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Red Light Camera Use Declined In 2013 For the First Time 348

Posted by timothy
from the drones-are-the-replacement dept.
SonicSpike writes "2013 may be a turning point for red-light cameras across the United States. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit largely funded by auto insurance companies, this year is the first time in nearly two decades that the number of American cities with red-light cameras has fallen — the systems were installed in 509 communities as of November 2013. While a single-year drop may not ultimately mean much, legislators across the country are increasingly agitated about the cameras. Bills are also pending in Florida and Ohio that would ban the devices entirely. A state representative in Iowa has also twice introduced legislation to ban RLCs (he was not successful). Part of this backlash has to do with the (sometimes accurate) perception that RLCs are a moneymaking scheme, pure and simple."
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Red Light Camera Use Declined In 2013 For the First Time

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  • Came hoping they have something to do with the Red Light District. Left disappointed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Rraaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhxxannne!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Came hoping they have something to do with the Red Light District. Left disappointed.

      You'll like my next novel, then. It's about transporting 200 drug-addicted hookers to Mars. Some of it is in my journals already (haven't worked on it in a while).

  • RLCs = more danger (Score:5, Informative)

    by Akratist (1080775) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:02PM (#45714755)
    DOT studies a while back showed that increasing yellow light time by a second or so would reduce red-light accidents. However, RLC contracts often come with a stipulation that yellow light time is reduced, by at least a half second or more, to increase revenues. These things need to go, the sooner the better.
    • I'm not sure about the "stipulation" aspect, which sounds made up, but they frequently do change yellow times(because greedy scumbags).

      • Yeah, pics or that didn't happen. It would be discoverable and too easy of a target for a lawsuit. TFA states that the local government determined the timings and the Good Cop who was profiled would never, ever do anything so nefarious as to decrease the yellow light timing. But, of course, there are lots of different people in a government, some more persuadable than others.

        The one factoid that always pisses me off in this discussion is that a brief double red cuts down on T-bone accidents significantly

      • In my experience, they don't have to.
        When I was in Chicago, the yellows didn't have to be shortened for me to see someone getting flashed almost every day.
        In France, they used to put a big sign on the highway "watch out, radar coming", and they still pulled in over $100M every year. That must not have been enough, they are removing the signs, and putting another radar in front of some to warn you that you're going too fast and about to get caught. Wanna bet if the revenue if going to drop?

        Yes, some jurisdic

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You also need to mandate green light length.

      So 2 seconds for yellow. Then 1 second for green. Is that enough to actually get across the intersection? That depends on the intersection and the car.

      Min length green (say 2-3 cars from a stop and, cars that do a 15 second 1/4 mile). Then enough time for 1-2 cars to make it thru the light on yellow at full speed. Then red in all directions for at least 1-2 seconds.

      All phases of the light need min lengths.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        Yeah, I've seen plenty of intersections where, once the light turns yellow, there is not enough time to cross before it turns red while going the posted speed limit. Every intersection is different and should have its own timing based on speed limit, length, and other factors.
  • money-making scheme (Score:3, Informative)

    by minstrelmike (1602771) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:04PM (#45714795)
    I think red-light cameras have a negative connotation _because_ they make money and that is unfortunate.
    Most every successful business makes money so if you want to contract out police work such as traffic speed enforcement, that contractor _has_ to make money.
    If you want to keep the job in-house so-to-speak, well the government doesn't have to make money but then everybody whines about how expensive it is to maintain this wonderful society we have _because_ of government. They think it costs too much because all they look at is the expense of taxes, not benefit of courts, police, and laws that form a well-regulated market safe for businesses and customers.
    Then all it takes is enough wealthy citizens and politicians getting actual tickets they can't talk or bribe their way out of and traffic enforcement gets to stop.

    We either want laws or we don't. If you think less government is best, move to Somalia.
    We have yet to analyze our systems correctly (i.e. scientifically instead of politically).
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:08PM (#45714833) Homepage Journal

      We either want laws or we don't. If you think less government is best, move to Somalia.

      I'm pretty sure we can establish a middle ground somewhere between Somalia and North Korea.

      • those North Korean traffic women are hot !
      • I'm pretty sure we can establish a middle ground somewhere between Somalia and North Korea.

        (Looks at map, finds North America pretty much exactly between those two countries).

        Been there, done that. Now what?

    • by nschubach (922175)

      well the government doesn't have to make money

      You must not live in the same US that I live in. I've worked with city police and I constantly heard about decisions between buying a new patrol car or hiring another officer. I know many departments that would love to have more money to spend on people/tools.

      • by Entropius (188861)

        Then raise taxes.

        Taxes are a relatively efficient way of raising revenue. Traffic tickets are not.

