By on January 5, 2016

chicago-crushes-redflex

Twenty-fifteen was a tough year for Redflex, the well-known and thoroughly-loathed Australian purveyor of corruption, bribery, and traffic-ticket cameras.

Although the firm’s US arm obtained a small victory in the $300 million lawsuit filed against it by the city of Chicago, getting the case transferred to federal court, Chicago is expanding the scope of its lawsuit in response. Meanwhile, smaller municipalities are abandoning Redflex in droves — and the numbers make it easy to see why.

Chicago has amended its lawsuit against Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems to include its parent, Australian corporation Redflex Holdings Limited. How easy is it to sue an Australian firm? How easy is it to collect a judgment against said firm? Probably not that easy. Still, the city’s move shows that it’s in deadly earnest about using the contents of Redflex’s pockets to line its own.

In my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, unsealed documents show that Redflex officials took a federal slap on the wrist for successfully bribing city officials to agitate for red-light cameras in general and Redflex products in particular.

Now Austin, Texas bedroom community Round Rock has thrown Redflex out, but for a very different reason: the cameras are enriching Redflex but doing virtually nothing for the municipality. These are the numbers:

Over the past four years, the city collected $2.5 million in fines. Slightly more than $2 million of that went to Redflex to install and operate the cameras, and $105,858 went toward city expenses.

That left $353,249 in net revenue for the city. But half of that amount went to the state, leaving the city with about $176,624.

And as for safety?

But data from the red-light cameras showed there were no trends either way on drivers’ behavior at the intersections. For example, city data show citations for red-light runners at RM 620 and Deepwood Drive would increase and decrease from one month to the next.

“It was impossible to determine a trend,” he said. “And if you didn’t see any significant change in traffic behavior, then what was the point?”

Presumably, the true point was to collect more than $176K out of $2.5M.

Throughout Texas, eyebrows have been raised as the number of collisions at some monitored intersections has risen while the funds collected by the state from red-light violations have been used for purposes other than the safety and education programs for which they were originally earmarked.

Nor are the problems limited to Texas; New Jersey ended its pilot program and sent Redflex home last year after Redflex took almost half of the revenue in a statewide program that saw an increase in pedestrian injuries.

Those of us who take some pleasure in watching this firm crash and burn can obtain additional enjoyment from the fact that Redflex has basically shut down its media site. No more “big wins” for Redflex. Yet the company has one more idea up its sleeve: a camera system that tickets drivers for passing a school bus. If you know the Redflex story up to this point, you won’t be surprised to hear that a significant portion of the ticketed ‘violations’ come from drivers passing a bus during the deployment of the sign, or during the first second after it was deployed.

In a way, it’s ironic that Redflex is pinning its last hopes on the school-bus system. After all, as it is likely to discover in court, when federal judges have to choose between torpedoing a foreign corporation’s local subsidiary or ruling against Fortress Chicago, it tends to be the businessmen who get thrown under the bus.

[Image courtesy of CameraFraud]

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78 Comments on “Redflex Under Fire...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    And yet, despite all the bad press and bad data, here in CT we annually have to fight off attempts by some in the legislature to install red light cameras in our cities. Some people really are immune to new information.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Just remember, it’s not safety, it’s revenue driving the attempts. You would think the politicians would demand a bigger cut, but apparently politicians aren’t very good at negotiating or math, and every little bit of extra revenue helps.

      Every state has a highway department with traffic engineers who will tell them intersection accidents are easily reduced by lengthening the yellow light period by a couple seconds, and including a 3 second delay between the red and green.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Gangster government meets gangster business. A love story.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      And the only reason the government officials are mad is because they aren’t getting enough of the profits.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I wouldn’t call it gangster government per se. Let’s be clear here – this isn’t like a cop pulling you over for a cracked windshield or a burned out taillight – those are better examples of government shakedowns. But blowing through a red light can easily result in deadly accidents. So, this is a legitimate thing for governments to want dealt with. Problem is, they don’t have the police manpower to enforce it effectively, so they resort to this kind of thing.

