By on March 31, 2015

red stop light camera

While use of red-light and speed cameras are on the wane, support for automated enforcement depends upon where and who the constituent is.

According to Autoblog, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found 70 municipalities have dropped red-light camera programs in their jurisdictions over the past 30 months. Said programs peaked at 540 communities in October 2012, now since fallen to 461, and while 112 to 140 programs speed camera programs were initiated in the same 30 months, those are now beginning to stumble.

While critics — and the studies that back their statements — have found red-light and speed cameras marginally improve safety at best and are thought to be nothing more than revenue generators, a survey by found that 61 percent of women and 51 percent of men support red-light cameras, while 53 percent of women and 43 percent of men would support speed cameras, as well.

Geography plays into support as well: 62 percent of residents in the Northeastern United States support speed cameras, while 65 percent support red-light cameras. In comparison, only 33 percent of residents in the Midwest — where opposition to automated enforcement is highest — support the former, 49 percent support the latter.

That said, the voting booth may be the best indicator of support for the cameras: 31 out of 34 referendums in 25 years have shot down automated enforcement, including four ballot measures last November whose disapproval/approval ratio came to approximately 3:1 opposed.

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48 Comments on “Support For Automated Enforcement Only So-So Among Americans...”

  • avatar

    Higher tech navigation units, the likes of which are not made for USDM cars makes these things pointless.

    My Korean navigation unit gets over-the-air updates with locations of all traffic enforcement cameras and tells me when I’m approaching one. Make that tech widespread, either via in-car units, through the major manufacturers or via a smartphone app and this is a non-issue.

    The crooks in city hall or the city council are pretty much going to do what they want anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve got that in the US. If you want to go a step further there are even police scanner apps.

    • 0 avatar

      “My smartphone does that.”

      That’s what Waze is for.

      It’d be nice if I had Android on my dashboard somehow. I’ve been looking at aftermarket head units to make that happen. That way, I don’t have to buy a new car whenever the mobile consumer electronics world advances.

      • 0 avatar

        My portable Tom Tom GPS has it, works great, annoying as hell with it’s loud warnings, but I appreciate the heads up on these highway bandits. I’m in the midwest and there’s a lot of them

    • 0 avatar

      If that happened, some state would pull a Virginia and ban those apps/systems, the way Virginia bans radar detectors. You’re not allowed to avoid the revenuers.

  • avatar

    Support drops to virtually zero the second any one of those women or men receive a red light/speeding ticket in the mail.

    By and large people think they are better drivers than they are, and no one can follow all traffic laws at all times. Anyone who counters with “but I haven’t gotten any tickets or been in any accidents, or done a rolling right on red EVAR!” is welcome to test their everyday driving mettle against my new idea “marked lane violation sensors!” Now, any time your tire touches a painted line on the ground (besides crosswalks), you get a $120 ticket in the mail. Cross the white line to scootch around another driver to make a legal right on red? FINE. Touch a dashed lane divider marker on the freeway while easing over to avoid a pothole? FINE. Did your bumper cross the painted STOP bar at any light or stop sign at any intersection? FINE. Sure, it will require omnipresent, intrusive surveillance and line the pockets of whatever supplier of equipment sends the best bribes my way, but that’s the price of “safety.”

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Driving is a performance art. Save automated enforcement for automated cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Automated enforcement has some advantages, if you’ve ever been on the wrong end of unprofessional policing.

        I have many times, and I’m not even black.

        I’d rather have the revenue extracted by a machine than by an armed man with an attitude problem (and a uniform).

        The real answer is to separate revenue from policing everywhere in the US. I travel enough I can newer tell if I’m in an area where the police view the populace as ATMs, enemy combatants, or fellow citizens — or where an individual officer falls on that spectrum. I’ve been treated as all three in encounters with police, and protecting myself from the worst kind of cops defines how I deal with police everywhere. If we could separate revenue from the equation, then we make the problem much easier.

        Given that, getting an unfair ticket in the mail doesn’t sound so bad. That’s just money. No screaming, intimidation, or threats because I didn’t roll my window down far enough (true story) or being pulled over and screamed at for 20 minutes because I got out of the way when a cop was tailgating me 2′ off my bumper in a Suburban (also a true story).

        • 0 avatar

          Automated enforcement is programmed by those same unprofessional policing entities.

          For instance, reducing the number of seconds between when a yellow lights turns red at an intersection, and then doing the automated enforcement thing.

          Or reducing the speedlimit on a road that was formerly 45mph to 35mph, and then doing the automated enforcement thing.

