Free Essay

Us Agasint the Camers

In: English and Literature

Submitted By KyleCady9
Words 2326
Pages 10
Kyle Cady
20 April 2015
ENG 122-001
Professor Taylor
Us Against The Cameras.
Have you ever received a ticket for running a red light? If not, maybe you know someone who has, or you’ve witnessed that flash of light going off while sitting at an intersection. Either way you’re not alone, hundreds of U.S. citizens fall victim to red light camera tickets daily. Imagine you’re driving home from a hard day of work, and you have been driving the same exact route for the last seven years without receiving a red light camera citation. One day to your surprise you open the mail and find not one, but four separate tickets for rolling through a right turn on red. You begin to get a sick feeling in your stomach when you realize that each ticket is going to cost you 100 dollars. Sounds horrible, right? This is a true story that happened to a women named Oumou Wague, from Chicago. “I was stunned,” the 42 year old hair salon owner said in an interview. “I knew right away there was something wrong. I knew that camera was broken, but you can’t fight City Hall- and that is a fact.”(Kidwell and Richards). Like many other stories out there, Wague was caught by a faulty camera system. After averaging just three tickets a day, the camera that caught her was suddenly averaging 33 tickets per day, then out of nowhere the ticket spree ended (Kidwell and Richards). Many question whether or not these red light camera systems were malfunctioning or being tinkered with by local authorities. Instead of increasing safer driving conditions, the use of red light camera enforcement in the United States has directly threatened the public interest by favoring revenue over safety, and invading our privacy.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, privatized traffic law enforcement systems are rapidly spreading throughout large cities in the United States (Madsen 5). Primarily, this is the process of transferring ownership of a business from the public sector (a government) to the private sector, a business that operates for a profit. Privatized traffic enforcement is part of a large trend of local governments outsourcing the management of parking meters, toll roads, and even public safety services (Madsen 6). Local contracting for traffic enforcement systems could be beneficial if implemented correctly, but when private firms consider revenue over safety, the public interest is left behind. The public has been lead to believe that automated enforcement is being utilized solely for the safety of citizens. As of today, about 700 local jurisdictions have entered into deals with for-profit camera companies (Madsen 5). These facts make it hard for Americans to believe that their safety is an important issue when local governments keeps giving control of the cameras to money hungry firms.
The main interest of private red light camera vendors is to maximize profits while minimizing costs. In one instance, after voters in a Houston city decided to shut down their red light camera program, American Traffic Solutions claimed that the city would owe their company $25 million for withdrawing from the contract before expiration (Madsen 7). Many contracts between private camera vendors and local governments contain payment incentives that directly connect them with revenue over safety. It has been found that most red light camera contracts require the cities to share revenue with the camera vendors and a per-ticket basis. Basically, this means that the more tickets that a camera issues, the more money that vendor is going to make. For example, Suffolk County, New York, gives half of the revenue collected from its red light camera program back to the vendor (Madsen 6). These facts alone show that local governments are putting revenue above safety when it comes to red light camera programs.
In many cases, Red light camera programs do not improve intersection safety, they degrade it. The whole reason these cameras are in use is to reduce accidents and create overall safer driving conditions. A study by the Federal Highway Administration, took a look at the overall effectiveness of red light camera programs in multiple cities. Results showed a 25 percent reduction in right-angled collisions, but a 15 percent increase in rear-end collisions (Council et al.). Multiple studies relate traffic accidents at intersections with red light cameras to an increase in rear-end collisions (Boudreaux 4). I don’t think that this is a good trade off, one type of intersection collision goes down slightly while the other one increases. Drivers are constantly getting into rear-end collisions at intersections with red light cameras because many people stop abruptly so they don’t get stuck with a ticket. Of course this causes the driver behind them to crash into the back of their vehicle. Considering the amount of revenue generated by these cameras, they should work a whole lot better.
The Federal Highway Administration believes that engineering is an important factor when addressing red light running, and which intersections need red light camera systems (Madsen 21). Many intersections that have been introduced to the red light cameras, don’t actually need them. Some studies have shown a large increase in crashes after the implementation a red light camera programs. At intersections with high crash rates due to red light running, traffic engineers can make significant engineering changes in order to reduce collisions (Madsen 21). This raises the question of whether or not safety is a concern. We could be making minor adjustments to the intersections themselves, but we are putting up cameras that do little for safety and generate revenue. When there are deficiencies with the intersection itself, only engineering can truly address the problem (Madsen 21). If the local governments really cared about the safety of drivers, they would have engineers fix our intersections for a one-time fee instead of aggressively ticketing us constantly.
When traffic engineers are able to lengthen a yellow light signal at an intersection, drivers have more time to react to the changing signals. This small change by itself tends to reduce the number of overall red light violations. Studies have shown that increasing under timed yellow light intervals by one second can decrease the number of red light violations by about 42 percent (Retting 39). It has also been found that when yellow lights are shortened by one second, the number of violations double (Madsen 22). The timing of yellow lights directly dictates the number of tickets that a camera system can issue, resulting in more revenue generation. There are many ways that intersection safety can be improved and automated enforcement isn’t one of them. A recent study on intersections says that traffic signals should have adequate yellow time and a brief phase where all light are red, this is also proven to reduce accidents (Hu 22). Safety is the most important factor when running an effective red light camera program, not money. The cities that are adopting these cameras should be focusing on the engineering aspects of intersections before turning them into cash cows. The two biggest components that support a well-designed camera program include yellow light timing and engineering changes.
Most red light camera systems are recording video 24/7, meaning all drivers (not just red light runners) are being watched at all times. Fifteen states have already banned red light camera programs on constitutional grounds due to invasion of privacy (Biller 2). The video feed from the cameras, along with still images, are stored on privately owned computers. Many citizens feel that red light cameras are an invasion of privacy because camera vendors can do as they please with the photo evidence (Retting 36). We have absolutely no way of knowing when or if the video footage is deleted. Proponents of red light cameras claim that only the vehicles are recorded and not the drivers, even though in most states there are pictures and or video of the drivers. Some advocates feel that you don’t deserve privacy if you’re breaking the law. The problem with this argument is that the cameras would have to be 100 percent accurate, which they are far from. It’s no surprise that when asked whether or not the cameras were an invasion of privacy, forty-eight percent believed that were (McCartt 8). It’s clear to see that several key components of a citizen’s due process rights are violated by red light camera ticketing.
When it comes to red light camera citations, there is no certifiable witness to the supposed violation. Since there is no witness to the alleged violation, the defendant loses the right to cross examine the accuser in court (Biller 2). Unlike receiving a ticket from a police officer, a red light camera cannot be an “accuser” that can be confronted in court and testify on the supposed violation. Also, just because a red light camera was operating properly at the time of installment does not mean it was functioning properly during the time of the supposed violation. Rarely is there ever a representative of the camera vendor present in court to testify (Biller 2). Several lower court cases have been thrown out in California due to hearsay photo evidence. These cameras can’t be taken seriously in a court room with so many grey areas and loop holes. With so many legal issues surrounding the process in which drivers are ticketed and prosecuted, it’s easy to see how these cameras threated the public interest.
There is no guarantee in the actual delivery of a red light ticket. When receiving a ticket from a police officer, the process is complete, you now have the ticket in your possession. Tickets coming from red light cameras arrive at the residence of the accused, often not in a timely matter resulting in extra fines. Since drivers don’t receive tickets until weeks after the supposed offense, it makes it really difficult to remember the exact circumstances pertaining to the event. With a lag in the process in which tickets are issued, many drivers find multiple citations in the mail. This causes an entire new problem, the drivers are not aware of the first offense so they are completely unaware of the hefty fines in the mail box. In many cases the driver of the vehicle is not positively identified by the camera, resulting in the registered owner of the vehicle to be charged with the violation, even if not present during the time of the supposed violation (Biller 2). This little hiccup in the ticket distribution process can cause much more frustration for accused drivers. The entire process in which the photo evidence is handled is cloudy at best, shifting electronically between vendors and the police department before tickets are even issued (Biller 2). They don’t care who is driving the vehicle, or who receives the ticket, as long as they see that money.
The use of red light camera programs is not the most effective way of reducing red light violations. Aside from invading our privacy and focusing on revenue of safety, these cameras do very little to help us. The red light camera is merely a mechanical witness to a red light violation, that is it. Proponents feel that the presence of the red light cameras serve as a potential deterrent for drivers, making them think twice about committing a violation. The ironic part about this claim is that advocates of the cameras show photo and video evidence of the violations directly from the camera to illustrate just how bad red light running can be, which in return show that the cameras do absolutely nothing to prevent crashes. If we want to actually create safer driving conditions nation-wide, we need to focus all of our energy on the engineering aspects of intersections. We can support healthier driving conditions through engineering changes, overall awareness, yellow light timing, and signal visibility. If we give control to the engineers instead of for-profit camera vendors, we can put safety above revenue for once, and gain back some well-deserved privacy.

