Consumer Advocates Question the Motivation of Red-Light Cameras, Reports Edmunds.com
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — February 13, 2012 — As time goes on, more intersections are guarded by cameras that record drivers passing through red lights. Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, today reports that some proponents of these cameras may be more concerned with generating revenue than taking the most efficient route to protect public safety.
According to U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), almost 700 U.S. cities and towns have installed red-light cameras. In some cities, illegal right turns — mainly rolling stops — account for more than 90 percent of tickets issued by red-light cameras. In one New Jersey town, the police department issued 2,500 tickets at one intersection in the first two months after a camera was put in place. Statistics like this are fueling critic claims that the cameras are unjustly capturing motorists engaged in relatively safe driving practices.
"There is little disagreement that red-light cameras are effective in reducing crashes," says Edmunds.com Features Editor Carroll Lachnit. "The question is whether cash-strapped cities are rushing to install these cameras just so they can rake in the revenues from tickets, even at intersections where there are cheaper and more sensible solutions."
Some researchers maintain that one of the most effective ways to curb red-light running and to improve intersection safety is to extend yellow lights so drivers have an extra second or half-second to react before a light turns red. Other alternatives include making red lights bigger or brighter, clearing intersections of tree branches that could obstruct signals, improved signage and driver-awareness campaigns.
More information on this "Red-Light Camera Backlash" can be found on Edmunds.com at http://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/red-light-camera-backlash.html.
Whether or not an intersection is equipped with a camera, Edmunds.com advises drivers to always obey traffic laws and stop at all red lights. But there are additional steps that drivers can take to fight a ticket or avoid getting one in the first place:
- Find the red-light cameras in your area. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains an interactive database of states with red-light and speed cameras. The database shares whether cameras are statewide or in specific communities, what photographs they take (driver, tag, etc.) and what penalties are in play if you're caught.
- Avoid rolling stops on right turns. In some cities, illegal right turns — mainly rolling stops — account for more than 90 percent of tickets issued by red-light cameras.
- Track red-light cameras as you drive. Trapster is a crowd-sourced smartphone app that relies on drivers to report red-light cameras they see on the road. The app emits an audible warning for drivers as they approach a marked intersection.
- Fight the ticket. Legal gray areas in some states have spawned companies that sell red-light camera defense kits. California drivers, for example, can contact a company called TicketKick with details of their red-light camera ticket and get a customized written defense they can mail into the court, as well as sample forms and other documents.
More details on these tips can also be found on Edmunds.com at http://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/how-to-deal-with-red-light-cameras.html.
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