Many communities across the US are cracking down on unsafe driving with red light and traffic enforcement cameras. These cameras work in a very simple way: municipalities contract with a camera provider – Reflex is a popular provider – who installs and maintains the cameras. The cameras are installed at specific intersections, sometimes because certain roads are known for poor safety records.
The cameras work automatically, capturing everyone who runs a red light, speeds, or commits other common traffic violations within the camera’s view. When the camera detects someone running a red light, the system prints off a ticket and automatically mails it to the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle owner can then pay for the ticket.
Today’s traffic enforcement cameras are very sophisticated, capturing and confirming traffic violations in real-time. They are also smaller and less noticeable than cameras of years past. As well, today’s cameras can be designed to capture and ticket for a variety of traffic violations, including illegal turns, speeding, red light running, and even illegal parking in bus lanes. Some cameras are even designed to capture traffic violations at railway stops.
Municipalities and camera manufacturers claim that traffic enforcement cameras reduce the risk of traffic accidents and pedestrian accidents by enforcing traffic rules. Since many car accidents and truck accidents are caused by traffic violations such as speeding, these advocates argue, red light cameras reduce the risk of such accidents by giving drivers a strong economic motive to obey the law.
Critics of the traffic enforcement cameras, however, argue that camera technology can still mistakes. Indeed, a number of fined drivers have successfully argued the invalidity of their camera-issued tickets in court. Some critics of the cameras also argue that the cameras are little more than a cash-grab by communities, as communities profit from the paid tickets generated by the cameras.
Some traffic enforcement camera companies are creating safety programs as well as creating traffic camera systems. These broader safety programs aim to raise awareness about the dangers of traffic violations and improve driver education about accident prevention. Only time will really tell whether these programs have a long-term impact on reducing car accidents on our roads.