Letter to the Editor on Red Light Camera Issues

January 3, 2016

letter-envelope-clip-artTo St. Mary’s County Officials,

As you consider whether to use red light cameras or not, please consider these facts.

1) Red light cameras and the officials that support them will be despised by both your residents and your visitors.

2) Red light cameras do serious damage to the local economies where they are used. They significantly reduce economic turnover and sales for businesses in the local area, which ultimately damages employment prospects for those businesses and the local tax base. The Federal Reserve calculates the “Velocity of Money” at about six, meaning $1,000 spent on January 1st will circulate about six times to produce about $6,000 in total turnover by December 31st.

Red light cameras typically lease for $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera, or on average $4,500 x 12 = $54,000 per year. That $54,000 likely goes to an out of state for-profit camera company, leaving the local economy permanently.  Your local businesses, their employees, and ultimately your tax base lose about $54,000 x 6 = $324,000 of total turnover that cannot happen in your area because the money is gone to another state.  Multiply $324,000 times the number of cameras you might consider, to see the total economic damage cameras can do to the St. Mary’s County economy if you adopt them.

3) In almost every case, if you have a red light violation problem you can reduce violation rates and crashes by MORE than the cameras can achieve by simply adding one second to the yellow intervals on the lights.  That simple change will almost always drop violation rates by 70% to 90%, making the cameras unnecessary, and contrary to false statements by camera vendors those lower violation rates do NOT rebound over time.  Engineering is far more effective to reduce violations than enforcement – and this safety gain is free to the community.

4) Red light cameras often increase the crash rates at camera intersections, which is one strong reason for item 1) above.

5) Red light camera programs are on the decline in the USA, in part due to items 1) through 4) above. There are more than 100 fewer programs today compared to years past.  The results are most dramatic in California where some 76 communities have ended red light camera programs or banned them before any were used including: Anaheim, Arleta, Baldwin Park, Bell Gardens, Belmont, Berkeley, Burlingame, City of Orange, Compton, Corona, Costa Mesa, Cupertino, Davis, East LA, El Cajon, El Monte, Emeryville, Escondido, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Gardena, Glendale, Grand Terrace, Hayward, Highland, Indian Wells, Inglewood, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lancaster, Loma Linda, Long Beach, City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Manteca, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Newport Beach, Oakland, Oceanside, Paramount, Pasadena, Poway, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Redwood City, Riverside, Rocklin, Roseville, Rowland Heights, San Bernardino, San Carlos, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, San Rafael, Santa Ana, Santa Clarita, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, South Gate, South San Francisco, South Whittier, Stockton, Union City, Upland, Victorville, Walnut, Westminster, Whittier, Yuba City, Yucaipa. There are now only 33 active camera programs in a state which once had over 100 active programs.

The entire city of New Jersey dropped red light cameras in December 2014 after a failed five year pilot program that did not produce safety results.  Several states now make red light cameras illegal, and several more are considering legislation to that effect.

While applying the simple engineering changes that reduce violations and crashes will not bring the county any camera ticket revenue that the vendors may have been promising, they will produce more safety and zero backlash from your residents and visitors.

Please consider this alternative very carefully before you install any red light cameras.

Respectfully submitted,

James C. Walker
Life Member, National Motorists Association
Board Member and Executive Director, National Motorists Association Foundation
2050 Camelot Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

7 Responses to Letter to the Editor on Red Light Camera Issues

  1. Anonymous on January 4, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    I agree, adding a second or two to the caution is all that is needed. No Red Light Cameras for St. Mary’s Please…..

  2. Sam C. on January 4, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Maria Morgan was the third driver to drive through the green light when she was murdered. How would a red light or speed camera have saved her?
    I don’t know if there was ever an explanation by the driver of the pickup truck,that hit Ms. Morgan, why she didn’t stop. Whether alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, running from the law/someone else, impaired vision/intelligence, a sudden physical problem or just being a bad driver was the actual cause, the proposed solutions won’t prevent further accidents such as that one.

  3. Gary Tice on January 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Agree to all above. I would just add the cost of the ticket would be spent in Md. most likely. But you won’t have that to spend. Also they are inherently unconstitutional.

  4. eugene 301 on January 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Mr. Walker: The cost and expense that you speak of are only directed at the red light camera system. So if it cost $54k for a light, compare what it cost in medical care for the unfortunate victims of these tragic accidents. Go to the Trauma Center in Baltimore and then come back and make your case. Much of that cost falls on the innocent families and much is paid for by the funding provided by the State of Maryland taxpayers. We are fortunate to have such a great EMS, MEDVAC and Trauma system in Maryland but it cost a lot of money. Much of those cost are a direct result of red light runners and speeding drivers.

    • Sam C on January 6, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      But since when will either a red light or speed camera prevent distracted driving?
      That is like believing the TSA has stopped terrorists from causing another 9/11.

      Sad that logic is rarely used when deciding important decisions as implementing this type of enforcement administered by companies which have been convicted of bribery of local officials, when no improvement of safety has occurred and, in fact, when safety has been diminished.

      And sadly Maria Morgan still would have been hit as others will be if red light cameras were or are installed. A distracted driver is not paying attention to driving safely.

      • eugene301 on January 7, 2016 at 11:33 am

        I said nothing about distracted drivers, it is about cost of camera system paid for by fines for people who run red lights or the cost for unfortunate victims who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical care and sometimes millions because some idiot is in such a hurry that he runs a red light. So do we have the person who violates the law pay or does the victim and taxpayers pay that cost. $54k sounds like a bargain.

        • James C. Walker on January 8, 2016 at 11:54 am

          The $54,000 MIGHT be a bargain if it actually prevented the serious injuries and fatalities. But since simple engineering changes to the lights and intersections will do MORE to improve safety than the cameras, it is not a bargain. And the loss of up to $324,000 of sales with local businesses over a year for EACH camera really hurts the local economy. We have great trauma centers in many cities in Michigan – and the use of red light or speed cameras is illegal under state law. Bills were introduced in 2013 to bring the cameras to Michigan. The combined opposition from the Police Officers Association of Michigan, the ACLU, the National Motorists Association, the judges association, the Mackinac Center think tank, Abate, skeptical editorials in both major Detroit Papers, the Campaign for Liberty and others — caused the bills to be withdrawn. Maryland is a serial offender in using ticket cameras for profits, not safety. Maryland would be safer without the cameras – and with proper engineering of the lights and speed limits for safety. Note that I have relatives in MD and visit frequently.
          James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association