Florida has shortened yellow-light times at intersections, which raises the danger of crashes but improves revenue for red-light cameras, currently running at more than $100 million a year in the state. [WTSP (auto-plays) via Tabarrok]
The town of Laurel, Maryland tries using fake traffic cameras. “Maryland law restricts most jurisdictions from putting speed cameras anywhere other than near schools, and they can only operate Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.” Other neighborhoods wanted cameras installed in hopes of reducing traffic speeds, so the town set up empty boxes. [DCist]
Why they overlap [Noah Kristula-Green, U.S. News]
P.S. There was a flurry of national coverage last week when Cincinnati-area judge Robert Ruehlman struck down a traffic camera ordinance in the village of Elmwood Park, declaring the cameras a “scam” and “high-tech game of three-card monte.” [Cincinnati.com] Readers with long memories may recall that Judge Ruehlman appeared to favorable advantage in these columns back in 1999 when he threw out the city of Cincinnati’s abusive lawsuit against gun manufacturers, trade associations and a distributor, the first of the municipal gun suits to reach trial on the merits.
P.P.S. Why police drones aren’t the same thing privacy-wise as police helicopters [ACLU via HuffPo via Amy Alkon](& Bainbridge)
“A Circuit Court judge has ruled that Baltimore County’s contract with its speed camera vendor is illegal, because it pays the company a cut of each citation issued…. Maryland law says that ‘if a contractor operates a speed camera system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid.’ But several jurisdictions, including Baltimore County and Baltimore City, pay their vendors a cut of each ticket, arguing that the jurisdiction, not the company, operates the cameras.” Judge Susan Souder ruled that Xerox State and Local Solutions, which currently “receives about $19 from every $40 ticket,” is indeed involved in the operation of the cameras. Del. Michael Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican, has introduced a bill to repeal the camera program: “We specifically said we’re not going to allow this to happen, and it happened,” he said. [Baltimore Sun, auto-plays video]
San Diego mayor Bob Filner says the city will discontinue its use of traffic cameras now that a contract is expiring. The cameras, which often resulted in $500 fines levied on tourists, produced $1.9 million in gross revenue in fiscal 2011, but the city was left with only $200,000 of that “after paying the officers who issued the tickets, a camera vendor and other costs.” [Union-Tribune]
“The expected amount left over for affected motorists is just $6″ and if motorists don’t file a claim, reversions go to defendant American Traffic Solutions (ATS). “More than 81,000 citations worth $10.2 million were issued in New Jersey through red light camera programs that were not in compliance with state law.” Lawyers who filed the suit are in line to collect $800,000. [The Newspaper; AnnMarie McDonald, NJLRA]
The other day we relayed a report from CBS Baltimore about the town of Westminster’s having disconnected most of its traffic cameras on the ground that they were causing more accidents than they were preventing. However, a Baltimore Sun report contradicts that assertion and quotes town officials saying the cameras had reduced speeding and accidents; it also contradicts assertions in the earlier article on the cameras’ cost.
“Westminster is putting a stop to most of their red light cameras. Police say they may have been causing more accidents than they were preventing.” [CBS Baltimore]
But see: a report in the Baltimore Sun (h/t reader Gitarcarver) directly contradicts the CBS Baltimore account on the town’s reasons for removing the cameras: it quotes a town official as “saying the cameras had, by and large, done their job in helping reduce accidents and red light runners.” It also describes the town’s cost of running three of the cameras as “$137,831 from spring 2011 to spring 2012,” far lower than the number cited in the CBS Baltimore account.
If you don’t pay your traffic-cam tickets, the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico says it will cut off your water and sewer service. [The Newspaper]
A letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel defends traffic-cams on grounds unrelated to the tickets they generate:
I was broadsided by a red-light runner four blocks from my house. …
Shaken and confused, I watched the other driver come out of her car and start screaming that I ran the red light. When bystanders started to gather, she dropped to the ground crying in pain.
Four days after the accident, while I was still dealing with injuries and insurance companies, I received a thick envelope in the mail from an attorney the driver had hired to sue me.
Fortunately, that same day, the city of Orlando produced a video of the accident taken by a red-light camera installed at the intersection. It showed the light had been red for several seconds before the driver entered the intersection. ….
It should be noted that much of the critique of cameras — such as the shortened-yellow problem, the incentive they afford for governments to hammer motorists on relatively minor violations such as rolling right turns under safe conditions, the use of presumptions of guilt to get registered owners to “tell on” family members, and their invitation for further expansion of surveillance — involve changes in the relationship of the citizen to the state, to the latter’s advantage. Like other uses of surveillance cameras, traffic-cams undoubtedly do produce some positive externalities, which should hardly settle the ongoing controversy about their use.