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Court ruling aside, traffic camera foes still have options

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on March 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm with 6 Comments »
March 19, 2012 9:04 am

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The Washington Supreme Court has spoken, and opponents of red-light cameras don’t like what it had to say.

The court ruled last week that local initiatives can’t be used to block or remove traffic-enforcement cameras – such as the ones that photograph the license plates of red-light runners in several South Sound cities. State law gives only city councils authority over those cameras, the court said.

The response from camera opponents – most notably Tim “Mr. Initiative” Eyman – was fast and furious. The decision, he said, sounds “un-American.” Critics say they are disappointed and angry that the citizens have been muscled out of the decision-making process.

But they haven’t been really. Nothing is stopping camera critics from seeking changes in the state law through their legislators, changes that would make allowances for citizen-initiated ballot measures. They can also back city council candidates who represent their viewpoint and oppose ones they consider overly supportive of traffic cameras.

Nothing stops citizens from putting advisory votes on the ballot, and those have proved to be effective in convincing some city councils to get rid of cameras. Even Eyman admits that the advisory votes “seem to have as much political impact as binding votes do.” So why sweat it?

We admit to being fans of the cameras – as long as they’re used for the right reason: traffic safety, not as revenue streams. Enough research has been done to conclude that the cameras do what they’re supposed to do: deter people from running red lights. Indeed, they work so well that cities often see their ticket revenues declining as fewer drivers run the light at intersections with cameras.

And they enhance safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looked at 99 large U.S. cities to gauge the effects of red-light cameras on fatality rates. It found that the cameras reduced traffic fatalities by 24 percent.
Critics argue that the cameras actually cause accidents when drivers slam on their brakes at the last minute to avoid running a red light and are hit from behind.

That does happen, but it usually only involves a minor fender bender – not the devastating, potentially deadly T-bone crashes caused by red-light running. And if a driver runs into a car that has braked, it means that driver was following too closely or not paying attention. Either way, it’s the driver’s fault, not the camera’s.

No one likes to get a ticket. Then again, no one likes to be T-boned by a driver blowing through a red light. Ideally, traffic cops could be stationed at every bad intersection, pulling over offenders. But that’s not possible. Red-light cameras perform the same service, but free up police for other work – like chasing killers and rapists. That’s reason enough to like them.

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. You will support anything that takes money out of the pocket of citizens and you wonder why you’re losing readers. One day you will be gone and I personally will through a party…Those same people you advocate we voters through out are the same ones you support…

  2. 98% of our drivers like to break the law and get away with
    it. They don’t like the little reminder of personal responsibility. If you would power out of the equation and
    set a horsepower to weight ratio the childish thrill might
    be gone. Have you ever noticed that the Honda Civic that is
    lowered and has loud exhaust are almost always driven by
    male teenage brats?

  3. blakeshouse says:

    As with the rest of this soviet style gulag. BIG BROTHER is watching and WILL make you conform comrades. Those willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither., And with the way the sheeple of this state continue to elect and reelect these socialists/neo marxists we are getting what we deserve!!!

  4. Maybe if it were you who got t-boned by the idiot blowing the light you would appreciate the fact that the camera’s WORK. People slow down when approching the intersections with them. If there is a rearender, it isn’t the camera’s fault, it’s the fault of the rear vehicle for going too fast and too close to stop in time. It all comes down to obeying the freaking traffic laws. They are LAWS people Not guidelines! Obey the laws and you won’t have any problems with the cameras, the police, the courts, etc.

  5. That IIHS report is a piece of garbage. THE IIHS MANIPULATED IT! Or better yet, COOKED THE BOOKS!

    http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/36/3699.asp

    Quote: The critique noted the most troubling issue was the dissimilarity between the cities chosen to represent camera enforcement and the camera-free cities. Almost a quarter of the camera-free cities had between zero and two red light running fatalities in the “before” period. It is impossible for a city with zero fatalities “before” to improve in the “after” period. By contrast, nearly all the camera cities had 7 or more fatalities, leaving far more room for improvement.

    “The fact that the two groups have a large difference in fatality rates in the ‘before’ period reflects bias in the selection of the comparison group, which jeopardizes the validity of the findings,” the USF researchers noted.

    The USF researchers then used the IIHS data in an attempt to replicate the IIHS statistical analysis. The critique concluded that IIHS failed to disclose results that contained negative values for red light cameras.

    “Thus, cities using cameras are estimated to have a 25 percent higher red light running fatality rate in the ‘after’ period relative to cities not using cameras, despite the greater reported percent reduction in the former,” the critique found.

    Fight the SCAMERA FRAUD!

    Ban the CAMS!

    http://www.motorists.org
    http://www.banthecams.org

    and check out WA site http://www.bancams.com

  6. jcwconsult says:

    Simply adding 1.0 seconds to the yellow intervals will almost always reduce red light violations by MORE than ticket cameras. This simple engineering correction is the most effective way to reduce violations and increase intersection safety. See: http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/yellow-lights
    Readers should also be aware that most of the dangerous angle and t-bone crashes are caused by drivers entering 2 to 5 or more seconds into the red. These drivers are usually heavily distracted, DUI, unaware of emergency vehicles, etc. and are NOT the ones red light cameras cite in huge numbers to make money. It is ironic, but common, for cities to be “sold” red light cameras using videos of these terrible crashes recorded by red light cameras that did NOT prevent the violations. It is a case of apples versus watermelons and is not a valid if X then Y analysis.
    The only real answer is a statewide ban on ticket cameras. Then cities will be forced to engineer for safety, and not for revenue. See the science on our website and then support a statewide initiative to ban the cameras. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

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