What the Red Light Camera Companies Don’t Want You To Know

Engineering Improves Safety at Red Light Camera Intersections

Here’s a great article that explains what happens when a city extends yellow light times. Violations PLUNGE!

The study result means that most of those who received tickets for entering the intersection within the difference time in the chart above after the light changed to red were ticketed unfairly. This is huge. We are talking thousands of unfair tickets and several million dollars in unfair fines at $490 per violation.

Since my involvement with this, I have had contact with some who have received tickets and have had a personal experience as well. They include:

* A lady with a family that recently moved to our city. She was trapped at the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway at McBean Parkway. What a great welcome to our city.

* A good friend whose parents were visiting from Arizona last Christmas. On their way out of town at 3:49 a.m. the day after Christmas, they were trapped at the intersection of Orchard Village south at Lyons Avenue. The picture on the violation indicates they were clearly victims of the unfair timing. What a great Christmas gift from our city. They are elderly and just paid the fine.

* My father-in-law, who three years ago received a ticket when he was three days dead. No, it was not another miraculous resurrection. His son from Albany was driving the car while in town for the funeral. This could have been fought, but my distraught mother-in-law insisted on paying it because “she just did not want any trouble in the future.”

Public conned over anti-speeding strategy

Saw a great editorial with some strong arguments against the “speed kills” fallacy. Here are some excerpts and here is the full article.

“When the road toll goes down, the police claim credit. When it goes up, they blame bad driving. They can’t have it both ways. Either the police anti-speeding strategy works or it doesn’t work.”

“The police anti-speeding strategy is based on a discredited theory that if you ticket mums and dads who drift over the speed limit, then criminals will stop driving recklessly. This claim is simply not based on any credible science.”

“The facts are these: only about 20% of fatalities occur above the legal speed limit.”

“Of these 20% of fatalities that occur above the speed limit, most involve either drunks, motorcyclists or young working-class males who live on the edge of the law. There is simply no evidence that rigid enforcement of speed limits has made the slightest difference to the behavior of these high risk drivers.”

Arizona SB1167 Seeks to Ban Photo Enforcement in Arizona

Senators Ward, Burges, Kavanah, and Yee have sponsored Senate Bill SB1167 for the 2015 Arizona legislative session. This bill will ban all forms of photo enforcement in Arizona. Please contact your legislators and let them know how they should vote on this bill that will help remove the corruption from law enforcement and improve traffic safety for all motorists.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IGNORING RED-LIGHT CAMERA TICKETS

A great article worth re-posting about red light camera tickets in LA:

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IGNORING RED-LIGHT CAMERA TICKETS

So, cutting right to the chase: You can still ignore them with little consequence, experts say. And, no, a recent California Supreme Court red-light camera ruling in People v. Goldsmith does not change that, our sources say.

More Evidence: Red Light Cameras Increase Crashes

It’s bit old but worth mentioning. This article from TheNewspaper.com discusses a study that reveals what we already know: Red Light Cameras increase crashes! This report dives into why data and reports have differing conclusions:

The studies with the most complete set of variables concluded that accidents increased with the use of red light cameras, while the reports that claimed an accident reduction benefit to camera use relied on more simplistic analyses that excluded factors such as yellow signal timing, the number of lanes at an intersection and time trends.

Poway Red Light Cameras Still Up

As of Jan 10, 2014, Poway’s red light cameras are still up, despite a statement from Redflex representative saying they will be removed 30 days from the date of the council’s vote to remove the cameras, according to this article from Oct 15, 2013,

The Poway City Council Tuesday night unanimously voted to end its contract with Redflex Traffic Systems immediately. Its representative said the cameras will be removed within 30 days after the company is notified in writing of the decision.

The vote to remove the cameras came after a 6 month period where the cameras were shut off and crashes declined compared to the 6 months prior with the cameras turned on.

Is this more incompetence by Redflex, or some sneaky attempt to weasel back into a new contract?

Poway_Camera

RLC at Scripps Pkwy & Community, Jan 10, 2014.