Works Cited

Biller, Gary and Zalan, Kira. "Should Red-Light Cameras Be Legal?." U.S. News Digital Weekly 4.18 (2012): 17. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Boudreaux, Christopher. "An Empirical Analysis of Red Light Traffic Cameras: Do They Increase Public Safety or Is There a Revenue Motive?" Florida State University. 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Council, F., Persuad, B.,Eccels, K., Lyon, C., and Griffith, M. Safety evaluation of red-light Cameras; executive summary. Report No. FHWA HRT-05-049. Washington DC: Federal Highway Administration. 2005. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. Crayton, Luanne, ed. Traffic Signal Systems 2014. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: Transportation Research Board, 2014. Print. Ser. 2438.

Eccles, Kimberly A. Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running. Washington, D.C: Transportation Research Board, 2012. Print.

Hill, S.E. and Lindly, J.K. “Red light running prediction and analysis”. UTCA Report no. 02112. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Transportation Center for Alabama.2003. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.

Hu, W., McCartt, A.T. and Teoh, E.R. “Effects of red light camera enforcement on fatal crashes In large US cities”. Journal of Safety Research 42(4):277-82. 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.

Kidwell, David, and Alex Richards. "Red Light Cameras Tag Thousands for Undeserved Tickets." Chicagotribune.com. Tony W. Hunter, 18 July 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

Krohe Jr., James. "Hunting For Dollars." Planning 78.8 (2012): 26. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Madsen, Travis. Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead. Trenton, NJ: NJPIRG Law and Policy Center, 2011. Web.

McCartt, A.T. and Eichelberger, A.H. “Attitudes Toward Red Light Camera Enforcement in Cities With Camera Programs”. Traffic Injury Prevention 13(1):14-23. 2012. Web. Feb. 21 2015.

Retting, Richard A. "Two Decades of Photo Enforcement in the United States: A Brief Summary Of Experience and Lessons Learned." Institute of Transportation Engineers. ITE Journal 80.11 (2010): 20. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.…...

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