      And let’s be clear on this: the reason why so many police departments are undermanned is that voters scream bloody murder any time that the idea of a tax increase is floated.

      So, in a way, red light cameras are a monster that we the taxpayers created.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Do you live in Compton? The police force in my small town has more than enough staffing, if there’s a call about a suspicious person walking down the street I can guarantee you’ll see 7-8 cop cars all swarming to the area in minutes.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          Congrats then on living in a small town where the police have nothing to do other than return missing shopping carts.

          Your force isn’t like Chicago where there are districts that routinely go into RAP status (Radio Assignments Pending). The 19th district went into RAP status for over 3 HOURS on New Years day alone. Who knows what the other districts deal with at any given point of time. Got an issue—take a number! Do you really think they’re going to sit at intersections waiting for someone to run it? At the end of Lake Shore Drive alone there are hundreds of cars a DAY that blow through the red light–the worst offenders are the school buses.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Chicago has more problems than lack of police presence. Thankfully the law abiding citizens can’t have guns to protect themselves while they take a number.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            Ahh yes, let’s let untrained people have guns to “protect” themselves every time someone says BOO because it’s their “right”. You’ll end up with people firing shots down busy streets and into buildings, good idea!

            Criminals go across the state line to Indiana where there’s few restrictions on the sale of the weapon; 20% of the weapons brought and used in crimes were purchased there. Cut the loopholes that are used and you have less guns in the hands of people who SHOULDN’T have them in the first place.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            That must be why Mexico and Honduras don’t have gun violence issues.

          • 0 avatar
            Advance_92

            The secret is the cameras sensors at Hollywood stop 10-15 seconds after the light turns red. The CPD are the most common light runners in any situation, though.

          • 0 avatar
            zerofoo

            SC5door,

            You do realize that many states permit their citizens to carry firearms while in public and they do not have blood running in the streets (like Pennsylvania).

            NJ has very strict gun control laws and practically no concealed carry, yet Camden, Newark and Trenton have huge gun violence problems.

            Troublemakers will always carry guns – no matter the laws. The remaining law-abiding people simply become disarmed sheep.

            Why this concept is lost on liberals is a mystery to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Well if we would bring back electives in public schools that teach young kids to hunt, shoot, store, maintain, and general safety of guns; we wouldn’t have any situations where there would be untrained individuals, now would there?

            Besides there are a lot more people carrying guns around you then you would imagine, not just those doing open carry, but the number of people around you with concealed carry is staggering in most of the well-heeled towns.

            “You’ll end up with people firing shots down busy streets and into buildings, good idea!”
            That bogeyman prediction has been proven wrong countless times and is to the point where it’s evidence in itself of being completely ignorant of the entire so called debate.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Stop making sense.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            It’s an affliction, and the meetings aren’t working.

            Haha

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            “That must be why Mexico and Honduras don’t have gun violence issues.”

            You can’t validly compare first world countries to third world, it’s ridiculous to try.

            Looking at developed countries, the UK (pop. 64 million) had 24 gun deaths in 2015. The City of Toronto (pop. 2.6 million) had 26 – the criminal classes find it easy to smuggle guns from the US, apparently.

            The US (pop. 318 million) had 27 gun deaths on Christmas Day alone, and experiences more than 33,000 per year.

            Simply put, the US has a problem with gun violence that is far, far beyond what other developed countries experience. It also has far more guns per capita than any other country in the world.

            And the talk that states like New Jersey has “very strict gun control laws” is absolutely laughable. By the standards of other developed democracies, gun control is non-existent anywhere in the US.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You cite three pieces of unsubstantiated data to draw your conclusions. Here is a citation showing Chicago in December alone recorded 33 homicides:

            Final December Totals
            Shot & Killed: 31
            Shot & Wounded: 215
            Total Shot: 246
            Total Homicides: 33

            http://heyjackass.com/category/2015-chicago-crime-murder-stats/

            If you want to draw the conclusions you desire, try to back it up with more than a few pieces of data.