 

Speed? Let the people decide

Fantastic article that explores the point we always make here: If safety is so important and speed is so dangerous, why not lower all limits to 20? Reprinted here without permission from OnlineOpinion.com.au:

Did you cop a speeding ticket these holidays? Many did. Speed limits have the status of holy writ, with everyone expected to obey them. Officially, fines are atonement for sinning.

We are repeatedly told how many people were killed in road accidents over the holiday season, invariably attributed to excess speed. There are gory advertisements warning of lifelong injuries, with big brother enforcement via fixed and hidden cameras, double demerits, average speed cameras, aerial monitoring and highway patrols.

The underlying message never varies – below the speed limit is safe, above the limit is not.

The public thinks otherwise. In the absence of visible enforcement or perceived hazards, voluntary compliance with speed limits is low. A 2009 survey found less than 20% of drivers admit to always driving at or under the speed limit. Another found only 41% thought speeding by up to 10 km/h in a 100 km/h zone was unacceptable, while 38% admitted to speeding by 10-19 km/h and 21% by 20 km/h or more.

Outside narrow suburban streets, exceeding the speed limit is not seen as a problem.

The National Road Safety Strategy seeks to change that. Its aim is to “reduce poor road user behaviour” through “behavioural change”, and has a vision that “no person should be killed or seriously injured on Australia’s roads.”

It asserts we need lower speed limits, additional enforcement including in-car speed monitoring, plus increased penalties.

There is a link between speed and the risk of accidents and injuries. The degree of correlation is disputed and there is some evidence that modestly higher speed limits would reduce the accident rate, but higher speeds certainly lead to more serious accidents and ultimately more of them.

The question is, why not drastically lower speed limits? Given the aim of zero deaths and injuries, why not reduce the speed limit to something like 20 km/h so that accidents are either eliminated or only have minor consequences?

The answer, fairly obviously, is that it would be unacceptable to the community. There is an implicit assumption in speed limits that there will be a certain level of deaths and serious injuries as the price paid for convenient travel. The vision of the National Road Safety Strategy is not only unobtainable, but irrational.

That raises an interesting question. When the law says one thing and most people have a different view, which should prevail? And perhaps more to the point, who should set the speed limits?

The people who currently set them are anonymous, unaccountable bureaucrats. Perhaps the most powerful people in Australia, they essentially decide how many people should die on our roads. Governments and ministers come and go, but they and their speed limits are always there.

Speed Limit Fixation

Governments and municipalities have fallen in love with the easy revenue that automated ticketing machines can provide. But as with anything, there is a trade off. Do we really want drivers fixated on their speedometers and focused on noticing every speed limit sign they pass? This article from TheNewspaper.com discusses this subject:

In jurisdictions with automated speed enforcement, cruise control can save drivers from receiving a nasty surprise in the mail. A study released July 30 from the Vinci Autoroutes Foundation concluded that this reliance on cruise control can actually make driving more dangerous.

Researchers at the University of Strasbourg’s Centre d’Investigations Neurocognitives et Neurophysiologiques placed a group of 90 test subjects in a driving simulator. The individuals were split into young, middle age, and elderly groups with an equal number of men and women. Each performed a series of tests along a 75 mile simulated highway drive. The tests were repeated in different sessions with no electronic aids, with cruise control and with a speed limiter.

Data from the experiment show that drivers using cruise control tended to stay in the fast line too long when overtaking slower cars. They would also ride between five and ten percent closer to the bumpers of vehicles before and after making a pass. When using a speed control devices, the driver moves the steering wheel less often, but the steering corrections tended to be about one-third sharper when using cruise control. Reaction times decreased by one second, adding 25 feet to the braking distance at 80 MPH.

The test used a subjective measure of drowsiness called the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale and an objective electroencephalogram to determine that younger drivers had significantly reduced attentiveness when using cruise control. After an hour of driving with cruise control, the onset of drowsiness was 25 percent more likely.

“More generally, this study shows the need for the driver to master the use of driving aids, which may, by automating control of the vehicle, deprive the driver of part of his or her attention and control capacity,” the study’s author, Professor Andre Dufour, said. “The driver must remain in control of the vehicle and responsible for his or her driving under all circumstances.”

