First in the Nation, IowaGOP.org is the premier site for Republicans of Iowa

Get Updates



Twenty Reasons to Oppose Traffic Enforcement Cameras

camerax-topper-medium

State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) filed a number of bills related to traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa.  He said his ultimate goal is to ban them outright some of the bills do things like place a limit on the amount a driver can be fined or placing the fines collected in a state fund that finances road and bridges (taking the incentive away from municipalities to install them as a source of revenue).

I believe it is a good idea to ban them, and I wanted to share objections from the National Motorists Association to both red light cameras and speed cameras since they frame the argument in a way that is hard to improve upon.

Objections to Red Light Cameras:

1) Ticket cameras do not improve safety.
Despite the claims of companies that sell ticket cameras and provide related services, there is no independent verification that photo enforcement devices improve highway safety, reduce overall accidents, or improve traffic flow. Believing the claims of companies that sell photo enforcement equipment or municipalities that use this equipment is like believing any commercial produced by a company that is trying to sell you something.

2) There is no certifiable witness to the alleged violation.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may also take a thousand words to explain what the picture really means. Even in those rare instances where a law enforcement officer is overseeing a ticket camera, it is highly unlikely that the officer would recall the supposed violation. For all practical purposes, there is no “accuser” for motorists to confront, which is a constitutional right. There is no one that can personally testify to the circumstances of the alleged violation, and just because a camera unit was operating properly when it was set up does not mean it was operating properly when the picture was taken of any given vehicle.

3) Ticket recipients are not adequately notified.
Most governments using ticket cameras send out tickets via first class mail. There is no guarantee that the accused motorists will even receive the ticket, let alone understands it and know how to respond. However, the government makes the assumption that the ticket was received. If motorists fail to pay, it is assumed that they did so on purpose, and a warrant may be issued for their arrest.

4) The driver of the vehicle is not positively identified.
Typically, the photos taken by these cameras do not identify the driver of the offending vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is mailed the ticket, even if the owner was not driving the vehicle and may not know who was driving at the time. The owner of the vehicle is then forced to prove his or her innocence, often by identifying the actual diver who may be a family member, friend or employee.

5) Ticket recipients are not notified quickly.
People may not receive citations until days or sometimes weeks after the alleged violation. This makes it very difficult to defend oneself because it would be hard to remember the circumstances surrounding the supposed violation. There may have been a reason that someone would be speeding or in an intersection after the light turned red. Even if the photo was taken in error, it may be very hard to recall the day in question.

6) These devices discourage the synchronization of traffic lights.
When red light cameras are used to make money for local governments, these governments are unlikely to jeopardize this income source. This includes traffic-light synchronization, which is the elimination of unneeded lights and partial deactivation of other traffic lights during periods of low traffic. When properly done, traffic-light synchronization decreases congestion, pollution, and fuel consumption.

7) Cameras do not prevent most intersection accidents.
Intersection accidents are just that, accidents. Motorists do not casually drive through red lights. More likely, they do not see a given traffic light because they are distracted, impaired, or unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even the most flagrant of red light violators will not drive blithely into a crowded intersection, against the light. Putting cameras on poles and taking pictures will not stop these kinds of accidents.

8) There are better alternatives to cameras.
If intersection controls are properly engineered, installed, and operated, there will be very few red light violations. From the motorists’ perspective, government funds should be used on improving intersections, not on ticket cameras. Even in instances where cameras were shown to decrease certain types of accidents, they increased other accidents. Simple intersection and signal improvements can have lasting positive effects, without negative consequences. Cities can choose to make intersections safer with sound traffic engineering or make money with ticket cameras. Unfortunately, many pick money over safety.

9) Ticket camera systems are designed to inconvenience motorists.
Under the guise of protecting motorist privacy, the court or private contractor that sends out tickets often refuses to send a copy of the photo to the accused vehicle owner. This is really because many of the photos do not clearly depict the driver or the driver is obviously not the vehicle owner. Typically, the vehicle owner is forced to travel to a courthouse or municipal building to even see the photograph, an obvious and deliberate inconvenience meant to discourage ticket challenges.

