Red-Light Camera Companies Fight Back

Despite scandal, gross mismanagement and financial setback, purveyors of red-light cameras continue their quest to place cameras on every street corner in the nation. Or maybe it’s because of these challenges. Either way, camera companies are practically doing or saying anything to regain the profitable ground they’ve lost over the last year.

One strategy is to put the hit on states that have traditionally been “protected” from cameras either through legislation or court ruling.

In February, Redflex lobbyists swarmed over the Minnesota Statehouse pushing a bill to allow ticket cameras into the state. The bill was written to thwart a 2007 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that Minneapolis’ red-light camera program was unconstitutional. The bill was defeated in committee, thanks in part to the efforts of the NMA and ABATE of Minnesota.

Next up Michigan, where a 2007 ruling from the state’s attorney general has been keeping cameras at bay. Nonetheless, recently introduced camera legislation has turned Michigan into the latest photo enforcement battleground state. The NMA has been aggressively fighting the measure at the committee level, but the outcome is far from certain.

The point: If you live in one of the 15 states that have taken steps to keep cameras out, stay alert. Chances are that a camera company lobbyist is cozying up to a friendly state lawmaker with a nice campaign donation and a pre-written camera bill that needs support.

Camera companies and their supporters have also been supplementing their specious PR arsenal with new myths. In Florida, it was recently revealed that the Florida Department of Transportation had purposely decreased yellow-light times at camera-equipped intersections.

Many public officials are now calling for longer yellow lights. In response, camera company spokespeople are claiming that any safety benefit from longer yellow-light intervals is temporary because drivers adapt to the longer times and begin running red lights again.

Not true. Several studies debunk this claim:

“The data show that the percentage of last-to-cross vehicles clearing the intersection (T + 0.2) seconds or more past the yellow onset was not appreciably changed by the extension of the yellow phase.”
The Influence of the Time Duration of Yellow Traffic Signals on Driver Response, Stimpson/ Zador/Tarnoff, ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) Journal, November 1980

“Research has consistently shown that drivers do not, in fact, adapt to the length of the yellow.”
Determining Vehicle Change Intervals – A Proposed Recommended Practice, Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1985

“Drivers do adapt to the increase in yellow duration; however, this adaptation does not undo the benefit of an increase in yellow duration.”
Effect of Yellow-Interval Timing on Red-Light-Violation Frequency at Urban Intersections, Bonneson/Zimmerman, Texas Transportation Institute, January 2004

When you think about it, it makes sense: As any NMA member knows, drivers don’t put themselves in harm’s way by willingly engaging in risky behavior like running red lights. And for the record, lengthening yellow-light times does have a profound, lasting positive effect on intersection safety. (Read more here.)

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