      • by ewieling (90662)
        They could start saving money by making marijuana offenses the police department's lowest priority. I suspect that was never even considered.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:27PM (#45715101) Journal

      if you want to contract out police work

      We don't want to contract out police work. Ever. Why even bother having a government if you're going to contract out its essential functions?

      The profit motive should never come anywhere near law enforcement. The moment anyone in government starts thinking of profit instead of public service is the moment tyranny begins. The only thing that should guide a police department is how they can best serve their community, not how they can best increase their budget.

      • by ProZachar (410739) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:54PM (#45715489) Homepage

        My kingdom for mod points.

        I argue that money paid for fines should be incinerated. Seriously. Government, whether it's city hall, the local police, the statehouse, or the national government, should never, ever have a financial gain when its citizens commit crimes. Ever. Scratch that; nobody, not government, not charities, not schools, nobody, should have a financial interest in citizens committing crimes. Make crime a source of income, and suddenly you find that whomever benefits from fines thinks a lot of things should be crimes.

        Crime is bad (well, real crime like murder, rape and robbery). Nobody should benefit from it.

        Restitution is different; that money should go to making the victim whole (not rich, whole), as much as possible.

        • I agree there shouldn't be *profit*, though some degree of fines *could* be reasonable; consider the extra work that may be created by repeat offenders. That income could be supplanted by raising taxes, but why should the good citizens pay for the actions of a few bad ones?
          OTOH, that said, the fines actually charged for most minor offenses are totally incommensurate with the infraction, and are, in fact, a money making scheme.
    • I think red-light cameras have a negative connotation _because_ they make money and that is unfortunate....

      I figure they'd not make money if people were not habitually running red lights. Don't want a ticket? Don't run the damn light.

      My support for such cameras is conditional that the light timing NOT not be fscked with in order to maximize the potential of someone getting a ticket - I just want those that run the normally timed lights to feel a little pain for being is such a hurry or not leaving early enough for where they want to be.

      Getting rear-ended is bad, getting T-boned is generally worse.

    • We either want laws or we don't. If you think less government is best, move to Somalia.

      Umm, no.

      There are some laws we can all agree on.

      There are some we disagree on.

      The fact that I approve of SOME laws in no way implies that I approve of ALL laws.

      By the same token, the fact that I disapprove of SOME laws in no way implies that I don't want ANY laws.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I'm not convinced the red-light cameras are about enforcing the law. I have 2 major reasons for thinking this:

      1. Red-light cameras are sold to governments as non-tax revenue sources. That means the purpose the politicians care about is raising money without dealing with the controversy of raising taxes.

      2. The placement of red-light cameras, at least near where I live, correlates not with the locations with the highest violation of red light laws, but with the most politically powerless residents. In other w

    • by Galaga88 (148206) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:57PM (#45715527)

      If you look at the report Ars Technica discusses, they found that red light cameras at intersections were configured to cover those lanes that would would generate the most revenue but were not necessarily the most dangerous. Furthermore, only 10% of the revenue goes to the city, which means it's definitely a profit center for the company.

      People are already rightfully suspicious of government's authority to levy fines and taxes, but we allow it because we know that in principle (if not always or even usually in practice) it's to further the public good. Private companies have no such social responsibility and no reason to not abuse their position to maximize how much money they can extract from the public.

    • Most every successful business makes money so if you want to contract out police work such as traffic speed enforcement, that contractor _has_ to make money.

      Government is not supposed to be in the business of making money from violations of the law regardless of whether it is contracted or not. This is no better than when the police department goes out to meet a revenue quota by issuing speeding tickets at the end of the month. It is unethical and really not much more than state sponsored extortion.

  • by sydbarrett74 (74307) <{sydbarrett74} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:18PM (#45714979)
    Another thing that should be banned is one- or two-second yellow lights. At every intersection in my area (Chesterfield County, VA) where they've shortened the duration of a yellow light, accidents have spiked dramatically. The original reason for the implementation of such was so that more tickets could be written, but as usual, the PHB's in the county offices didn't acknowledge that costs for police, ambulances and fire-engines to respond to an accident scene would outweigh any additional revenue.
  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:21PM (#45715027)

    The real reason legislators are agitated is that you can't bribe a camera.

    • Maybe not, but the red light camera technology companies can bribe the same legislators with a lot more money than individual citizens can.

  • What's the answer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#45715067)

    I am reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter when she was about four. We were driving around and came to a stoplight. "What does red mean?" I asked her. "Stop", she replied. "And what does green mean?" I said. "GO!" she yelled. "And what does yellow mean?" She thought for a minute, and said, "Go real fast?"

    This gave me some insight into the driving habits of her mother.