            IMHO if gun deaths really mattered than the two main causes of gun deaths would be addressed in draconian fashion: drug suppliers and gangs. Neither will ever be sufficiently addressed for a number of reasons, the more pressing of which is the fact the legal system was not designed to deal with the complex issue of gangs and drug violence.

            Here’s a statistic: 97% of federal cases and 94% of state cases are plead out:

            “In that world, 97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. Courtroom trials, the stuff of television dramas, almost never take place.”

            http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/stronger-hand-for-judges-after-rulings-on-plea-deals.html?_r=0

            Plea bargain has become the justice system more than nine times out of ten on both levels. This means the justice system probably has about eight to nine times the cases it can adequately handle at one time. Again citing the NY Times article, as recently as 1980 the plea bargain rate was below 80%, 96.4% in 2009 (per graph, I realize this does not round to 97 as it cites earlier in the piece). Too much crime and too limited resources to combat it. We either need a new justice system, new citizens, or a combination of the two. There are no easy choices in this matter. Removing guns does not remove the source of much crime (gangs) or the drugs which provide a lucrative income stream for criminals up and down the ladder. In fact what it does do is take away the ability to defend one’s self for law abiding citizens against the crime the state is failing to properly address.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Still I’d rather live in a place where every (sane, non felon) adult citizen carries a gun, despite the increased chance of me (and or friends and love ones) dying of gun violence or accidental shooting.

            Just a preference. At least it takes a lot of power away from the violent, gun toting criminals and terrorist.

            Similarly, a place where only the cops/criminals/terrorist/extremist have motor vehicles, would also increase you chances of living forever, on foot, bike or horseback, but who wants to live there? And who exactly wants to live forever??

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            ect, how can you say for sure that the criminals in the UK didn’t carry out the murder with some other method? How many of those deaths you cite are from suicide? It’s certainly quicker and more sure than hanging oneself, so it would happen regardless and shouldn’t affect the numbers. How many of these deaths are on innocent people versus gangbangers that are shuffling drugs through the city?

            There’s a lot of unanswered questions that make your argument very shaky, I certainly feel more safe knowing I and everyone around me has a gun at hand, regardless of an assailants choice of weapon.

          • 0 avatar

            I really don’t care about gun control either way personally. I grew up with them and enjoyed target shooting as a teen and have been out shooting skeet a few times as an adult but don’t own a gun. But I have 2 questions.
            On a state by state basis it does seem that gun laws (and possibly liberal views) do limit gun violence. see this link
            http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390
            I will say it’s entirely possible that violence is not related to guns in many places but where there are a lot of registered guns per capita the death rate by gun does noticeably increase.

            2nd question. Do people ever wonder where all the bad guys get guns most seem to get them from stealing them from law abiding citizen’s. In my town here in CT they arrested 4 people for B and E and they found 5 handguns stolen from 4 homes in the wealthy town next to mine. Years ago I had a customer get robbed (they pushed his gun safe right into his own pickup in the garage and stole them both) He lost 3 handguns 6 shotguns and a bunch of hunting rifles that are now on the street. That would bother me as a gun owner I think. Not sure the solution’s but there are problems there.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            “You cite three pieces of unsubstantiated data to draw your conclusions”

            CJ, at least I offer data, not just hyperbole. These are widely reported numbers, easily found, reported by BBC, CNN, Washington Post and Toronto Police services. If you want a global look at how much the gun death rate in the US exceeds that in other developed countries (and is often equivalent to that in undeveloped countries, look at

            http://www.humanosphere.org/science/2015/10/visualizing-gun-deaths-comparing-u-s-rest-world/

            The stats you offer for Chicago (pop. 2.7 million), which had more gun deaths in December than Toronto (pop. 2.6 million) had in all of 2015, only go to prove my point.

            And by the way, all developed countries deal with drugs, gangs and an overloaded criminal justice system. The major vaiable in the US is the widespread presence and easy availability of guns.

            Hummer, the site reference above shows that the overall homicide rate is much higher in the US than in other developed countries, and that most of that difference is due to murder by firearms.