10) Taking dangerous drivers’ pictures doesn’t stop them.
Photo enforcement devices do not apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or otherwise dangerous drivers. A fugitive could fly through an intersection at 100 mph and not even get his picture taken, as long as the light was green!

Objections to Speed Cameras:

1) Photo radar is still radar, and it can generate false readings.
Radar is not perfect. Unlike other normal tickets, citations resulting from cameras do not have a tracking history or a visual estimation by a qualified officer to back them up. Thousands of tickets can be generated between routine maintenance and calibration inspections, potentially resulting in just as many faulty readings.

2) This type of enforcement emphasizes ticket volume.
Despite claims to the contrary, photo radar is used in locations characterized by high traffic volume and under-posted speed limits. It is not profitable to use photo radar on residential streets, low volume roads or where speed limits are posted at the 85th percentile (the speed at which they should be posted).

3) Ticket cameras are very inaccurate on certain roads.
Tests done by the University of Virginia found that fewer than three percent of the photos taken of vehicles on Interstate-type roads provided a clear image of a single vehicle, the license plate number and the driver. Photo radar should not be used on high-speed, multi-lane highways. Yet, some greedy cities still use it on these types of roads.

4) Photo radar encourages artificially low speed limits.
In areas where proper speed limits have been set according to the 85th percentile (the speed at or below which 85 percent of traffic is flowing), cameras could only make money if their tolerance threshold was very low, such as one or two miles per hour over the speed limit. Politically, this is not acceptable, nor will the courts support this kind of enforcement. The only option is to put the photo radar on roads with unreasonably low speed limits, and then make sure the limits stay low.

5) Ticket cameras do not improve safety.
Despite the claims of companies that sell ticket cameras and provide related services, there is no independent verification that photo enforcement devices improve highway safety, reduce overall accidents, or improve traffic flow. Believing the claims of companies that sell photo enforcement equipment or municipalities that use this equipment is like believing any commercial produced by a company that is trying to sell you something.

6) There is no certifiable witness to the alleged violation.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may also take a thousand words to explain what the picture really means. Even in those rare instances where a law enforcement officer is overseeing a ticket camera, it is highly unlikely that the officer would recall the supposed violation. For all practical purposes, there is no “accuser” for motorists to confront, which is a constitutional right. There is no one that can personally testify to the circumstances of the alleged violation, and just because a camera unit was operating properly when it was set up does not mean it was operating properly when the picture was taken of any given vehicle.

7) Ticket recipients are not adequately notified.
Most governments using ticket cameras send out tickets via first class mail. There is no guarantee that the accused motorists will even receive the ticket, let alone understand it and know how to respond. However, the government makes the assumption that the ticket was received. If motorists fail to pay, it is assumed that they did so on purpose, and a warrant may be issued for their arrest.

8) The driver of the vehicle is not positively identified.
Typically, the photos taken by these cameras do not identify the driver of the offending vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is mailed the ticket, even if the owner was not driving the vehicle and may not know who was driving at the time. The owner of the vehicle is then forced to prove his or her innocence, often by identifying the actual driver who may be a family member, friend or employee.

9) Ticket recipients are not notified quickly.
People may not receive citations until days or sometimes weeks after the alleged violation. This makes it very difficult to defend oneself because it would be hard to remember the circumstances surrounding the supposed violation. There may have been a reason that someone would be speeding or in an intersection after the light turned red. Even if the photo was taken in error, it may be very hard to recall the day in question.

10) Ticket camera systems are designed to inconvenience motorists.
Under the guise of protecting motorist privacy, the court or private contractor that sends out tickets often refuses to send a copy of the photo to the accused vehicle owner. This is really because many of the photos do not clearly depict the driver or the driver is obviously not the vehicle owner. Typically, the vehicle owner is forced to travel to a courthouse or municipal building to even see the photograph, an obvious and deliberate inconvenience meant to discourage ticket challenges.

The primary objection is that these cameras do not improve safety and their sole purpose if municipalities were honest with you is to generate revenue.  Not to mention it is a liberty issue because you do not have a right to face your accuser when you receive a ticket in the mail.

I hope that the Iowa Legislature acts to ban traffic enforcement cameras in the state.


Tags: , , , , , ,