Latest Red Light Camera Study Questions the System's Financial and Safety Perks

Categories: City Hall, Crime

redlightcamera-thumb-225x183.jpg
This device may or may not catch you running a red light in Dallas.
Let's talk (some more) about red light cameras, the subject of a report released today by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), a watchdog organization that researches various subjects of public importance.

The report, Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead, examines private companies' agreements with municipalities (about 700 throughout the country) in states that allow automated traffic law enforcement. "Contracts between private camera vendors and cities can include payment incentives that put profit above traffic safety," the report says.

Some contracts set ticket quotas for municipalities, according to the report, while others penalize cities if they extend yellow-light duration. Deals like these "sometimes prevent local governments from acting in the best interests of their citizens, especially when the terms of the deal prioritize delivering profits for the shareholders or owners of the private firm," the report says.

The report recommends stronger guidelines to "focus on improving road safety, rather than ticket revenue." These include ensuring there are no conflicts of interest between the city and the private contractor, avoiding incentives linked to the volume of issued tickets, and allowing ample public participation throughout the contracting process.

Some contracts set ticket quotas for municipalities, while others penalize cities if they extend yellow light duration. The report says deals like these "sometimes prevent local governments from acting in the best interests of their citizens, especially when the terms of the deal prioritize delivering profits for the shareholders or owners of the private firm."

The report recommends stronger guidelines to "focus on improving road safety, rather than ticket revenue." These include ensuring there are no conflicts of interest between the city and the private contractor, avoiding incentives linked to the volume of issued tickets, and allowing ample public participation throughout the contracting process.

As of September, Texas has 74 jurisdictions that implement red light cameras, only to be outdone by California, Florida, and Illinois.

Dallas is specifically singled out in the report's press release, which says:

Since 2007, over 780,000 violations in Dallas were dismissed due to the poor quality of photographs taken by red-light cameras. These violations could have generated $58 million. Dallas contracts with Affiliated Computer Systems and pays the company $3,800 for each of its 59 cameras each month. By July 2010, there were 59 cameras operating in the city. That means that ACS collects nearly a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars every month.
In other words, if the red light cameras are meant to generate revenue for the city, the system is not working at capacity -- to put it very gently.

In addition to the 30,000 people (annually in Dallas) who violate red light laws but are not ticketed because of faulty camera operations, many ticketed people have simply said, "Screw 'em," since there is no effective enforcement plan in place. Unlike when a cop issues a ticket, a camera citation is a civil, not criminal, offense, meaning there's no threat of arrest.

It was back in 2006 that the Dallas city council approved Affiliated Computer Services to begin monitoring your traffic traffic blunders and sending you $75 citations for driving through intersections like a lunatic. The city has spent nearly $30 million on its red light camera contracts with ACS, according to a 2009 revised contract.

At the most recent Automated Red Light Enforcement Commission meeting two weeks ago, there was discussion of putting a hold on the car registrations of repeat offenders, and that could potentially take effect months from now. But as it stands, 30 percent of the 125,000 people who receive citations annually do not remit payment. So, it's fair to say the system's inefficient at the very least, though not necessarily ineffective.

Another report discussed at the recent Commission meeting, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) study released in June, compared crash frequencies to determine the cameras' effectiveness. Overall, there was a 27 percent overall decrease in accidents and a 38 percent decrease in Dallas.


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7 comments
dallasmay
dallasmay

The way we need to fix this is to set two rules

1) For every citation the city and the private company split the fee, no further payment from the city is required.2) For every citation that is overturned, 50% of the citation fee is paid to the person receiving the citation. 

That way, the city and the private company have a financial incentive to increase safety and are harshly punished if they abuse their power. 

james
james

we, the 99 percent are dam tired of shit like this, too. traffic laws are for the protection of the people, not the profit of the 1%. has anyone compared the 1% with outlaw gang 1%ers?

Holy_Sheet
Holy_Sheet

May wanna proof paragraphs 3,4,5,6....

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Its a system thats a revenue generator, plain and simple. It's not stopping people from running lights, in fact i've seen more accidents and bad driving because people try to beat the light. Too bad our brave small government leaders in the state house refused to step up to ban the practice last leg. session...

Guest
Guest

Interesting to me that some contracts prohibit lengthening yellow light times since some studies have shown longer yellows to have frequently resulted in much lower crash statistics.

Though I guess I can see why a company that makes its money from issuing tickets would be against such tinkering in the name of extra safety.

thumpcbd
thumpcbd

Yea, the goverment is making too much money by directing the contracts to these companies to care about protecting you. Back in line sheepeople.

dt&ot
dt&ot

SI: That is the story.  Accidents can be reduced by extending the yellow light times.  Red light cameras are a slippery slope. 

How about total traffic law enforcement?  A black box in cars that records GPS information vs. Speed and gets downloaded to law enforcement and they ticeket you any time your speed goes over the legal limit.  We need to find a way to properly charge the citizens each and every time they commit any type of misdemeanor traffic violation.  Budget deficit solved!

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