            DenverMike, the assertion that “I’d rather live in a place where every (sane, non felon) adult citizen carries a gun, despite the increased chance of me (and or friends and love ones) dying of gun violence or accidental shooting” is not only just plain stupid, it’s antithetical to the most fundamental principles of human civilization.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Don’t know what you mean by “per se.” The government official take bribes to pick a firm that rigs yellow lights to trap motorists into committing a crime so the firm and the government can collect the proceeds from the citizen the government is supposed to serve. Sounds like a criminal racket to me.

        And let’s be clear on this: the reason why so many voters scream bloody murder any time a tax increase is floated is because their money is stolen, diverted from the subject of the tax increase or otherwise pis*ed away by the incompetents, zombies, vampires, whores and mafiosi who run their governments.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          You have a point, but the outright bribery is not happening everywhere (at least not that we know about).

          And I disagree on the point about taxes – even increases for a very specific purpose, like roads or schools, routinely run into huge resistance. But you’re right – if governments could show better results, then you’re right – they’d probably have an easier time getting more money. So, unfortunately, we have a vicious cycle.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            “And I disagree on the point about taxes – even increases for a very specific purpose, like roads or schools, routinely run into huge resistance.”

            I vote against these myself Freedmike, not because I don’t want good roads, but because the government wastes so much tax money on other things. They spend the taxes on everything else and then plead poverty and come to you for special assessments for the basic things they should be doing in the first place, knowing you would never vote for a special tax for all the other crap they do. (This is assuming they don’t just divert the money they promised to use on the roads, which also happens.) It is another scam.

            The vicious cycle could be ended not if the government showed “better results,” but if it limited itself to essential core functions. The government has never showed “better results” and – due to its nature – never will.

      • 0 avatar
        JK43123

        No, this is a monster that politicians created. When yellow light times are shortened to catch more people, or the right to fight the ticket in court is taken away, then it is gangster government. What shocks me is that, here in my hometown of Columbus Ohio, councilman Andy Ginther was in the heart of the bribery scandal and the idiots just elected him Mayor anyway.

        John

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        Accidents go up, bribing local officials to shorten yellows, in what way is this not gangster government? Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        Red light cameras would be great if they were set up to catch only people blowing thru fully red lights. But most people are not insane and will not do that. So there’s no way Redflex and the cities could make any money off of the rare fully red light blowers. So this is what they do instead – they set the cameras up to catch people in the first few seconds after the light turns red, especially people who are turning left. This is not a safety issue – drivers in the crossing direction are well aware that stragglers turn left (and it is possible to delay the green to give the stragglers time to make it across). Accidents rarely occur in the first few seconds after the light turns red. It has nothing to do with safety – it’s all about making money.

        If necessary (if the cameras aren’t generating enough revenue) Redflex tries to get the locality to reduce the yellow time so even more people can receive tickets. Doing this only creates more accidents as drivers race to make it thru the yellow.

        In intersections where Redflex has been deployed, there has been no decrease in accidents – sometimes they even go up. This is all about money and nothing but money – the “for the children” thing is just foofah to confuse the rubes.

        Their next big thing is school bus cameras, where they intend to use the same MO – sell safety but use it to generate revenue by ticketing people the instant the driver turns on his lights (and long before he lets any kids out into the street).

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “So, this is a legitimate thing for governments to want dealt with.”

        Not when cities spike yellow light times in the hopes of more revenue, but causing more accidents.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    This was never about safety always about increased funds for the predator state.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Not to mention predator “free market” entities.
      What adds insult to injury is this is a foreign company taking the profits.
      Australia would do us a favor and take Redfelx and Rupert Murdoch back.

  • avatar
    callmeishmael

    Traffic ticket cameras are one of the get-rich-quick scheme used by jurisdictions whose pols have sworn never to raise taxes. They won’t raise taxes, but what used to be a $125 traffic ticket will now cost you $1250 to clear.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Forget RedFlex the people in office that supported and wanted these systems should be prosecuted for gross incompetence and accepting bribes.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “the cameras are enriching Redflex”

    Not exactly. Redflex loses money. Doing business with the government here ain’t easy.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    As much as I hate red light runners, these things are _ALWAYS_ set up dishonestly and so shouldn’t be allowed .

