By on February 6, 2009

Redflex is the Australian company that runs many if not most of America’s red-light camera programs. Although I’m not a city resident, I attended two Redflex Q&A sessions in Canton, OH over the past two nights. About twenty people attended the first meeting. Around sixty showed up at the final of four meetings—once people caught wind of what was at stake. All of the meetings included city council members, city safety director Thomas Nesbitt and Hizzoner the Mayor, William Healy. Redflex’s Executive Vice President Aaron Rosenberg began the first meeting with the video above. The clip was shown without warning. Hello and boom: a graphic and violent accident of the type Redflex’s cameras are supposed to prevent. No emotional blackmail there, then.

Rosenberg claimed the accident happened in Dayton, OH (it’s also featured on the company’s website). According to Rosenberg, the Chrysler PT Cruiser blows through the red in the curb lane doing 33 in a 35. This after the light had been red for 28.4 seconds.

As I slowly overcame the high-school-drivers’-ed-style shock of seeing a quick clip of carnage, I became increasingly angry and appalled. Why is it OK for a company selling safety equipment to use such blatant shock tactics to rally taxpayers to their for-profit cause? With aspiring teen drivers, you can understand the value of “tough love.” But while good profits may come from scare tactics, good governance does not.

Whose meeting is this anyway? By allowing Redflex to start the evening in this cynical, manipulative manner, Canton was revealing the truth: the fix was in. And then I started to dissect the accident. . . .

We were shown the brief clip of footage. Nothing more. No information on the cross-street speed limit. The Subaru was going plenty fast, but who knows if he was speeding?

The hapless pedestrian was strolling along across the street AFTER the cross-street light had changed to green. Doesn’t at least a small part of the blame rest on his decision to cross that street against signage? Cities and towns put up those Walk/Don’t Walk signals for a reason.

Also, did the pedestrian have a reasonable amount of time to cross?

I remember an article about an elderly woman getting ticketed for blocking traffic in a crosswalk. A TV crew investigated and found that a group of high school students couldn’t make it across the intersection before the light turned green at a dead run.

Furthermore, what exactly did Redflex’s camera do to prevent this accident? Ipso facto, nothing. Supposedly, Redflex’s systems reduce this kind of T-bone crash rate. But there’s no independent data on this for one simple reason: it’s not true.

In fact, red-light cameras are notorious for causing rear end collisions. While a spectacular crash like the one shown is particularly horrific, a large[r] number of rear-end collisions would lead to a large[r] numbers of whiplash cases. It’s a chronic injury that can literally ruin lives.

Last but not least, even if no T-boning accident had occurred, it looks like the SUV could have struck and maybe even killed the pedestrian.

To know the truth about this “instructive” incident, I would like to see the actual accident report and hear an analysis from a safety expert whose salary doesn’t depend on a red-light camera contract.

As those of you familiar with my screen name (SexCpotatoes) might imagine, I gave the city’s suits and the Redflex EVP a hard time, asking plenty of pointed questions. When pressed about Houston and Denver’s increased accident rate after red-light camera installation, Rosenberg responded “That was not our company.”

I asked city traffic engineer Dan Moeglin why his department hadn’t implemented any other safety measures: number boards that count down to red, synchronizing more traffic lights through town, or extending the yellow times. “I have all the traffic info about yellow light timing and such right here, I can go over them with you if you want, but these numbers give even me a headache.”

He also said that “yellow light duration is set by a formula taking into account speed limit, and width of the roadway.”

I briefly touched on the lawsuit against Redflex regarding the radar equipment they’d imported and distributed in violation of federal law. “That was an issue with a sticker not being properly placed or affixed,” Rosenberg demurred.

So a company devoted to catching motorists who must follow the letter of the law down to the last tenth of a second justifies breaking the law, perjuring themselves and falsifying certification documents as a clerical error. Nice.

