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