Big Brother May Be Watching Your Driving Habits
States and local municipalities are using cameras to fine drivers.
With some states and local governments facing a budget gap, many states and communities have turned to technology to help enforce traffic safety laws, increase revenue, and improve driving habits.
Most automated enforcement programs use cameras for red light violations. Now, a few communities are beginning to use cameras for speeding violations, failing to pay a toll, and disobeying a railroad crossing signal. Although the use of automated enforcement systems varies from state to state, drivers can expect more cameras watching over them.
Red Light Cameras
Red light camera systems are triggered when a vehicle enters an intersection after the light has been red for a predetermined time. Over the past several years, local communities and states have installed red light cameras at thousands of intersections.
While drivers may have to shell out a few extra bucks, driving safety has improved tremendously by the use of cameras. A review of red light camera studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, concluded that cameras reduce red light violations by 40-50 percent and reduce injury crashes by 25-30 percent. A 2002 study in Oxnard, CA, found a reduction of 68 percent in front to side impact injury crashes, the kind of crashes most related to red light running, however, the study should be taken in context as it was limited geographically.
Automated speed enforcement systems are triggered when a vehicle exceeding the speed limit by a predetermined amount is observed. A recent study showed that mean speeds decreased 14 percent within 6 months of implementing speed cameras in the District of Columbia. Moreover, in the same study, the proportion of vehicles exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph declined 38 – 89 percent.
A Great Source of Revenue
Although local governments claim that improving driving safety is the ultimate goal of red light cameras, there’s no denying the cameras are a great source of revenue for cash strapped cities. From 1999 to March 2007, Washington DC generated over $40 million from drivers running red lights.
Some municipalities, however, have removed red light camera from intersections citing no improvement in safer intersections. In just 2 ½ months, a red light camera at an intersection near Woodfield Mallissued 10,000 tickets, mostly for making a rolling right turn on red. After the growing number of complaints by Schaumburg drivers and no improvements in safety, the village terminated the contract with their camera provider.
States Vary in the Use of Automated Cameras
Some states only allow traditional traffic enforcement, whereas some states impose tough penalties on drivers by using red light and speed cameras.
Maine most recently banned the use of all automated enforcement cameras joining four other states, Mississippi, Montana, West Virginia, and New Hampshire.
Illinois has several different automated enforcement laws including red light, speeding in construction zones, and rail crossing, which also vary by county and city.
Many states also penalize drivers less severely than if they received a ticket by an officer, usually 25% to 50% less; however, some states like Oregon penalize the drivers the same amount as a traditional citation ($300 maximum fine).
Know the Laws
We should all strive to be safer drivers, regardless of speeding or red light cameras. However, the laws are changing fast so keep up to date on your state and city. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety updates a list and map each month with each state’s automated enforcement laws, who the citation is issue to, the penalties, and who is liable for the ticket.
What do you think of camera systems? Are they for safety or for revenue? Any first hand experience?