    They’re still here and there in Southern California , beware as the yellow is faster than you can blink .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Ironic that red light cameras always get installed in the name of public safety but always get removed when they aren’t turning a healthy profit.

    Real “safety” should never be a profitable endeavor. In most industries safety is expected to be a necessary loss leader. It indirectly pays for itself by reducing lawsuits, keeping productivity up and compensation claims down.

    While Redflex is an easy whipping boy, they are just the guys who provided a working device to the real crooks.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    And seriously, I just had to log in and do addition THREE times to post my comment! WTF?!?

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I’ve had that same thing happen several times myself. Very frustrating, and seemingly random.

      Did you also have to answer a second-grade math problem?

      IMO it’s another reason why there are less comments here. My cookies seem to get cleared somehow and I have to go through this nonsense myself.

  • avatar

    I bet community organizers love Redflex.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I don’t mind that tickets fund municipalities and counties per se – it boils down to a sin tax. I don’t have much sympathy for you if you’re breaking the law and get caught, particularly if you’re running a red light, which is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. I have no problem with a stiff fine for anyone who does this.

    But the fines should be funding the city or county, not some corporation.

    And for God’s sake, we should NOT have a traffic law system where simply paying a fine eliminates any impact to your driving privileges. Habitual traffic offenders should eventually have their licenses revoked, period, and these stupid camera setups do nothing to take these creeps off the streets.

    I’m glad citizens are recognizing this as the scam it is.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I don’t mind that tickets fund municipalities and counties per se”

      If governments can literally profit from citizens violating the law, then governments will find more justifications to prosecute citizens in order to receive those profits. It isn’t wise to encourage that.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Then how do you impose punishment on people who break the law? I suppose the alternative to fines would be jail time or community service, but I doubt the voters would go along with setting themselves up for that every time they get a speeding ticket (I wouldn’t).

        I’d imagine the overwhelming majority of people would rather just pay the fine and be done with it. That makes more sense to me as long as the fines aren’t oppressively high, but that’s the problem in too many places.

        I’m from St. Louis originally, and the area is infamous for having a bunch of tiny municipalities that exist solely to write traffic tickets (most are along I-70 outside the city and I-170 between I-64 and the airport – word to the wise). As a result, the state legislature passed a law last year that limits the percentage of municipal revenue a given municipality or county can collect from things like traffic fines. I’d be interested in seeing how that works.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Justice should be a cost center, not a profit center. It should be funded with taxes.

          This won’t happen, of course, but the revenue from fines should be disconnected from their use. For example, if the fines from municipal traffic fines were transferred to the national park system, then there wouldn’t be many folks at the state and local level who would be eager to go ticket-crazy for the sake of it, since they would get nothing out of it.

          Instead, we have law enforcement agencies that are eager to find revenue-generating violators and assets to seize. This can’t be good.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Fines are going to be an inevitable part of the justice system, PCH, and especially true with traffic law. Can’t avoid that unless you want to see folks doing time or community service for failure to signal. Somehow I doubt you’d be too thrilled about either prospect if you got nabbed, but I can pretty much guarantee you the voting public isn’t going to go for that.

            I think the key is oversight by an organization that doesn’t have a lot of skin in the game, like a state legislature, or a state agency. I’m interested to see how Missouri’s new law works out, because the current “system” of all these dinky little towns existing on nothing but tickets is clearly abusing taxpayers, and the Redflex option is clearly a scam, and does nothing to actually enforce laws.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Traffic fine revenues are often split between local/county and state governments, so the state will not be an honest broker.

            If we really care about this, then we must remove the financial incentive that police departments and local/county/state governments have to collect fines. But this is next to impossible to do in practice, since they are sure to get the money and will be motivated by the money.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          @freedmike
          “Then how do you impose punishment on people who break the law”

          Being from Missouri you must mean laws like :
          Pagedale residents are subject to fines if…on a national holiday — the only time a barbecue may be conducted in a front yard — more than two people are gathered at the grill

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-missouri-town-demands-substantive-due-process/2015/12/11/609d0e6c-9f60-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html

          I am not advocating blowing through red lights but just because there is a law, doesn’t mean it’s right.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            OK, but I’d say laws banning blowing through a red light and the kind of laws passed by Pagedale in this story are two very, very different things.

