The city of Redmond, Washington decided last week that it had no intention of putting the issue of red light cameras and speed cameras to a vote of the people. The mayor refuses to transmit the completed petition signatures for an initiative on the topic to the county auditor, despite a state law that sets a three-day deadline for the city administration to do so. On Tuesday, Redmond police released data that show accidents have increased since at (Read More…)
Tag: Red Light Cameras
Photo enforcement advocates downplay the benefit of increased yellow time in addressing the problem of red light running. New evidence from Arnold, Missouri shows that red light cameras continue to flash at a much lower rate since the state mandated longer signal timing at a number of photo-enforced intersections.
Arnold was the first jurisdiction in the Show Me State to allow a private company, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), to mail traffic tickets to residents. Since 2005, ATS has handed out more than 30,000 tickets worth over $3.1 million. In 2010, tickets were being pumped out at an average rate of 800 per month. With longer yellows, that figure averaged just 113 through July and August using the most up-to-date data available.
Cities that use automated ticketing machines at intersections routinely assert two things: The camera does not lie, and at least three humans review each citation before it is dropped in the mail. That did not happen in Port Lavaca, Texas. On September 12, Port Lavaca Police Sergeant Kelly Flood signed a ticket accusing Dale Price of running a red light and demanding he pay $75 by October 12, but the light was green.
“Based upon my review and inspection of the recorded images, I state that a violation of ordinance #S-1-08 did occur,” the ticket stated just above Flood’s signature. “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Texas the foregoing is true and correct.”
Red light cameras and speed cameras may not be legally operating in Lafayette, Louisiana, according to current and former city officials. Councilman William G. Theriot was first to suggest that the city-parish President Joey Durel did not have the authority to unilaterally extend the contract with Australian automated ticketing vendor Redflex Traffic Systems when the agreement expired in June.
“I think a lot of people want to have a say so in what’s involved in it,” Theriot told KATC-TV. “Secondly if it is extended, we don’t know if the terms were negotiated or what was involved.”
[Editor's note: The following was sent to us by Donald Sawicki of Copradar.com, a site where Mr Sawicki offers insight and literature on radar and red light camera safety issues to victims, defendants and legal professionals.]
The first step towards determining if a red light camera exists to make money is to answer the question: Does the traffic light force drivers that just happen to be in the wrong spot (worst case) when the light changes yellow to brake safely (worst spot at worst time)? If the answer is “safe braking for worst case” the camera probably exists for legitimate reasons of safety. If the yellow light forces unsafe or even dangerous worst case braking, the camera is strictly a source of money (a dangerous tax) that goes to cities or states and equipment suppliers (which typically split the booty). To catch (trap, trick, hook or crook) more redlight runners some municipalities shorten the yellow time forcing drivers (even NEAR worse case distance) to run the light. It gets worse: many jurisdictions use outdated driver reaction times (some established over half a century ago) when determining yellow duration, resulting in short yellow light times and unsafe worse case braking.
Lawyers for motorists in Missouri are looking to capitalize on recent discoveries regarding deceptive marketing campaigns orchestrated by red light camera companies. On Wednesday, The Simon Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and the city of Hazelwood seeking refunds for thousands of photo enforcement tickets issued without the sanction of state law.
“In bringing this class action, plaintiffs seek to expose what they and other Missouri citizens believe is an unscrupulous business venture between an out-of-state for-profit corporation and a municipal government seeking to fill city coffers,” attorneys Ryan A. Keane and John E. Campbell wrote.
Jurisdictions throughout the United States have been dropping the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. On Tuesday, the revolt spread to Strathcona County, Canada where the county council voted 5-4 to replace automated ticketing machines with real, live police officers.
“As far as we can tell, other than British Columbia a few years ago, we’re the first jurisdiction in Canada to remove photo radar,” Councillor Brian Botterill told TheNewspaper in an interview.
Last month, a group calling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
The distinction between employees for a private photo enforcement firm and taxpayer-funded public servants blurred in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. Emails between city officials and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) suggest a cozy relationship developed where both sides were willing to perform the duties of the other in terms of marketing and public relations.
Lynnwood Police Sergeant Wayne “Kawika” Davis, for example, used official government resources and time to come up with a marketing plan to sell for the privately held firm at a conference held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in June.
The Washington Court of Appeals yesterday delivered a big win to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the photo enforcement firm that has fought hard to prevent the public from voting on red light cameras and speed cameras. A three-judge panel overturned last month’s decision by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig that had found the ATS suit was specifically crafted to block public access to the ballot.
The appellate judges sided with ATS, which argued Bellingham residents have no right to decide whether or not automated ticketing machines can be used in their city.
Voters in at least seven cities will soon have a chance to decide whether to prohibit the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Initiatives are being certified for the ballot in five states across the country, despite an all-out effort by photo ticketing firms to block any public role in the matter. Early voting is already underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the October 4 municipal election.
“Shall the Albuquerque city council continue authorizing the ‘Safe Traffic Operations Program,’ commonly called the ‘red light camera program’?” the city ballot asks.
As municipalities around the country increasingly have second thoughts about continuing red light camera programs, the private companies in charge of the photo ticketing are turning up the heat. Redflex Traffic Systems announced to its Australian shareholders last week that it continues to adjust contract language, boosting the penalties for cities that turn their back on photo ticketing. Just such language has hit in San Bernardino, California where rival photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is threatening to impose an extra $1,896,202 fee to punish the city council for attempting to get out of the contract in March. Officials had already approved cutting a check for $175,000 to the company as compensation.
A fourth city in Orange County, California is poised to outlaw the use of red light cameras. Earlier this month the Laguna Niguel city council voted 4-1 on first reading of a measure that would prohibit the use of automated ticketing machines in the future — the city has never allowed camera vendors to operate on its streets.
The long battle over the red light camera program in Houston, Texas ended Wednesday. The city council voted 14-1 to repeal the ordinance that granted American Traffic Solutions (ATS) the right to issue automated tickets at fifty intersections throughout the country’s fourth largest city.
“This is a total victory for the voters of Houston,” Citizens Against Red Light Cameras spokesman Philip Owens told TheNewspaper. “The only shame is it took too long to get where we are. Today was more of an exercise in political theater but a win is a win.”
Opponents of red light cameras and speed cameras have had an impact on the bottom line of one of the world’s largest photo enforcement providers. Redflex Traffic Systems reported a “slowdown in the level of new contracts signed” that dragged the firm’s US traffic camera revenue down $2.4 million in the 2011 financial year. Redflex lost $1.5 million worth of US contracts this year.