Red-light traffic surveillance cameras used at busy intersections across the country provide quotes to drivers driving red lights. Sensors buried in the crosswalk to capture the date, time, and speed of the red-light violating vehicle trigger the cameras mounted on the traffic signal. Advocates of these live traffic cameras claim that the system is an affordable way to catch red-light runners, secure roads, and distract law enforcement officers from other tasks.
Also, a California red-light camera audit in 2002, installing live traffic cameras as well as running red lights reduced driver accidents. Opponents of red-light traffic cameras claim that cameras are primarily used as a money-making device, they give the live camera company too much control and they cause rear-end collisions because a driver can stop suddenly before a red light.
Recently in North Virginia, the Red Light Traffic Camera program ended after ten years of running. The state legislature decided not to renew the live traffic program, which issued drivers with a $50 fine sent by mail. Roughly those 5% of drivers have been fined. State Senator Janimari Davis said, “It’s impossible to have enough police officers to run the red light. It definitely works. It definitely changes behavior.”
Others may not agree. Many lawmakers in rural Virginia have expressed concern that traffic cameras are like “Big Brother” and that it is an expensive traffic program that does not cover its costs. In fact, three of the six governments implementing surveillance programs in North Virginia lost thousands of dollars because the revenue did not cover the cost of the traffic program.
California administrators are studying some of the problems with the red light traffic program that have occurred in other California cities. The law further states that police officers review and approve traffic quotes.
In order for driver quotes to be fair and accurate, a clear picture of the driver must be included with the license plate. If the picture does not match the owner of the car, the driver should not be responsible for the ticket.
While most drivers can’t argue against a photo showing them light, some drivers will make legitimate excuses that cause police to re-evaluate the photos. For example, a driver in Montclair, California, told a police officer that he did not see a train that turned into a double lane signal in front of him. The officer threw away his ticket.
The controversy over the use of red-light traffic cameras at intersections is not over yet. There are legitimate concerns on both sides that should be addressed through further study and research in cities where driver surveillance cameras show both positive and negative results.
Traffic surveillance cameras increase traffic speeds and keep roads safe
Traffic surveillance cameras smoothen traffic which leads to costly and fatal accidents. Since 1997, the Utah Department of Transportation has used analog CCTV cameras to assist emergency response teams, provide drivers with real-time road updates, and collect traffic snails and pattern information.
Now, Utah’s traffic surveillance system will go digital to recover real-time accidents and incidents that are much faster with new cameras. Although the new video surveillance system is almost twice as expensive as the old system, the new one will be durable and more easily repaired.
What about privacy?
Chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) express concern about the proliferation of these traffic cameras. Although they acknowledge that these cameras are in public places, they claim that police officer and transportation officers need to be properly trained when using these cameras so that images can be used properly.
The ACLU noted that these cameras could contain gay parades and protest rallies and that the subjects of those videos could theoretically blackmail themselves. They suggest that state legislatures write clear procedural guidelines and legislation that addresses the issue of how and why video surveillance is used, as well as the privacy issues of subject similarities when captured on video.
It is possible to strike a balance between public and transport safety while protecting citizens’ right to privacy. In this age of terror, video surveillance will not disappear because security needs to be promoted and preserved for the greater good.