            And most cities don’t operate the way this one does – St. Louis is fairly unique because of the way it’s set up, with the main city independent from St. Louis county, and the county being made up of literally scores of towns, many of which have a very weak tax base. Pagedale is an inner ring suburb that used to be middle class and blue collar, but a great deal of the in that part of the county has evaporated. The folks who could afford to move out did, and the people moving in are mainly refugees from north St. Louis city, which is an EPIC ghetto.

            But poor or not, people need cops and firefighters, and St. Louis being a collection of small towns, each one wants its own because voters like local control. So you have a situation where the tax base is evaporating, but the need for services isn’t. Thus, stupid schemes like the one in the story.

            I’d say the answer is consolidating some of these dinky little towns with larger ones that have a real tax base, or folding them into St. Louis county proper, so that the cost of providing basic services can be spread over a county with 1 million people with a large tax base, versus a little town with no tax base. It’d be a lot more efficient than the way things are set up now.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Governments like the money, irrespective of whether they are otherwise well funded. Money is popular, even among those who have enough of it.

            You need to think a bit more out of the box here. In the Round Rock example above, the most compelling motivation for dumping the camera program is that there are other laws that make it easy to avoid paying the fines, which results in a revenue shortfall.

            One way to deal with this would be to get rid of the infraction and civil violation system for traffic tickets. Restore the right to a jury trial for every moving violation, and you can bet that the number of tickets issued will fall because there won’t be any way for the system to process a high volume of cases.

            The way that things are now, it is possible to impose a fine with minimal due process while threatening one’s credit rating for failing to pay. In real world terms, one is often guilty until proven innocent because the system deliberately makes it difficult to argue a case for the defense.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Restore the right to a jury trial for every moving violation, and you’ll have no enforcement of rules and traffic anarchy. There’s a reason no country in the world uses that system.

            Traffic rules need consistent, frequent, fair enforcement to work. Where penalties are small, due process can also shrink. That’s well-established constitutional law.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You don’t need to worry — those who are accused of traffic violations won’t be seeing their due process rights restored anytime soon.

            What may be a more palatable solution for those of you who are concerned about mayhem would be to replace traffic lights with roundabouts whenever possible. Roundabouts force drivers to slow down, reduce crash rates and reduce crash severity.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    Ah, the RM620 and Deepwood drive intersection camera. Always perplexed me as to why it was necessary. There seems to be no particular advantage to be gained by running that red light.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It’s a huge shame that abusive programs like Redflex have made traffic cameras radioactive. *Properly* implemented, they’re a great tool. Unfortunately proper implementation has been vanishingly rare in the United States.

    Psychological studies of offenders teach us that the best way to deter offenses is to punish lightly, but quickly and very consistently. If offenders know they ARE going to get caught, they don’t offend, even if the penalty is a slap on the wrist. But you’re never going to station a cop at every intersection in a busy city to catch red-light runners, or in every bus lane to catch drivers illegally using the bus lane (SFO has cameras for this). So cameras are a terrific deterrence tool for something that is really a huge safety problem. Crashes are overwhelmingly at intersections, especially pedestrian-involved crashes, and failure to obey traffic signals is a factor in most of them.

    But to work the programs need to be fair. Most obviously, no shortening yellows — that should be grounds for civil lawsuits against the government department that does it, because it *will* result in increased accident rates. Hand review of each prospective ticket to ensure it’s not for something like turning right on red after a proper stop (where that’s permitted) or getting stuck already in the intersection trying to turn left. Yes, it’s expensive, but this should be about ensuring compliance, not profits.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The most effective way to increase traffic signal compliance rates is to use the appropriate timing for yellow lights.

