hereâ€™s the nightmare. the light turns green, itâ€™s clear to go through. you make your way down the intersection, but out the corner of your eyeâ€¦ *car crash sounds* and an instant later, thereâ€™s another notch added to the 30,000 deaths from car crashes a year, of which up to 23% are intersection-related. so law enforcement and city officials all over the country have tried to solve this problem by installing red-light cameras to get drivers to slow down, stop, and save lives rather than just blowing through red lights. "the ultimate hope is to improve safety at the intersection by reducing traffic crashses…" thereâ€™s just one problem. these cameras donâ€™t just stop car crashes, they create others as well. since the 1960s, thousands of red light cameras have been posted around intersections across the us.
and thereâ€™s no denying that these cameras really can and do save lives. but they also show an increase in less deadly rear end collisions because of drivers abruptly stopping to avoid red-light tickets. and depending on where cameras are placed, they create more crashes were there werenâ€™t many or any at all to begin with. crashes at intersections are most often caused by cars turning left at an intersection, while cars cross on the opposite side of the road. many tickets are going to drivers who â€œcalifornia rollâ€ to turn right on red. but those cars only make up only about 1% of intersection crashes. there is, of course, another reason beyond safety why cities would install red light cameras. tickets from red light cameras can cost a driver between $50 and $500. cities like orlando, florida, chicago, illinois, and washington, dc bring in million of dollars in fines from red light camera tickets.
camera vendors such as redflex traffic systems, american traffic solution, and several others have incentive to get a lot contracts because they take care of the installation, operation, and maintenance of those cameras, which in turn cost cities millions of dollars. in chicago, one ex-city official was convicted in receiving up to $2 million dollars in bribes for red light camera contracts and in a lawsuit, a fired redflex executive named 13 other cities that allegedly participated in receiving bribes from the traffic camera company as well. if safety were really the biggest, or only, concern, there are alternatives to red light cameras that would be just as effective and cost lessâ€”it would take just a bit more city planning. for example, the timing of yellow lights is key. the federal guidelines specify that yellow lights need only to fall between 3 and 6 seconds. but red light cameras might give cities incentive to stay at the shorter end of that range. in florida, one intersectionâ€™s yellow light intervals were adjusted from 3.9 seconds to 4.8 seconds and there was a 79% drop in issued citations.
curb extensions and speed humps also force traffic to slow down. visual cues like signs are another way to signal to drivers to be even more aware of an impending stop. even the unpopular roundabout is not only safer than a 4-way or t intersection it also increases traffic flow efficiency. so now, several cities across the us are rethinking their red-light camera programs. and albequerque, new mexico ended their program in 2011. â€œthe bottom line is that this is a company that is for profitâ€”theyâ€™re going to make a profit. and thatâ€™s what these cameras do.â€