I’m starting a petition to get the red-light camera issue placed on the ballot for the next general election. I leave it up to you, TTAC’s Best and Brightest, to decide whether using this crash footage to sell camera systems to greedy cities is morally reprehensible. Meanwhile, if you want to know why Canton is even entertaining this idea, I suggest you ignore the video and, as always, follow the money.

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32 Comments on “Busted! Redflex’s Redlight Camera Semi-Snuff Film...”


  • avatar
    midelectric

    If that PT Cruiser had just been caught by a redlight camera none if this would have happened.

    That video was making the rounds several years ago, can its origins be authenticated?

  • avatar
    e36m3

    So, the threat of being ticked while running a red light is presumed to provide greater incentive to obey the signal than the possibility of being in a collision? Absurd. I think if one is bent on running a red light, and the well being of oneself and others is of no concern, being ticketed a month after the event is no deterrent.

  • avatar
    Orian

    How naive does Redflex think people are? Camera or not that accident would have happened. Case in point? The entire thing was caught on a camera.

    Redflex needs to disappear ASAP. This is nothing more than a grab for more money in the guise of generating more revenue for Canton. Since I live in Ohio I’ll be sure to avoid Canton like the plague if this goes live and recommend anyone else do the same unless they absolutely have no choice but to go there.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    If the person blew through the light 28 seconds after it turned red, the problem isn’t with people trying to race red lights. This is a case of someone not reacting to the red light.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    When I saw this on youtube a year or two ago I thought, wow, that’s pretty cold that some random traffic clerk dumped this on youtube.

    Usually only the videos where someone miraculously lives get leaked out.

    Now we know that this is a RedFlex video, and that they have been exploiting this video of some random person getting killed for profit.

    (I am assuming this person didn’t make it, did RedFlex clarify at the meeting?)

  • avatar
    segfault

    Countdown timers are not a good solution, as they tend to increase aggressive driving as people speed up to beat the light.

  • avatar
    autoemployeefornow

    By definition an accident is unforseen and unplanned usually due to carelessness or ignorance. The camera would not have prevented what happened. Traffic laws are for everyone’s safety and the ticketing process is meant to deter people from disobeying. Obviously since there are accidents not everyone obeys the law. A camera will never stop an accident.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I like the idea of red light cameras, but this is not the kind of accident a camera will prevent. Unless Redflex’s system will, upon a car entering the intersection improperly:
    * Fill the intersection with foam
    * Deploy giant airbags from beneath the cameras.
    * Engage some very large electromagnets under the pavement.
    …this does nothing

  • avatar
    Nicholas Cincinat

    midelectric: This video is used by Redflex in their sales presentations as occurring in Dayton, Ohio in 2004 I think it was. I didn’t take very good notes as I was burning to get to the questions. They give the intersection name as well, I just didn’t record it.

    e36m3: Oh, but they are speeding up with their ticketing goals, they want motorists to be ticketed within two weeks of the violation(s)

    Orian: They are looking at installing and running these 3 to 6 months after the contract they are drafting is rubber-stamped by city council.

    no_slushbox: That’s what I’d assumed, when they showed the footage at the first meeting, no comment was made on if there were any fatalities. There weren’t. I had assumed from the severity of the wreck and the SUV practically rolling over the pedestrian that it was a snuff film, and would still think so if I hadn’t went to the final meeting to get footage of this accident. You can hear Rosenberg mention in the video that there were no fatalities in this accident.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Nicholas Cincinat:

    “You can hear Rosenberg mention in the video that there were no fatalities in this accident.”

    I’ll have to be more careful about that commenting on videos from work, where I have no speakers/headphones, thing.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Cincinat

    no_slushbox: I actually thought of that briefly just after I posted, didn’t mean to incriminate you.

    At the first meeting as well, a couple of residents had similar questions about if their ‘son’ were driving their car and got a ticket… they would be held accountable. I jumped in on the first question, and told the guy, “You’d have to sell out your son.” The next guy that asked almost the same question late in the meeting gave me a flash of inspiration.