      This has been well documented and it costs virtually nothing to implement. The fact that it isn’t popular should tell you something.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t generate income.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That is true ONLY up to the proper length for yellows. Extend the yellow further and you just teach drivers to push the yellow further.

        DC has not shortened its yellows; they are the length prescribed by federal standards. But go there and stand on the street at any busy intersection during PM rush hour. You will watch 3 to 6 cars enter the intersection AFTER each red light, turning the intersection into a mortal hazard for pedestrians. The way to deter that behavior is to install cameras while maintaining the proper yellow length.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Please note that I used the word “appropriate”, not “as long as we can”.

          There are engineering standards for light timing that are often ignored, just as the 85th-90th percentile speed is often ignored for setting most speed limits even though it shouldn’t be in most cases.

          I sometimes wonder why we bother to have so many traffic engineers on the payroll when there are government officials with no knowledge of traffic safety who don’t bother to consult with them.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          In what way is it a mortal hazard? Aren’t pedestrians well aware that a couple of more cars are going to enter the intersection after the light turns green? Can’t they see with their own eyes whether the traffic has come to a stop or not? Would YOU walk out into an intersection the instant the light turned green without looking for left turners?

          At busy intersections without left turn signals or delayed green for opposing traffic, if the left turners didn’t go on red they would be sitting at the intersection all day. Better to just put up a no left turn sign than expect people to wait for an opening that will never come.

          Laws should reflect community norms and real world human behavior – if EVERYONE is breaking the law, there’s something wrong with the law, not the people.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Pedestrians are not expecting yet another car to drive through ten seconds after they get the walk light, and shouldn’t have to. This is a driving culture that has developed a norm of “if the guy in front is going, I’m going” as a direct result of a total lack of enforcement. In some cases, the red-light runners actually take so much time that by the time the pedestrian is free to walk the light has already changed to blinking red. Professional people in DC, as a rule, are very self-centered and do not particularly care if their conduct harms others.

            “Laws should reflect community norms and real world human behavior.” OK, then we’ll have to make assault and rape legal, because both are very common. Laws should reflect norms, not actual behavior that is harmful. If people are running red lights, they should be ticketed and fined.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Simple , isn’t it dal20402 ?.

      This is the very same way I raise up Teenaged Foster boys to become good Citizens and hard working Adults instead of the riff raff many (? most ?) other Foster Homes produce .

      ALL our Boys know the rules and we are even in application of them .

      Simple psychology , not a thing you’ll find when brides and greed at considered the way to go .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Thank you for taking loving care of some of those who most need it.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          As a lad I envied Foster kids and back then it was pretty grim . I just wanted three hots and a cot .

          As they say ” it takes a Village to raise Children ” .

          I got a heavy foot in my @$$ by total strangers a lot because no one bothered to teach me right from wrong before I left home and that’s wrong . it was also because _I_ was a total jerk .

          Luckily they almost always explained why I got in trouble and also explained how I alone could easily make things better .

          that’s the ADULTS do – too many Children raising Children these days .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    henrythegearhead

    The camera companies say that the cameras reduce broadside collisions – they almost always claim 40% or greater reductions – but that’s not true. In fact, one of the biggest long time users of the cameras, San Francisco, has confirmed that the cameras don’t make any difference. Staff at the SFMTA – which operates the City’s 19-year-old light camera program – recently compiled a report (not published on their site, copy at
    http://www.highwayrobbery[dot]net /TrcDocsSanFranAnnualRep2014recd2015aug18.pdf ) in which they looked at the effect the 40+ camera program has had upon the incidence of broadside crashes with injury. While their report leads off with an impressive graph (Fig. 1) showing a dramatic decrease in crashes citywide, the intersection-by-intersection charts for just the intersections having red light cameras (Figs. 2 thru 26) tell a very different story: At the vast majority of those intersections, the red light camera(s) clearly had no beneficial effect. Instead, the times when crashes dropped were associated with changes like making the yellows longer, adding an all-red interval (both of which are cheap to do), the addition of an arrow for left turns, or a general upgrade to the signal.