          If law enforcement was fair and equitable, law enforcement would have more fans. Most people understand it is a revenue-generating tool and not evenly applied.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree with that in theory. Conducting what amounts to penny ante taxation at gunpoint on the side of the road, often enough at night is beyond absurd. Cameras don’t make boring, middle class people fear and distrust the police. Cameras don’t get jumpy and shoot poor people.

          But in practice the cameras aren’t instead of, they’re in addition to. Don’t give them an inch.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • 0 avatar

      “Support drops to virtually zero the second any one of those women or men receive a red light/speeding ticket in the mail.”

      Limit the question to people who actually drive and support drops precipitously even without having been ripped off yet. Support for the nanny cams is high in the northeast in large part because of responses from urbanites who take the subway and bus.

      These are the same people who want to bring the double nickel back to save gas. Because their interstate travel is done on a Boeing at 600 mph.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. Baltimore’s red light camera program is currently on indefinite hold, because they had so many problems with it, including people who were able to prove that the speed the camera clocked them at didn’t match the distance traveled between fixed objects in the 2 shots the red light camera takes.

      Maryland’s statute allows red light cameras within a certain distance of schools. Baltimore City extended “schools” to include pre-schools, colleges, and hospitals that had student nursing programs.

      Also, every camera they installed seemed to be at the bottom of a hill on a road with an unusually low speed limit for the road design, and they also may have shortened the amber light. So people don’t exactly feel they were playing “fair”.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m morally opposed to speed zones around high schools (or colleges, for that matter). Since the kids are usually old enough to vote when they graduate, they’re old enough to frigging look both ways before stepping into the street too. Or just wait for the “walk” signal (but still look both ways).

        I can’t figure out why a school on a major artery gets a speed zone. Build a fence between the school and the main road and have access around back via side streets. Sheesh!

  • avatar

    Wonder what the age demo for the supporters.

  • avatar

    That pic shows a detection camera for the left turn lane used in lieu of an induction loop saw-cut into the pavement. It’s necessary for signal operation – not used for enforcement.

  • avatar

    People would support red light cameras and speed enforcement cameras if:

    1. Stop using cops to chase down people like they’re vermin on highways and city streets
    2. Lowered taxes due to the reduced Police required to patrol
    3. Stop using private companies to run these things. All they do is rig them to make money instead of enforcing safety (i.e. shortening yellow lights to make more money)

    I have no issue getting a ticket for doing 80 MPH in a 65 MPH zone by a speed camera as long as you tell me where the cameras are and warn me. If I disregard, so be it. I do have an issue with getting a red light camera ticket because my front bumper is over the white line and I had to do a panic stop because I know the yellow light is shorter than it should be.

    • 0 avatar


      You know how many times I’ve come within inches of some jittery fool who locks up their brakes on the mere whiff of a yellow light in lieu of getting a $180 civil citation?

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “I have no issue getting a ticket for doing 80 MPH in a 65 MPH zone by a speed camera ”

      I do, because without revenue generation and pants-wetting nannyists, that 65mph zone would be 80mph.

      • 0 avatar

        Who doesn’t go 80mph on I-90 through the NW Chicago suburbs?

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          I certainly do, and that’s 25 over (35 over and $10k fine/go to jail if they have their stupid fake ‘consruction zones’ in effect with no construction or barrels or workers, just construction zone signs).

          • 0 avatar

            “35 over and $10k fine/go to jail if they have their stupid fake ‘consruction zones’ in effect with no construction or barrels or workers, just construction zone signs”

            Damn and Virginia gets a bad rap? I get that they wanted to give the law some teeth but that’s absurd.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s describing Pennsylvania. I’ve been living in the DC area for 6 years, and when I cross from Maryland to PA on my way to Ohio, there are construction signs limiting the speed limit all the way to the turnpike entrance. Whatever construction brought on those signs ended years ago, if it ever happened at all. I’ve never seen it.

        • 0 avatar

          There’s a reason it’s called the Illinois Autobahn.

          Also, I’ve always understood that paying the toll effectively buys you the right to speed.

          That having been said, the speeds people maintained within the construction zone west of Elgin are insane. 45mph may be too low but damn, back it off from ludicrous speed.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      “I have no issue getting a ticket for doing 80 MPH in a 65 MPH zone by a speed camera”
      Great, give me the keys to your car and I’ll go get you one.

      The constitutional due process of actually proving whom committed the crime is irrelevant by statute in most cases, as people would hide faces and duck fines. Registrant is assumed guilty, with no defense. In NJ it is called “implied consent.”