    After he was answered, I raised my hand and blurted out “Couldn’t you just assign all your violations to your minor child, and then have them not pay them?” One of the city’s legal eagles answered that they’d come after the kid’s license… but in the paper they are quoted as saying that ‘these are like parking tickets, anyone who ignores them, the case would be sent to a collection agency.’

    My question is can the collection agencies pursue a minor for these theoretical unpaid civil fines? I’m not sure, but I may have found a gigantic loophole, as long as they can’t prove your underage son or daughter was not driving, you could get away with it.

    Maybe I should settle down and start having kids so I can blame tickets on them, heh.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Snopes has the details.

    The T-bone may have saved the pedestrian’s life. It created a space in the Subaru’s side that cocooned him as it rolled over him. Had the PT Cruiser not run the light and create the dent, the Subaru could have very easily hit and killed the pedestrian who was crossing illegally.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    A red light camera would not have been beneficial in that situation anyway. There were plenty of witnesses who knew the light was red.

  • avatar

    People who are outraged might want to call the Australian Embassy and ask for the press attache. I think he or she would be very interested to know that Redflex’s dishonesty is giving Australia a bad name in the United States. The main # is 202-797-3000.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Hey, the company is just trying to make a living. All’s fair in love and marketing.

    Then again, I am biased. Red-light running is a major problem where I live, and I gripe incessantly about it. But when I recently transgressed and got my own picture taken, the good people in law enforcement saw fit to let me off the hook for some unknown reason. I hear it isn’t like this in some places.

  • avatar
    Winklovic

    I think the fact the offending driver was 75 years old speaks more to the retesting of elderly drivers than it does to red light running.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    I agree with the red light camera issue. Run a red light on camera and pay up. Makes no difference age, race or belief. I want to see the same on the Interstates.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    If this guy is 75 years old, and was totally inattentive, a camera is not going to do squat. Perhaps a red light strobe might have helped to clue in the driver…

    If the goal really is safety, and not shameless revenue generation, the lights must be set up so traffic can flow efficiently. Near my house are two lights in a row that are not synchronized in any way. According to the town, one of the lights is on a road designated as a state road, so the town can’t have their light communicate with the state one. Don’t really know if that is true or BS, but I can tell you what is true. When both lights are green – a rather infrequent occurance – drivers approaching the first light gun it in hopes that they make it through both lights. Should a driver try to stop if the first light turns yellow, it is common for the car behind him to yank off the gas and jam on the brake. Too often a collision is the result. All the locals know the second light has a very long red and nobody wants to wait if they don’t have to. If the lights were timed together, this would not happen. But of course, that wouldn’t generate any revenue.

  • avatar
    Freezin

    Red light cameras are about MONEY and nothing else. If someone is going to run a red light they are going to do it regardless of the cameras. There are a few intersections here in Dayton that have them, and the yellow light is one full second less than other traffic lights. It’s all about revenue generation, not public safety.

  • avatar
    Freezin

    BTW, I don’t know what intersection in Dayton that is. The one intersection I am aware of that has cameras is Smithville and Patterson in the Belmont neighborhood of Dayton.

  • avatar
    pariah

    Just for the record: That video is ooold. I remember first seeing the clip of that accident during one of my daily trips to the computer lab to do “research” during study hall back in high school. So we’re talkin six to seven years ago. The validity of any information recited by the narrator of this video is extremely questionable. I’m willing to bet that it was not, in fact, recorded in Dayton, as they claim.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Cincinat

    Freezin, and pariah:

    From the Snopes.com article that user Jeff Puthuff linked in his comment above, “The accident seen in the video occurred at 12:40 p.m. on 23 May 2004 at the intersection of Third Street and
    Edwin C. Moses Boulevard in Dayton, Ohio.”

    They may have removed that camera by now, because it was not profitable enough, I didn’t think to ask that question.

  • avatar
    pariah

    Alright, I guess my memory is a bit foggy about it…seemed like longer ago than that.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I guess I will never understand all the “anti-camera” thinking.

    So, it’s about money. Why shouldn’t people who blow through red lights pay a fine? If a cop was at the intersection just as this happened, no one would object to the cop issuing a ticket. What is different about a camera?

