Each year there are hundreds of deaths and ten of thousands of injuries caused by motorists who run red lights and stop signs. Most of the accidents caused by this behavior is completely avoidable. The problem is that most police departments simply don’t have the manpower to place patrolmen at every intersection to monitor and catch those who simply ignore the traffic signals. So, using technology police departments have found a way to identify those motorist who run red lights and pose a danger to other motorists and pedestrians. Their solution, video surveillance cameras that are hooked into the traffic lights and capture those motorists who fail to stop for red lights.
Red light cameras are connected to the traffic light and sensors that monitor traffic flow at a given intersection. The camera then captures any motorists who fails to stop at a red light photographing the vehicle both as it nears the intersection and as it is actually going through the red light. Police then send violators tickets in the mail based on the video proof of their actions.
Studies have shown these red light cameras are actually saving lives by reducing both the number of motorists who are running red lights and the frequencies of these occurrences. What is even more important is that studies conducted in cities where red light cameras are being used at selected intersections have a reduced rate of red light running even at intersections where these cameras are not placed. This indicates that using these outdoor cameras is not only catching red light runners, but is helping to change driving habits of the citizens of cities where these red light cameras are being used.
Detractors of the use of traffic cameras claim that the entire program is nothing more than a way to increase police revenues by producing more tickets. However, while tickets are given to violators and fines are issued the real purpose of the program is to save lives and prevent accidents. In cities where red light cameras are used drivers are warned that this program is in effect which gives them the option of obeying the law or not. Only those violating the law and running red lights are ticketed and in cities where these cameras have curtailed this activity the fines incurred often barely meets the cost of the program itself.
In addition, while there are some cities that forbid the use of red light cameras those cities that do have the support of most of the public including the motorists who use these intersections. In fact, in a survey done in 2002 75% of drivers approved the use of red light cameras.
Currently red light camera programs are operating in many large cities across the United States including but not limited to New York, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. as well as many smaller communities.
While these programs cannot prevent all traffic fatalities they have proven effective at saving lives at intersections where red light running has become a dangerous hazard to both other motorists and pedestrians.
How Red Light Cameras Work
The system activates when motion is detected just prior to the stop bar AFTER the traffic signal has turned red. The cameras capture two images of an alleged violation, taken from the rear of the vehicle. Cameras also record a 12-second digital video of the violation, including six seconds prior to and six seconds after running the red light.