  • avatar

    You are all haters.
    It s for the children !

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts on this argument are that, if was really for the children, you’d have a cop sit in the turning lane of the school with the lights flashing. That slows everyone down. There’s not much of a safety benefit it mailing a speeder a ticket three weeks later.

  • avatar

    It would be easier for me to support automated enforcement if it is used to promote safety rather than as a tool for revenue enhancement, as is usually the case.

  • avatar

    The revenue stream benefits out-of-area corporations while the local municipality gets a fraction of the percentage. Why should an Arizona or Australian company profit off their camera misrepresenting a right-on-red? This is why the current system is a joke.

    There was at least something honest in a rural deputy collecting a cash fine on the roadside in the 1960s – at least you knew the money stayed local.

  • avatar

    That is not a traffic enforcement camera shown in the story, it is a sensor camera used to detect vehicle presence in the intersection. That info is fed to a system which controls light timing such as activation, or duration of the protected left turn.

  • avatar
    Mr. Orange

    From living in two different cities one with and one without redlight cameras. I no longer think of them as being useless. Seeing how often people just blow thru redlights here in Nashville I’m actually wishing this city had some. That is if they were in fact to setup the system to curtail redlight running vs being legalized extortion by the state.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why polling people about these is kinda silly. Many Drivers won’t be for for more enforcement because they know they make violations. With all the distractions many drivers have, something has to be done. Maybe the question should be more cops or traffic cams.

    • 0 avatar

      Nashville has really changed. Back in the eighties, the drivers were actually too courteous and easy going. They would wave you through when you were supposed to stop. Confused everyone who wasn’t local.

      • 0 avatar

        Several hours south of Nashville a lot of people have that mentality but with a really weird twist. People at stop signs and driveways assume that you’re going to let them in even when you have the right of way. They sit at the stop for a few seconds or longer, wait until you get really close, and then they amble out in your way- and proceed to bumble along at the posted speed limit minus 5 or 10.

    • 0 avatar

      In Toronto, the big issue is people entering intersections on yellow when the other side is full of non-moving traffic – thus blocking cross-traffic from getting through on green.

      It’s especially prevalent on the major arteries that go from downtown to the Gardiner Expressway (Jarvis, Yonge, Bay, University, Spadina). People actually wait on the far side while the light is green, and then charge into the intersection when it turns yellow – where they have to sit until the traffic ahead of them (eventually) moves. This can take 1-3 complete cycles.

      Red-light cameras and hefty fines would do a lot to solve this behaviour, and keep traffic moving.

  • avatar

    I wonder if the regional difference in the northeast is because other than NY most of the northeast doesn’t have cameras?

    You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.

  • avatar

    Automate enforcement of auto insurance. Many states can already check if you have it by running your plates.

  • avatar

    I am all for it. I was not in the past but after moving to the Boston Metro area for work I have never seen so many people run lights. Pretty much at every traffic light at least one car, usually more will run the light even after the other direction is already moving. This is especially a problem around large shopping malls where the idiot level doubles. Once these people start getting some tickets that hurts them in the pocket book then they may stop doing it. I would say about twice a week I barely avoid getting hit by an asshat that decides the red light does not apply to them and that does not count the numerous times I see someone else almost have an accident. People here actually expect that someone will run a light so they will wait a few seconds after the light changes before they move.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t need cameras, you need your cops to stop eating donuts and write a few tickets.

      It would be a whole other issue if these things worked as advertised. They do not. The biggest damage they do is to the civic culture.

      First, you get people defining the issue as law breakers versus safety. These people mostly have no idea what goes on in almost every installation ever. Or, they work at city hall and are blinded by dollars. (My naivity theory was that some city hall’s that really were after safety were the ones who got tricked into letting the camera companies run the systems, but that seemed too much coincidence).

      I am not being hyperbolic or snarky. If you look into the issue with any amount of skepticism you will find the camera companies and many politicians doing really disgusting and greedy things: Reducing safety to increase violations, creating systems with no real appeals process, tilting the scales of justice, and destroying political opponents just to get started.

      The money is either too tempting, or by some huge coincidence, only corrupt people are involved with the implementations, ever.

  • avatar

    Walking to work in Washington, DC for four years converted me into a zealous red-light-camera supporter. In that city, it’s routine for five or six cars to go through a light after it turns RED (not yellow, RED), and also routine for people to just disregard red lights after making a stop. The entire driving population seems to think it is too important for rules or safety. Trying to cross some intersections legally, with the walk sign, is a game of Russian roulette. A big-city police force doesn’t have time to have a $80,000/year cop hang out at every problem intersection and write tickets all day. Have a machine do it instead.

