Red-Light Camera Reviews Are In!
There is such a thing as too much milk, even if it does a blog good, so I’ll move on to another topic. The Post-Dispatch has an article about a city reviewing the results of its use of red-light cameras to
improve safety make money. At the very least, we can credit the St. Peters Police Department for taking a hard look at the results of the cameras, and for trying to ensure the owner is also the driver. And while they point to a reduction in accidents at intersections, they admit they can’t credit it to the cameras and also that they have no measure of the increased rear-end collisions at the same places. From the article (emphasis added in all excerpts):
But there was a piece of good news. The number of traffic crashes in St. Peters dropped 34 percent between 2005 and 2007 though the report acknowledged that attributing the decline solely to red light cameras is problematic.
"While experiencing a reduction in crashes both citywide and at the target sites, the impact of red light photo enforcement on driver behavior may be difficult, if not impossible, to quantify," the report said.
Some studies have found that while red light cameras can help reduce side crashes, they can increase the number of rear-end accidents, as drivers slam on their brakes to keep from setting off the cameras.
Townsend said St. Peters has yet to determine whether the number of rear-end accidents has gone up.
In fact, the cameras do increase rear-end collisions as several studies have shown. I don’t think anyone would deny that an increase in people covering their faces as they go through intersections is a bad thing. This can’t help but lead to an increase in accidents of just about any type, from front-end collisions to Dukes of Hazzard–style river jumping:
Police refer to them as "duckers" drivers who try to shield their faces from red light cameras as they run signals at intersections watched 24/7 by electronic traffic enforcers.
The city of St. Louis maintains no such pretense of making sure the owner is the actual driver, nor do officials even pretend to care about anything other than raising revenue:
[T]he city of St. Louis is pulling in substantial revenue. Of nearly $2 million in total ticket revenue in the past year, the city has kept about $1.6 million, said Ron Smith, the city’s operations director.
Cameras in St. Louis don’t take pictures of drivers’ faces, so the city does not have the problem with duckers that St. Peters faces.
To be fair, if you go to court in the city and swear under penalty of perjury that you were not the driver, you can get the ticket dismissed. The best thing about people in local government is being able to watch your neighbors work to build a better community, and dedicate large amounts of time and effort to their city. The worst thing about some (not all, just some) of the people in local government is that they are all about the immediate and local issues, and have no knowledge of or, more likely, just don’t care about broader issues, like how red-light cameras and eminent domain abuse take away our liberty, piece by piece. (In the case of cameras, its the liberty to be presumed innocent that’s under assault, among other things.) So I hope we see an end to red-light cameras sometime soon.