These findings are consistent with those of the late Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, who calculated that each time a driver looked down to check his speedometer in a 200 yard speed camera zone — each glance takes about 1.1 seconds — he loses 13 percent of the time available to observe the road for hazards. The UK Department for Transport lists driver inattention as the cause of 25 percent of accidents.

“We believe that speed limiters that ‘know’ the speed limit are probably the most dangerous idea around in modern road safety,” Smith had written. “Such limiters take no account of the mechanisms by which accidents are avoided, and the net effect of wide installation would be extremely dangerous. We’d have a nation of… zombie drivers.”

Red Light Cameras, Drones and Surveillance: Fleecing the Taxpayer in the Age of Petty Tyrannies

Another great editorial about cameras, re-posted here without permission from Canada Free Press:

We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, carried out in the name of the national good by an elite class of government officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions. We, the middling classes, are not so fortunate. We find ourselves badgered, bullied and browbeaten into bearing the brunt of their arrogance, paying the price for their greed, suffering the backlash for their militarism, agonizing as a result of their inaction, feigning ignorance about their backroom dealings, overlooking their incompetence, turning a blind eye to their misdeeds, cowering from their heavy-handed tactics, and blindly hoping for change that never comes.

As I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the overt signs of the despotism exercised by the increasingly authoritarian regime that passes itself off as the United States government are all around us: warrant-less surveillance of Americans’ private phone and email conversations by the NSA; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; drones taking to the skies domestically; endless wars; out-of-control spending; militarized police; roadside strip searches; roving TSA sweeps; privatized prisons with a profit incentive for jailing Americans; fusion centers that collect and disseminate data on Americans’ private transactions; and militarized agencies with stockpiles of ammunition, to name some of the most appalling.

Yet as egregious as these incursions on our rights may be, it’s the endless, petty tyrannies inflicted on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace that occasionally nudge a weary public out of their numb indifference and into a state of outrage. Consider, for example, that federal and state governments now require on penalty of a fine that individuals apply for permission before they can grow exotic orchids, host elaborate dinner parties, gather friends in one’s home for Bible studies, give coffee to the homeless, or keep chickens as pets.

Consider, too, the red light camera schemes that have been popping up all over the country. These traffic cameras, little more than intrusive, money-making scams for states, have been shown to do little to increase safety while actually contributing to more accidents. Nevertheless, they are being inflicted on unsuspecting drivers by revenue-hungry municipalities, despite revelations of corruption, collusion and fraud.

In most cases, state and local governments arrange to lease the cameras from a corporation such as Redflex, which takes its cut of ticket revenue first, with the excess going to the states and municipalities. The cameras, which are triggered by sensors buried in the road, work by taking photos of drivers who enter intersections after a traffic light turns red. What few realize, however, is that you don’t actually have to run a red light to get “caught.” Many drivers have triggered the cameras simply by making a right turn on red or crossing the sensor but not advancing into the intersection.

Indeed, these intricate red light camera systems—which also function as surveillance cameras—placed in cities and towns throughout America, ostensibly for our own good, are in reality simply another means for government and corporate officials to fleece the American people. Virginia is a perfect example of what happens when politicians sacrifice safety to generate revenue. In March 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell approved legislation that allows private corporations operating the red light camera systems, such as the Australian-based Redflex, to directly access motorists’ confidential information from the Department of Motor Vehicles. What this means is that not only will government agents have one more means of monitoring a person’s whereabouts, but a remote, privately-owned corporation will now have access to drivers’ confidential information.

Another provision signed into law by McDonnell also shortened the amount of time given to alleged traffic law violators to respond to citations resulting from red light camera violations. While prior law allotted 60 days for the response, the amendment cut that time in half to 30 days. This gives the driver scant time to receive and review the information, determine what action is required, inspect the evidence, consider appealing the citation and respond appropriately. In this way, by shortening the appeal time, more drivers are forced to pay the fine or face added penalties.