    Now that I’m back in Seattle, the problem is not nearly as bad, but there are still enough near misses trying to walk on downtown streets that I support the city’s red-light camera program. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that the city has tried to shorten any yellow lights, and the cameras are deployed at intersections with high collision histories.

    I don’t support speed cameras except possibly in school zones.

  • avatar

    I’m in the minority, but I love red light camera’s. Almost daily I see someone running a light. Last week while driving a friend back from a doctor appointment we saw folks running red lights at 3 consecutive intersections against our green light. Scary. Throw the book at these fools.

  • avatar

    I support the idea of red light cameras, but I’m completely against how they have been implemented. It’s revenue generation 1st, 2nd and 3rd, along with some indefensible claims and lip service paid to driver safety.

  • avatar

    A nav unit is only as good as its database, and my experience is that many cameras are not listed.

    Further, if you pick a city that has had red light cameras for a decade or more and then look at the number of tickets it has issued each year you will see no decline. In other words, despite smart phones, apps, navs, etc., the motoring public is getting just as many camera tickets as in times past.

    If you stick close to home you’re at little risk from red light cameras; you know where the cameras are in your neighborhood, and in more locales the fine is just $50 or $100, like a big fat parking ticket. Just don’t travel to California, where most programs focus on rolling right turns, the fine is $500.00 and still growing – and the ideal target is visitors from out of town.

    If you must go to California:

    If you are flying in or out of SFO, do not drive on nearby Millbrae Avenue between El Camino, the BART station, and the 101 freeway, or on the offramp from the southbound 101, because in October and November the City of Millbrae issued 2397 red light camera tickets (worth $1.2 million in fines) in that half mile stretch, nearly all for rolling right turns. If you have friends who will be going thru SFO, or renting a car there, warn them about the trap.

    Down South, the Beverly Hills council just voted to expand their already-punishing camera system by 2/3. Neighboring Culver City is adding more right turn enforcement to their system.

    If you plan to visit California, be prepared. Do a search on snitch ticket and another search on red light camera no consequence. Because just one of California’s camera tickets can ruin your whole day.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Waze is your friend. Wazers report red light cameras, speed cameras, even police cars working radar, accidents, cars stopped on the shoulder, etc. in real time. They appear on your screen as you approach them. The app then asks you to check if the camera/cop, etc. is still there or is not there. So the database is crowd-sourced and continually updated.

      My only complaint is that Waze takes a good bit of your attention and perhaps is best monitored and operated by your co-pilot.

  • avatar

    The poll I’d be interested is the one that takes place in the voting booth. Whenever these things get on the ballot, they always seem to get shot down. Seriously, has there ever been a plebiscite that says, “yes, we want the cameras”?

    I’m not so much against red light cameras in theory, it’s just that it fails in practice. Yellows get shorter, patterns get trickier, rules change, all in an effort to enhance revenue at the expense of safety. So cynicism, and the greater risk of rear-end accidents, has me giving them the thumbs down.

  • avatar

    Seems to me that the bottom line is folks want to break the law without consequence i.e. – I want to drive the way I damn well want to and you aren’t gonna change that. S-T-O-P is not an acronym for Slide Through Often Please; Speed Limit 75 is not 85 cause everyone knows they don’t give tickets for 10 over. The other option is to remove all traffic controls thus no laws are broken. And on and on and on . . .

    • 0 avatar

      You might want to rethink that. That argument is easily used to defend just about any government response or attempt at enforcement. Folks want to drink and drive without consequence so we will put breathalyzers in every car, roadblocks out every weekend, etc.

      The cameras, like many forms of government, seem reasonable until they get put up. Just don’t look behind the curtain Dorothy, and hope you aren’t a victim. Getting a ticket along with a picture of a brand of car you have never owned from a road you have never been on is kinda funny until you get the warrant notice even though you have been calling weekly for months to resolve the issue.

  • avatar

    I support the idea of cameras — in theory:

    * If the cameras were actually put up and run by engineers in the local jurisdiction.
    * If the stop lights or speed limits weren’t gamed to increase the likelihood of infraction.
    * If there was a human reviewing the evidence before they went in the mail whose pay was not tied to the number of citations issued.
    * If there was a proper dispute process.
    * If the local jurisdiction was honest about the purpose of the installation.

    In the real world that’s too much to ask for, so I don’t support them in practice.

    Which is a shame, because in the three years I’ve spent in Wilmington I’ve come to believe that Delaware drivers believe red lights and stop signs are only suggestions.

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