    If it had been a “near miss” instead of a near snuff, the driver of the PT Cruiser would never have received a ticket if there were no camera. Surely he still deserves a ticket even if no accident occurred.

    If cities need money, let bad drivers pay tickets.

    The idea that cameras make no difference is as silly as the notion that video surveillance cameras in 7-11s make no difference. Sure, people still rob the stores sometimes, and the cameras help catch the crooks. How many robberies are deterred? It’s not really possible to know. Does anyone think robberies wouldn’t increase if the cameras were removed?

    What exactly is the beef here? It can’t be privacy, because there is no expectation of privacy at the intersection of two public roads. None. Nada. Zip.

    It can’t be the desire to run red lights, because no one in their right mind wants to run reds, or see anyone else do it.

    It can’t really be economics, because if you’re not running reds, you aren’t going to get a ticket.

    The objection seems to boil down to the notion that the city makes money when people violate traffic ordinances. I don’t really see the problem with that.

    I would be against them only on the grounds that they may increase rear end collisions, and that it often involves the privatization of a police function.

  • avatar
    robertplattbell

    Yet another reason I dislike car magazines – and now this site. Any attempts to enforce the law are “bad” for some reason. Here’s a clue: Real automotive enthusiasts DON’T RUN RED LIGHTS. Only idiots do.

    It is a sucker’s game and it kills people.

    Red light cameras – and many more cameras – are here to stay, so kwitcherbitching.

    1. The threat of red light cameras has reduced the incidence of running red lights.

    2. The number of red light accidents has decreased in areas where there are red light cameras.

    3. In accidents like this, the camera provides evidence of who is at fault. Yes, Virginia, some folks run red lights and then try to blame the other driver. No witnesses? Your word against mine.

    I really, really hope this is not some asinine “baiting” article designed to get people all worked up, because I was starting to like your site.

  • avatar

    robertplattbell:

    The problem here is that there’s evidence that redlight cameras cause accidents.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    robertplattbell

    Any attempts to enforce the law are “bad” for some reason If you had read the article and many other on TTAC (and other sites of course) you would might see that while the stated goal is to increase road safety, the obvious outcome is increased revenue for the local authority while decreasing road safety in other ways.
    Or are you quite happy to be lied to by your public officials?

    Red light cameras – and many more cameras – are here to stay, so kwitcherbitching.
    In a word, No.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Cincinat

    robertplattbell: The one councilwoman that voted “no” on the proposal has stated that she would rather the city purchase and run their own system, not subcontract it out.

    Also, to you, I’d like to reiterate HEATHROI’s suggestion, read the rest of the red light camera systems coverage here at TTAC. Follow every link and read the supporting articles. I haven’t seen any study yet that claims red light cameras decrease accidents that hasn’t been soundly invalidated because of glaring data collection problems, or other chicanery. Heck, the city of Houston gave a $50,000 grant to a professor, and told him to come up with the safety conclusion they wanted. The only way he could fudge the numbers was to exclude ALL accidents on ‘unmonitored approaches.’ So driver A slams on his brakes, to not get caught by the red light. You can’t even barely mistime a yellow. That signal turns amber, you’d better be slamming on your brakes… and driver B slams on his brakes, well, drivers C & D slam on their brakes too, but can’t make it. You see, driver C is driving a Miata with upgraded brakes, and driver D is in an Escalade. CRASH! Escalade’s fault, of course, but since it wasn’t caught on camera, it’s three cars back instead of two, that accident, which was directly contributed to by the red light camera system, was excluded from the results, to make the numbers match the erroneous safety theory.

    It’s one of the most recent camera systems articles on TTAC.

    There are many good reasons for opposing red light camera systems, and some people have their reasons for supporting them. If I am wrong, I will admit so when I am proven wrong. If red light cameras do get proven to actually save lives and reduce injuries then I’ll support them. Only if the results are independently verified though.