For red light camera manufacturers such as Redflex, there’s a lot of money to be made from these “traffic safety” fines. Redflex, which has installed and operates over 2,000 red light camera programs in 220 localities across the United States and Canada, made $25 million in 2008. In addition to revenue from fines, Redflex also gets paid for installing the red light cameras, which cost $25,000 a pop, plus $13,800 per year for maintenance.

Although these cameras are in use all across America, Chicago boasts the “largest enforcement program in the world.” Since installing Chicago’s 384 red light cameras in 2003, Redflex has made $97 million from residents of the Windy City, while the city has profited to the tune of over $300 million. Hoping to pull in an additional $30 million for the year 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel began negotiating a new contract last year with Redflex to install speed cameras. However, contract negotiations for the speed cameras were terminated shortly after it was revealed that Chicago city officials had been on the receiving end of millions of dollars in financial bribes from Redflex. Chicago is now in the process of terminating its contract with Redflex, despite seeming attempts by Mayor Emanuel’s office to delay the process.

Redflex’s use of graft and chicanery in Chicago in order to pull in greater profits seems to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the company’s overall business practices. For example, in Center Point, Alabama, a red light camera program (again operated by Redflex) saw motorists being issued fines under the pretext that their tickets could be appealed and their cases heard in court. Unfortunately, since no such court exists, those targeted with citations were compelled to pay the fine. They are now pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the city and Redflex.

One particularly corrupt practice aimed at increasing the incidence of red light violations (and fines) involves the shortening of yellow lights in intersections with red light cameras, despite the fact that reports show that lengthening the yellow lights serves to minimize accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “a one second increase in yellow time results in 40 percent decrease in severe red light crashes.”

Indeed, those who claim to champion the use of red light cameras in the name of traffic safety are loath to consider reducing the length of yellow lights if it means losing significant citation revenue. An investigative report by a Tampa Bay news station revealed that in 2011, Florida officials conspired to reduce the length of yellow lights at key intersections below minimum federal recommendations in order to issue more citations and collect more fines via red light camera. By reducing the length of yellow lights by a mere half-second, Florida officials doubled the number of citations issued. Contrast that with what happened when the yellow light time was increased from 3 seconds to the minimum requirement of 4.3 seconds at one Florida intersection: traffic citations dropped by 90 percent.

If you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. Florida is a perfect example. In 2012 alone, Florida pulled in about $100 million from red light cameras operating in 70 communities. About half the profits went into state coffers, while the other half was split between counties, cities and the corporation which manufactures the cameras. Officials are anticipating increased profits of $120 million for 2013. Following the trail beyond the local governments working with Redflex to inflict these cameras on drivers, and you’ll find millions of dollars in campaign funds flowing to Florida politicians from lobbyists for the red light camera industry.

Fortunately, the resistance against these programs is gaining traction, with localities across the United States cancelling their red-light camera programs in droves. In early May 2013, officials in Phoenix, Arizona backpedaled on a one-year extension of their contract with Redflex, with the city’s chief financial officer, Jeff Dewitt saying, “We made a mistake.” Voters in League City, Texas became the fifth city in the state to vote to end red light camera enforcement, ending another of Redflex’s contracts in the United States. Cities in Florida, Arizona, and California have terminated contract negotiations with the company, and in March 2013, a parish in Louisiana voted to refund nearly $20 million in revenue from red-light cameras after yet another corruption scandal came to light. Florida state legislators are also considering banning all red light cameras in the state.

What’s the lesson here? Whether you’re talking about combating red light cameras, banning the use of weaponized surveillance drones domestically, putting an end to warrant-less spying, or reining in government overspending, if you really want to enact change, don’t waste your time working at the national level, where graft and corruption are entrenched. The place to foment change, institute true reforms, and resist government overreach is at the local level. That’s what federalism in early America was all about—government from the bottom up—a loose collective of local governments with power invested in the populace, reflecting their will to those operating at the national level. Remarking on the benefits of the American tradition of local self-government in the 1830s, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed:

Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it. Without local institutions a nation may give itself a free government, but it has not got the spirit of liberty.

To put it another way, if we are to have any hope of reclaiming our run-away government and restoring our freedoms, change will have to start at the local level and trickle upwards. There is no other way.

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