  • avatar
    zososoto

    For all those who think, “I’m OK with a system in theory that catches those damned red light runners,” let it be known that this has never been the intent of the red light camera. Red light running is a fairly rare occurence. So rare in fact, that the main source of revenue from these cameras is actually for people making a right turn on a red light. This is legal in most places, but the motorist is supposed to come to a COMPLETE stop. However, many municipalities were unwilling to prosecute drivers making right turns on red. Redflex then made it part of the contract that the clients MUST prosecute those turning right on red.

    “Some cities earn almost all their revenue by allowing Redflex to issue right turn tickets. Elk Grove, Newark and San Leandro are at the top of the chart, with over 90 percent of profit coming from rolling rights.”

    Between this and the yellow time shortening, it is clear that red light cameras were never about safety, but about revenue. (Yellow light time should be set by traffic engineers following AASHTO and MUTCD guidelines, not avaricious local govs and their contractors). As another commented said, safety programs should be loss leaders. If they are making the public safer, incidents should actually GO DOWN.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I’m not sure what gave you the idea that failing to stop at red lights when turning was safe, legal or smart, but I sincerely hope that you avoid driving, particularly near me.

      • 0 avatar
        zososoto

        Pch, I don’t know what you think you stand to gain in your asinine attempt to attack of my character instead of my argument. No where in my post did I offer a judgment on the practice of rolling through right turns, nor did I condone or admit to doing such practice. Even if I did, it would make no difference to the value of my argument.

        We can discuss, when prudent, the differences between stopping and yielding, and the effects that they have on traffic, the environment, and safety.

        However, all that I offered in my original comment is that the traffic authorities had been willing to turn a blind eye to red light running of the right turn variety (perhaps because there is a big difference between slowing down and proceeding cautiously as opposed to blindly turning right at 15mph.) Redflex put a stop to this, showing us who really holds the power in the relationship, and that their priority is revenue, not safety.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          This is what you said:

          “Red light running is a fairly rare occurence. So rare in fact, that the main source of revenue from these cameras is actually for people making a right turn on a red light.”

          You obviously don’t think that rolling through a right turn on red is a problem. After all, you’ve gone out of your way to claim that running a red light while turning isn’t an example of a bona fide red light running violation.

          Again, don’t drive near me. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @zososoto – It’s true none of us, not even PCH, ever come to a 100% clean stop and count to 5 before proceeding (unless we have to wait for others).

      Regardless if it’s a 4-way stop sign or right on red. I’ll creep slowly through an intersection right-on-red, or stop sign without a correct/full stop, even with a cop watching me intently.

      I figure if I did do a stop, totally by the ‘book’, he’d get suspicious of my sobriety or trafficking mass quantities of Ice or something.

      Cops don’t really care as long as you’re proceeding cautious like. But you’re 100% correct, the cameras do care!

  • avatar

    There are now 4 guilty pleas in federal indictments for bribery, fraud or extortion connected with Redflex sales activities. Redflex stock peaked at $4.22 (Australian dollars) on 3/1/05. The current quote is $0.35 – a loss of 92%. There are about 100 fewer red light camera programs today compared with the peak a few years ago – and the trend continues down. Bills to ban them are in discussion in several states. If more people would contact more legislators and local officials to say ENOUGH, the demise of this despicable industry could come sooner.

  • avatar

    “Yet the company has one more idea up its sleeve: a camera system that tickets drivers for passing a school bus. ”

    In many states the law says that you have to move over when passing a police cruiser that’s involved in a traffic stop. It wouldn’t be that hard to adapt the school bus camera for that. I can see Redflex selling the system to police departments eager to increase revenue.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I don’t understand the Redflex monopoly. These things were never more than medium tech to begin with, and anything important went off-patent years ago.

    These things should be available off the shelf and something a town could install and calibrate conservatively and still come out way ahead.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Red light and speed cameras are everywhere out here in Alberta. They’ll even stick them in unmarked vehicles at the roadside. I once saw a late model Ram with an ATV in the bed that was being used for speed camera duty.

    A high quality Radar/Laser detector with GPS locations for the stationary cameras is a savior.


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