Touting the safety benefits of red light cameras, Toledo City Council voted to increase fines for red light violations from $95 to $120. The City will also receive a larger share of the fines from Redflex Traffic Systems, an Arizona subsidiary of an Australian company that installed and operates the digital cameras. In all, Toledo expects to increase red light camera revenues from the current $600,000 to $2.5 million per year.
The mayor of Toledo, Carty Finkbeiner, defended the cameras as a means to reduce accidents. Critics of the cameras cite increased rear-end collisions at some intersections and the lack of due process as reasons to scrap the program.
Lubbock, Texas recently shut down their red light camera program after seeing an increase in rear-end accidents at intersections with cameras. Costa Mesa, California experienced a near doubling in the rate of rear-end accidents at some intersections after red light cameras were installed.
A long-term study done in Australia (Andreassen, 1995) found no overall decrease in accidents resulting from red light cameras.
Though studies suggest that increasing the duration of yellow lights would be more effective in preventing accidents, some cities have actually done the opposite to increase the number of tickets issued. The American Automobile Association withdrew its support of Washington DC’s red light camera system due to the shortening of yellow lights and the City’s emphasis on revenue generation.
“Toledo is focusing on the revenue aspect of the red light cameras while ignoring engineering changes that will truly make the intersections safer for drivers,” said Tom Miller of www.zapredlightcameras.com.
Others say that the system puts due process on its ear by targeting the owner of the vehicle rather than the driver. The vehicle owner is assumed guilty and must prove his or her innocence without the ability to face their accuser in court.
With the current explosion of the use of red light cameras the debate over safety vs. revenue will likely continue to heat up. Some wonder whether the cities will ignore the accident statistics in favor of the revenues generated.
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