! Just like the lie about the 55mph on interstates saved lives!!! Many states are raising the limits back to 80 and higher and admitting that the low speed limit had less effect on saving lives as safety improvements in automobiles!!!! Speed does increase the severity of the crash but does not contribute to more accidents!! Slow **** left lane drivers create accidents!! Cause they won't get over!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Sep 16, 2012 1:08AM
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In New York State the drivers in cities now slow down when they come to a green light.  That way it eliminates the chance you will go through a light when it is red.  Now isn't that the craziest thing you ever heard of? But it makes sense to approach a green light and then slow down to make sure you are going to be able to make it through while it is still green.  This also makes many downtown city areas "off limits" to traffic.  In some cities you have to bypass the downtown areas to make sure you do not get a ticket. Its far safer to go out of town to Walmart and shopping malls than it is to risk a ticket. If you do have to travel through a "camera" district, you have to travel at 15 MPH to give yourself time to stop.
Sep 16, 2012 12:22AM
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WHEN A VIOLATION IS COMMITTED, IT'S NOT THE DRIVER WHO SHOULD BE PUNISHED WITH A TICKET. IT SHOULD BE THE "VEHICLE'S OWNER", AS IN FACT THE VEHICLE MADE THE INFRACTION.  LET THE VEHICLE'S OWNER PAY THE FINE AND THE VEHICLE'S OWNER CAN  DETERMINE WHO HAS TO REPAY THE OWNER.

 

SINCE VIOLATIONS HAVE TO BE REPORTED TO THE OWNERS OF VEHICLES IT WOULD ALSO SOLVE A PROBLEM OF UNAUTHORIZED ABUSE BY AUTHORITIES (POLICE CARS, ETC) WHO WERE NOT ON A EMERGENCY CALL AT THE TIME OF INFRACTION.  THIS WOULD HELP KEEP OUR ROADS SAFER.

 

PLEASE DON'T MESS WITH A SYSTEM THAT MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE EVEN THOUGH THE OPERATORS OF THE SYSTEM MAKES A PROFIT. THIS PROFIT MAY REDUCE YOUR TAXES VIA LESS POLICE NEEDED TO RESPOND TO ACCIDENTS AND LESS TIME SPENT IN YOUR VECHICLE WHEN THERE IS AN ACCIDENT AHEAD WITH BLOCKED LANES.

 

LET'S ALL LOOK TO THE LONG RUN AND HAVE SAFER DRIVING.

TC

Sep 16, 2012 12:08AM
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Surely for pure cash reasons. I have heard of a story when someone was late on his last installment payment of $30 for his ticket and got slapped for additional $300 for being late. Just paid a total of $562 for a red light camera ticket and traffic school for doing a sort of rolling stop on a perfectly clear intersection resulting in no personal injury nor property damage. This is PURE RIP OFFS!

Sep 15, 2012 10:46PM
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If it was about safety they would put a cop at the intersection but you know that's not going to happen it would cost way to much.


Sep 10, 2012 9:14AM
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Ticket cameras have ALWAYS been about money, not safety. The only way they produce profits is if the city uses less safe traffic engineering parameters and/or uses the cameras to unethically issue tickets to safe drivers who where not causing safety hazards.

The only effective answer is a total ban on ticket cameras.  People who don't wish to be revenue victims of predatory red light and speed cameras need to contact their state legislators to ask them to ban the cameras entirely, and contact their local officials to demand they not be used.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

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