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The real problem with red light cameras

The city of Beaverton, Oregon is locally renowned
for diligent enforcement of traffic laws. Between traffic officers and red light cameras, more than
33,000 citations were issued last year.  

For
comparison, that’s more tickets than the much larger cities of Salem or Eugene
issued – and more than the similarly-sized Hillsboro and Gresham combined.

A share of
the revenue from those tickets goes to Redflex Traffic Systems. And now the
company has a contract to install cameras at 22 more intersection approaches,
according to The Oregonian.
 
That’s more than double the number of existing cameras.

Beaverton pays the company $40 for every red light
ticket issued.

There is a
good public safety case for red light cameras. Drivers running red lights are a
primary cause of intersection accidents.  The very existence of red light cameras is proven
to reduce right-angle (left-turn) car accidents – although there is evidence that rear-end collisions
increase
.

The problem
is that a high car crash rate in any given intersection could be a sign of an engineering
problem that should be addressed with design adjustments, or light timing.

And a
private business profiting from traffic tickets has no incentive to address the
underlying problems contributing to traffic hazards.

While red
light cameras continue to generate revenue and the rate of intersection
accidents is reduced in some areas,  the
underlying safety issues with street design, pedestrian signals, etc. are just
never addressed. 

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