    I know there are some who would argue that “even if a single life is saved, they will be worth it,” but hey, wouldn’t a lot of lives be saved if we did the following:

    1. Mandated complex camera and sensor systems be installed in all cars and roadways regardless of age.

    2. To pay for these systems, every driver would be tracked, 24/7, and their every action cataloged and retained (Redflex has been caught committing Perjury, and their system did/does 24/7 surveillance).

    3. Levy fines to all drivers, including you, at $125 a pop for every infraction. Touch a painted line with a tire, marked lane violation; 1mph over the limit, speeding fine; 5 miles under the limit, obstructing traffic; take your eyes off the road for even a split second, inattention fine,; eating or drinking or changing radio stations or cds, loss of control; failure to use turn signals, self explanatory; the list is endless.

    OR

    4. Cover all cars in foam rubber and reduce the speed limit to 5mph. Install speed governors in all cars.

    The plain fact is that most driving violations, including mistiming an amber light, cause no harm to anyone. They don’t result in carnage, major or minor injuries, or even property damage. No one is a perfect driver, it’s draconian to ticket for every little offense.

    If there is a problem in an area with red light running, place a cop at the corner, sitting far back enough to see but not be seen. The next red light will stop the runner, and they will be easy to catch, after all, they stopped right behind that other car. Police issued tickets are like $165 anyway. With only $15 of that being the fine for running a red light. The rest are usurious court costs and various other charges tacked on to… wait for it… increase government revenues.

    These fines prey on people in an economy that is in a downward spiral. That $125 is the cost of a monthly family health care premium. It’s groceries, or car insurance, or life saving medicine. Add into it the FACT that cities are shortening yellow light timing to boost numbers of violations, including in one case shorter than the federally mandated 3.0 seconds, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

    Read up, and don’t worry, the truth can’t really hurt you.

  • avatar
    jeremy65

    I disagree with some here, these redflex cameras do provide a VERY important service to people. Without them, how else would we get to see all the fantastic footage for Wildest Videos or some other Spike or TruTV show having to with crashes, and death, and whatnot. then what would we all watch?! Nancy Grace?! No thanks.

    I love their emphasis on how there were no fatalities, like that makes showing you someone that almost died on scene less in poor taste. I’ve heard the guy was pronounced dead on the scene, only to start breathing again later…so…granted it doesn’t matter to us all anymore, as we’ve seen much more on the Internet, you’ve almost seen a snuff film.

    Wanna show what these stupid cameras really can do? Show the hurried guy on his way to work that runs a yellow light to try to get there on time, not some sensationalistic crash that would have happened regardless whether the motorist knew the camera was there or not. You run a red light that late after it turns red, then you were going to run that red light camera or not, due to not caring, not paying attention or just an idiot.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Nicholas, I wanted to thank you for taking your time to attend and participate in this meeting, and reporting it here.

    Nice job!

  • avatar
    Pirate

    Dynamic88:
    robertplattbell:

    Ah, the plot thickens.

    So now we don’t want to punish those who break the law?

    Priceless, and an interesting debate tactic…too bad it’s sooo third grade.

    Since it’s apparently escaped your attention, and one might question whether or not it was deliberate….this isn’t about a bunch of ‘car magazine’ retards trying to stop traffic laws from being enforced.

    The problem here is that the governmental bodies in charge of enforcing those same laws are tweaking the lights in order to generate more income…..all in the name of ‘safety’.

    I am sick of idiots running red lights. However, this is more of a failure of those same governmental bodies you are cheerleading for, in that they allow almost any idiot to get a driver’s license….failing to train a driver properly is where your precious government has dropped the ball.

    However, seeing that municipalities get a LOT of help from auto insurance companies, in the form of radar/laser radar equipment, so they generate more income for the state….the fact is, is that stupid drivers are more profitable for state and local governments than smart drivers are, and also profitable for insurance companies, who have determined that stupid drivers make them more money also….so it makes perfect sense for insurance companies to donate money-generating equipment to police and sheriff’s departments nationwide…it’s the perfect investment.

