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Thursday, September 21, 2006

More debate about red light cameras

Lately, there has been a lot of debate about whether red light cameras really make drivers drive safer or are just used as money makers for cities (and an excuse for cops to hang out at donut shops)! According to The Examiner, they have really accomplished that purpose, as much as 66%. Most of the debate centers around whether they really make intersections safer or cause more accidents. According to some statistics, the number of rear end accidents has actually increase at intersections where red light cameras are used. However, it is my belief that the rise in the rate of collisions is more do to driver inattention rather the camera itself. These collisions are caused more by poor driver situational awareness.

District’s red-light cameras cut violations by 66 percent

(Greg Whitesell/Examiner)The District’s campaign against drivers who run red lights has caught 609,024 violations since 1999.

WASHINGTON - Red-light cameras in the District and Montgomery County have raked in more than $42 million in fines since being introduced in 1999, but one safety official said the number of lives that have been saved are immeasurable.

“Running a red light is one of the most dangerous acts someone can do,” said Jeff Agnew, spokesman for the D.C.-based National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. “People should be able to drive through or walk across an intersection without it being a death-defying act.”
From August 1999 through June, the District’s automated red-light cameras have caught 609,024 violators at 49 intersections across the city, officials said Wednesday. Since their installation, however, violations have dropped by 66.2 percent, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey said Wednesday.

Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone said the county’s 40 red-light cameras have also been successful, with an average of 8,000 citations issued every month and fines estimated at more than $500,000. Because the county has been changing technology from photo to digital images, exact numbers were not readily available, he said.

Despite opposition from Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Montgomery County is also considering allowing communities — including Chevy Chase Village — to install speed cameras. If approved, the county would be just the second jurisdiction on the East Coast to allow the cameras. The District, which has issued more than $100 million in fines, was the first.

While Virginia was one of the first states to allow red-light cameras to be installed when it gave municipalities a 10-year option in 1995, politicians allowed the law to expire and have been hesitant to restart the program, citing cost and privacy issues. Nearly all Northern Virginia jurisdictions installed the cameras, but have since been forced to cut power to them.
Del. Thomas Rust, R-Herndon, said he is leading the charge to change the perception in the General Assembly and get funding restored.

The numbers were released as part of national “Stop On Red Week” this week. The campaign handed out thousands of posters at Wednesday night’s Washington Nationals game to highlight the effort.

Elsewhere, even more debate is heating up because of the percieved invasion of privacy by these red light cameras. However, I believe that to be a moot point. These are being placed on public roads, where public safety is a concern. On a public road, there is no such thing as privacy. The safety of the pulic at large has to come first before anyone's privacy. If you operate your vehicle on public roads, you are subject to public law and should pay the consequences for your actions.

Anything that could improve safety on poublic roads would be nice and should be considered.


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