Question of the Day

Are stoplight cameras really there to make traffic safer or to raise revenue for municipalities? I think know it is for revenue (at least in Macon) and I think they should be prohibited. I also expect that they cause more wrecks because of people slamming on their brakes when the lights turn yellow.

21 comments

  1. griftdrift says:

    Well let me give you a counterpoint.

    Clairmont Rd and Scott Blvd.

    One of the first “stop light” cams in the metro area. Prior to the cam being installed it was a horrifically dangerous intersection. And although I’ve seen some evidence of a certain behavior in Macon, Atlanta has to be the worse red light violator city in this country.

    As the old joke goes, what do you do when a light turns green in Atlanta? Count to three.

    The cams can be valuable but they should certainly be decided on at as local a level as possible and then certainly should have as much oversight as possible.

  2. Rusty says:

    By God, we agree. I also think a moratorium ought to be placed on issuing speeding tickets in Doraville for at least five years. That is the most blatant “no really it’s for public safety” profiteering scheme I’ve ever encountered.

  3. DougieFresh says:

    Just have all the money for local agency traffic enforcement go to the state, and have the state portion it out to localalities on some kind of formula.

    If it truly is about safety, the localities would enforce regardless if it was revenue neutral, right? If it is about revenue, then the incentive is gone.

  4. jsm says:

    I read a study a couple years ago about a municipality somewhere that installed red light cameras and simultaneously programmed the signals to have shorter amber time segments. Obviously, the scheme boosted the municipalities revenues, and they lost an expensive lawsuit because of it.

    The study also stated that another municipality dealt with a dangerous intersection by increasing the amber time segment by a couple seconds. The intersection’s accident rate consequently dropped dramatically.

    I wish I could remember where I read this, but it has been a long time.

    There should be a study of signal timing, red light cameras, any correlation thereof, and the effects of these factors on driver safety.

  5. memberg says:

    Erick’s new mantra: This bill should go to a study committee.

    That aside, red light cameras are fine. This isn’t Texas, where the old DUI law was basically that it was only illegal to drink and drive if you were caught. You can’t run a red light with no one watching, so you can’t complain if a camera catches you.

  6. CobbGOPer says:

    Oh, they’re installed initially for “safety purposes.” It’s just a beneficial side effect that makes them nice little revenue-generators for local government. Just like most traffic infractions, speeding in particular, they are easily spotted crimes that don’t require a lot of paperwork, and the outcome is always that a fine is levied. So cops are encouraged by their political superiors to use these infractions as a means of making extra money.

  7. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    If you hate stoplight cameras then you’re really going to love speeding cameras…They’re closer to being enacted in GA than you think.

  8. CobbGOPer says:

    And I happen to think that the best remedy for dangerous intersections is to rethink the design of the intersection, not just slapping a red-light camera up. Intersections can be dangerous for a number of factors (sightlines, the layout of lanes, etc.), not just knuckleheads trying to beat a yellow light.

  9. griftdrift says:

    They don’t require a lot of paperwork but they do require manpower. Would you rather have a cop sitting all day at a dangerous intersection monitoring a traffic light or out busting predators?

    As far as speeding cameras? Won’t work because 90% of the population would be in traffic court. Talk about paperwork!

  10. CobbGOPer says:

    Speeding cameras! Hell, I’m surprised they haven’t been going full-speed ahead on those, could you imagine the kind of revenue that would generate? Before long, they’re just going to require us to put black boxes in our cars that will signal the authorities whenever we change lanes without signalling. It’s enough to make you want to take MARTA. Almost…

  11. Increasing the amber/yellow times and also increasing the “dual red” times (for lack of the technical term) are both probably good policy ideas.

    In 2001, I was sitting at a red light in downtown Atlanta when a drunk/high driver slammed into the back of my car, then tried to run from me/the police and was finally caught and ticketed. My car acted as a buffer that almost certainly prevented a greater tragedy from happening, which would have been his car entering the interesting while the other street had a green light and hitting another moving car head on or on the side.

    I try not to think about it, but whenever I go through an intersection at night where there are no cars waiting at the red lights to block a red-light runner, I get a little worried.

    Back to red light cameras. They aren’t meant to prevent some drunk from barreling through an intersection when the light is red. They are meant to enforce important timing considerations for traffic control. For example, if a traffic engineer has programmed a light to turn red at a certain time, he doesn’t want extra people going through the light and blocking the right of way for the side that now has a green.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand that, head up to Perimeter mall during rush hour. Most days, they’ve just completely given up on the ability of traffic lights to maintain an orderly flow (because no one obeys them and clogs intersections) and they use police officers to direct traffic at the worst intersections.

    When you consider that the network of traffic lights, roads an intersections are all interconnected, it seems the logical policy conclusion would be red light cameras at all intersections or at none of them. For the record, I would lean in the all direction. Traffic in Atlanta is awful and one important step we could take is to get all participants to follow the system that has been set up to deal with it.

    To expand on Griftdrift’s point, the Scott Blvd/Clairmont interesection is never clogged up. The 14th street/West Peachtree intersection (near where I work) always gets clogged, which further impedes the flow of traffic in the area.

    I’m in favor of red light cameras, but I’m not going to pretend that (in their current incarnation) they really help public safety. If they raise enough revenue to cover the cost of the investment, and they help to improve traffic flow, I think they are worth it.

  12. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    GriftDrift…Very Funny, comment about it not working and involving a lot of paperwork…HA HA HA….but that never stops the legislature. Oh man, my sides are killing me!

  13. gatormathis says:

    I wonder…………..why is it that an intersection camera can record a violation, and then a ticket can be brought against the offending party, when you can’t really see who the driver is in most cases.

    Yet…….someone can rob a 7-11 type store or others with cameras recording, sometimes bring bodily harm against the store clerk, all in view of the camera, and it takes a trial to convict, usually with trivial results.

  14. UGAchris says:

    The data for red light cameras in Gwinnett County shows that all accidents have gone down at intersections with the cameras.

  15. GeorgiaConservative says:

    Speeding cameras are a no go. I can deal with a red light camera, but any politician that suggests a speeding camera is deadmeat.

    If you are going to use red light cameras, I think the preferable way to do it is to put them at most “big” intersections (ie 4 lane minimum, high traffic) and reduce the fine. Maybe grant a few “mistakes” a year. This way, the good drivers who misjudge a light every now and then don’t get busted, but the idiots that routinely run lights get nailed.

    Everybody knows who the idiots are. When you squeek through a light and you go, “whew, barely made it,” They’re the person three cars back that also went through the light 🙂

  16. Pappy says:

    From a traffic flow perspective, cars “blocking the box” (as I’m told they call it up north) wreak more havoc than those running red lights. When people enter a heavily congested intersection on a green light but don’t have enough room to clear it completely, they wind up blocking the green-lighted cars and the congestion just snowballs in both directions. Red light cameras do absolutely nothing to discourage this.

    It’s infuriating when it happens, and you always get that angry shrug from offending drivers.
    As Forrest Gump might say, “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks”.

  17. Homeruler says:

    What I’d like to know is how much revenue the state generated from the cameras that issue tickets to folks running through the toll on 400. Since that surely isn’t for revenue either, why don’t they just give that money to the federal government? Those darn cities spending red light camera money on things like police salaries and public parks. Why don’t they just raise my property taxes to pay for those things?

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