Soon to come before the Connecticut House of Representatives is a bill that seeks to allow municipalities the use of automated traffic cameras at intersections. Proponents of the traffic cameras, better known as red light cameras (RLCs), claim they can improve public safety and provide revenue through increased traffic tickets.
State Representative Sean Williams (R- Oakville) says, however, that in practice the benefits of red light cameras are questionable and could do more harm than good.
“RLC’s sound like a great idea in theory,” said Williams. “Of course we want to protect our citizens and prevent accidents, but as we look around the country in areas where these cameras are used, we see that they fail to live up to expectations. There is credible evidence that the cameras can actually make intersections more dangerous; on top of that, they can be a logistical nightmare to operate and raise legitimate privacy concerns.”
Williams pointed to a Washington Post study that found “the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 last year . Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81%.” The Federal Highway Administration studied various locations with RLCs and found that the number of right-angle crashes decreased but found a significant increase in the number of rear end crashes. Various other studies including a 2008 study performed by theUniversityofSouth Florida and a 2007 Virginia DOT study also found evidence that the cameras increase auto accidents.
Other parts of the country are now ending their RLC programs because they have not provided the type of revenue expected, Williams said. InLoma Linda,Californiafor example, the program was stopped after the city collected just $200,000 of $15 million in ticket fines.
The problem is that there are a high number of appeals with the tickets collected as a result of the cameras. Law enforcement has difficulty proving the registered owner of the car is actually the driver; it can create an unconstitutional violation of a defendant’s right to confront a witness and there are often challenges to photograph authenticity. These appeals can increase a municipalities’ budget due to an increased workload on law enforcement and court preparations.
“We have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of others and using the information gained through various studies to help us decide if and how we should implement red light cameras. At best, the cameras are a work in progress and I would prefer intersections inConnecticutare not used as the testing ground withConnecticutmotorists playing the role of guinea pig.”
The proposal to allow red light cameras passed through the Transportation Committee and could soon face a vote in the House of Representatives. Legislative session adjourns on May 9th.