    So, lo and behold, these same stupid drivers, which were improperly tested by state and local government are now causing injuries and fatalities everywhere, including….intersections.

    So now, that same state and local government, who did such a great job in making sure the drivers they licensed were competent enough to pilot a 4000-pound missile, is now doing the equivalent of ‘cooking the books’ to ensure they make even more money off of the stupid drivers that they so graciously bestowed/tossed/hurled drivers licenses upon.

    Since you are both obviously either cops, or in the employ of state or local government, you aren’t going to admit that by not lengthening the yellows like they should be doing, state and local governments are ENDANGERING the SMART drivers out there, by having such ridiculously quick yellow lights.

    And we are supposed to trust this same government to do the right thing, when they fail on so many other levels? What does the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, a smart blonde, and honest government all have in common?

    All have been proven to be theoretically impossible.

    Thank you, please drive through.

  • avatar
    Gerald

    A few cities on the San Francisco Peninsula have been sold Redflex systems.
    My town is just installing one, paying $360,000 over 5 years despite claims by city council members our city is in bad financial condition.
    They claim “it’s about safety, not money.” though they are sold the system with the claim the city will “profit” from installing such a system.

    Meanwhile, below is the story of a nearby town where a judge tossed out the first few months of tickets, finding the system, despite Redflex having lots of experience, was improperly “tuned” to insure they’d catch people in the intersection on a red light.

    **************************************************

    California: Short Yellow Forces Ticket Refund in San Carlos
    Short yellow time in San Carlos, California forces refund of $156,591 worth of red light camera tickets.

    The city of San Carlos, California was caught last week trapping drivers at an intersection with a yellow time so short that it violated federal and state law. As a result, 411 tickets worth $156,591 will be refunded or canceled, and San Carlos will pay back the cost of any traffic school that a motorist may have taken to avoid license points. The problem was noticed after the city’s first and only automated ticketing machine was activated at Brittan Avenue and Industrial Road on November 25. A handful of motorists began to complain to the police that the yellow signal lasted as little as 2.9 seconds, in violation of the federal three-second minimum. The department took corrective action on January 29.

    “It was set incorrectly — we were told it was set for 4.0 (seconds),” San Carlos Police Commander Rich Cinfio told TheNewspaper. “We reset the signal to 3.2.”

    California Department of Transportation’s guidelines insist that the yellow time for an intersection like Brittan and Industrial which has a posted 30 MPH speed limit must be no less than 3.2 seconds. Although the difference of less than a third of a second may appear insignificant, it can have a dramatic impact on the number of citations issued by a red light camera. This can be seen in the contract clauses that the private companies operating cameras have created to forbid cities from increasing the duration of a yellow signal (PDF File view example from Mesa, Arizona, 100k PDF).

    Going beyond the bare minimum, on the other hand, can have a decisive impact on improving safety. A Texas Transportation Institute study confirmed that when the yellow light timing was increased one second above the minimum amount recommended by the ITE formula, accidents dropped 40 percent (view study). When asked if the city would consider setting the yellow timing back to the 4.0 seconds it expected, a police spokesman sharply rejected the suggestion, even though the longer duration is not prohibited by any contract provision.

    “We’re comfortable with 3.2 seconds,” Cinfio said.

    San Carlos and the Australian vendor Redflex Traffic Systems specifically selected the intersection of Brittan and Industrial because it met the most important test.

    “Staff estimates it will realize net revenue from any intersection approach wherein the camera captures an average of six violations per day,” an October 22, 2007 city memo stated.

    The captured violation rate, which includes photographs where the driver or license plate is unclear, far exceeded the rate of six per day. The issued citation rate of seven per day also exceeded expectations. Now the city does not want to lose goodwill over the mistake. On its own initiative, the department moved to contact those who may have paid a citation at the intersection and to clear all improper violations from the books.

    “We want to make sure they’re made whole,” Cinfio said. “Good people do make mistakes. Honesty in government is placed at a premium in San Carlos.”


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