    I know that red light cameras have sometimes been abused, but what are we supposed to do about the pandemic of red-light-running?

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      I think you mean the pandemic of badly timed lights that make no allowances for driver error. Since drivers are still humans, they will always make errors. Deciding this is a pandemic is ridiculous. This is human nature. You either design around the fact that people are imperfect, or you design to fail.

      Simply increasing the length of yellow lights and delaying green by all of a second or two has been shown to decrease these problems; enforcement has been shown to do little more than bring in money; and ofte

    • by Zaatxe (939368)
      If you go fast enough, the yellow light will be blue-shifted and look green!
    • by brunes69 (86786)

      The answer is to have yellow lights be a reasonable length so that people don't need to make a choice between flooring the accelerator and slamming on the brakes forcing a rear-end collision.

      • by TyFoN (12980)

        If you need to slam the bakes to stop for a yellow signal you are going waaaay to fast into the intersection anyway.

        Nevertheless. We don't have anything resembling those cameras here and quite long yellow light. People still slam the brakes or floor it when the yellow hits.
        Some stop in the middle of the road blocking everyone too :)

        Bottom line: people can't drive so nothing really helps except building roads that make it impossible for vehicles to cross in that way.

    • You could better alert the drivers of how much time they actually have. For instance, most lights are getting replaced with a grouping of LEDs. Why not alter the pattern of the LEDs to indicate different things? You can't go too crazy, or else it will become distracting, but what about instead of having a solid yellow for the "yellow" light, we have a solid yellow circle in the center, with something akin to a circular progress bar that fills up around the outer edge? I know for me, my decision between "mai

    • by ApplePy (2703131)

      what are we supposed to do about the pandemic of red-light-running?

      Lengthen the yellows, and lengthen the delay to the cross green.

      It's only mentioned several hundred times every time this subject comes up on /. Pull your head out and read the other comments sometime. Do pay attention; we're having what we call a "discussion" here.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      I know that red light cameras have sometimes been abused, but what are we supposed to do about the pandemic of red-light-running?

      Replace them with roundabouts, like sane countries?

      Of course, you can't make money handing out tickets for 'running a roundabout', since they tend to be tall enough to rip the front off your car if you try it.

  • We have two red light traffic cams in town. I know exactly which two red lights they are. There are big signs that say, "HEY THIS LIGHT HAS A CAMERA." I can understand an out-of-towner possibly not being aware of them, but that means someone was texting instead of looking at the giant sign warning about it as they sped through a red light.

    This isn't to say I disagree - the cameras are stupid, and clearly designed to generate revenue rather than increase safety. But we've dealt with them for years and I
  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:29PM (#45715115)

    Self-financing police departments create a conflict of interest. It pressures the police to go for the crimes that bring them the most money - ones that are easy and cheap to detect, even if they don't actually cause any time - and to resort to dirty tricks to increase the profit further. There's a simple solution to this: Don't give the fines to the departments (or, in this case, contracted companies) who actually enforce the law. Put them into a big state-wide pot, and each year divide it up between departments in the ratio of population (Possibly adjusted for crime rate). Likewise to any proceeds from police auctions and asset seizures.

  • It is rather funny how people blame everything and everyone for accidents but not themselves. Yes, of course, RLC are to blame for collisions, not drivers who speed and follow too close! Drive according to rules and RLC won't cause any trouble. Moreover, it seems to me that accidents caused by RLC would be minor comparing to accidents caused by running red light. During this type of collision everybody is already braking, speeds are lower. Rear end collision in most cases hits the front of the car which
    • The point should not be to establish blame, but to reduce the frequency of accidents. Yes, people do stupid things on the road, we all know that. And sometimes you and I are the ones doing those stupid things, unless you are one of the 75% of drivers who think they are above-average drivers. If adding a second to the yellow light time reduces accidents (as it has been demonstrated to do), then increasing the yellow light time should be a seriously considered option!

    • by Ravaldy (2621787) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @01:34PM (#45716067)

      I like what you wrote. This reminds me of a guy who rear ended my car and blamed me for it. He was 4 - 5 feet behind me going 70km/h before I started braking. Yes I did break suddenly and it was due to a minor lack of attention (I was looking in my rear view mirror trying to understand why he was tailing me).

      The other driver argued with the cop about how it was my fault and the cop told him the following: "No matter how hard or what reason the person in front of you stops, it is your responsibility to keep a safe braking distance between you and the car in front". Case closed!

  • It's entirely possible for RLC's to be set up to improve safety - unfortunately, they often aren't. The goal should be to set up the lights in such a way to maximize safety (i.e. longer yellow, 1-2 second lag between red on one side and green on the other), and have the cameras there to deter people from acting unsafely (i.e. running red lights).

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