They sold it to us with safety. The infamous “S” word. After all, how can any sane person be opposed to more safety? It sounds so benign, so progressive, and so universally beneficial. Who wouldn’t support cameras that make us, our children, and possibly even our pets safer?
The equation of getting these cameras installed and spitting out tickets goes like this:
Step 1: We’re only going to install these cameras on a trial basis. I swear.
Step 2: During the trial period they won’t even issue real tickets, so don’t even worry.
Step 3: Remember, they might really help keep your kids safe. You do love your kids don’t you?
Step 4: (months later) Gee whiz, turns out these cameras are a huge success.
Data? No, I left that at home, but you can trust me.
Step 5: Eureka! Everyone pays and no politicians have any motivation to
remove a free revenue channel from their budget.
The only problem with this equation is that these cameras don’t make us safer. In fact, they make intersections where they are stationed more likely to have accidents.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had this to say, “Seems to me that such a program can only be justified if there are demonstrable facts that prove that they raise the safety awareness and decrease accidents in our city. The data, in fact, does not really prove it.”
It’s not just Filner who’s claiming these cameras don’t make us safer either. The National Motorist Association website lists a number of national and state level studies demonstrating this fact. http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/studies.
These studies are by groups such as the public advocacy group U.S. PRIG, the Virginia Transportation council, AAA Michigan, Florida Public Health Review, The Transportation Research Board, and the University of South Florida among many others.
But why would ticket cameras make intersection more dangerous? Well, when these cameras are first installed most people aren’t aware of them, so lets say you pick up a ticket trying to stretch a yellow light. The next time you go through that same intersection, instead of looking at the cars around you to see if the intersection is safe, your eyes are glued to that light. The second it turns yellow you slam on your breaks to avoid a costly $480 ticket. Unfortunately, this stopping-short results in a lot of accidents.
The reality is that these cameras are all over Los Angeles. I don’t like the fact that we have them, but they’re paid for, so they’re here to stay. The good news is that we don’t have to pay these robo-tickets as long as they are issued in LA County. Thank god the courts stepped in to put a judicial end to this financially motivated money-grab.