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Los Angeles To Turn Off Traffic-Light Cameras

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the we-too-love-ponca-city dept.

Crime 367

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that the Los Angeles Police Commission has voted to kill the city's controversial red-light camera program, rejecting claims that the system makes streets safer while costing the city nothing. The police department says the cameras help reduce accidents, largely by deterring drivers looking to run red lights or make illegal turns while critics of the technology question officials' accident data, saying the cameras instead cause rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes and liken the cameras to Big Brother tactics designed to generate revenues. More than 180,000 motorists have received camera-issued tickets since the program started in 2004 but the commission estimates that the program costs between $4 million and $5 million each year while bringing in only about $3.5 million annually. Members of the public who attended the meeting urged the commission to do away with the cameras, which trigger seemingly boundless frustration and anger among drivers in traffic-obsessed LA. 'It's something that angers me every time I get in my car,' says Hollywood resident Christina Heller. 'These cameras remove our fundamental right in this country to confront our accuser. And they do not do anything to improve safety.'"

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Protip: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398706)

If you're annoyed by red light tickets, don't run red lights.

Re:Protip: (2)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398720)

this

i see people run red lights literally 5 seconds or more after it turns red. plenty of time to stop. i laugh every time i see someone run a red light and get caught.

in NYC they made this the equivalent of a parking ticket so it goes against the car. kind of like a lien on real property making it easier to stick someone with a fine instead of proving who actually ran the light. lesson is don't lend your car to someone who will run red lights

Re:Protip: (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398804)

I think it always works better in NYC because it's pretty rare that speeds are such that slamming on the breaks will actually cause a rear end and the plus side is saving pedestrian lives. As somebody who mainly walks in Manhattan I am all for them.

Re:Protip: (3, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398794)

Actually, there are certain situations where it's legal to run a red light because of safety concerns. The summary even mentions one: When slamming on your brakes (to stop in time for the light) would cause an accident.

But of course, the camera doesn't capture the scenario, just the fact that you ran a red light.

Some places have even been accused of shortening the yellow light to catch more people running reds. I don't know if these allegations were proven, but I do know that I've seen some ridiculously short yellows.

Re:Protip: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398846)

http://blog.motorists.org/6-cities-that-were-caught-shortening-yellow-light-times-for-profit/
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20002210-71.html
http://www.shortyellowlights.com/ChillicotheRLCStudy.pdf
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu2CGFve2Z8
http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/30/3074.asp

Re:Protip: (1, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398894)

that's why we have yellow lights to warn you of a red light coming up. of course if you're going 20 over the limit it means you have to slam your breaks

LA - a large red light district? (2, Funny)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398708)

Does this mean that LA is or was a large red light district?

Re:LA - a large red light district? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398764)

Come on you could have come up with a better joke.

Re:LA - a large red light district? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398826)

Possibly, but why?

Meanwhile, in Switzerland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398716)

Bilderburg Group members are slithering into their compound slouched down in their limo or covering their face with a newspaper so they can plot their destruction of nations and furtherance of a single world government in complete anonymity.

Confront your accuser? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398736)

These cameras remove our fundamental right in this country to confront our accuser.

Whatever the other arguments are, this one is stupid. It's a photograph of you running a red light. What's to confront? She either means that it removes your right to try to intimidate (or otherwise coerce) an officer into not issuing a ticket, or that it removes your right to most of the time get away with dangerous driving. Neither of these is a right.

Re:Confront your accuser? (5, Insightful)

headhot (137860) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398808)

1. Its not a picture of you. Its a picture of a car and its license plate.
2. The plate is read with OCR, sometimes its wrong.
3. How do you know the camera is set up correctly? How do you know the timing is correct?
4. How about extenuating circumstances. In DC, I moved out of the way of an ambulance, into the intersection. That triggered the red light camera. Then I was blocking traffic, so the safest thing to do was continue with an illegal right on red. I got 2 tickets. The camera could not testify to any of this happening, where a cop would have been able to.

Re:Confront your accuser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398932)

1. So you provide the police with a statement of who was the driver at that moment. And he/she signs it and assumes responsibility.
2. The picture is in the traffic ticket to be reviewed by a human (it's usually very high-res in most cities)
3. How do you know your pace maker is set up correctly? How do you know the timing is correct? How do you trust any computer system, eg. traffic air control?
4. Witnesses, police incident logs, ambulance logs. Provide evidence.. take the trouble to help a step further.

Re:Confront your accuser? (3, Informative)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398950)

1. There are multiple videos taken. Intersection/context of the violation (you crossing the line with the light red), front (including face), rear, and of the red light. If you still feel that it's not you driving the car, then you fill out the affidavit of non-liability on the back of the ticket that is mailed to you.
2. Then challenge it. If the plate doesn't match, or is ambiguous enough that the OCR is incorrect, other evidence likely supports it. While statistically still possible, the likelihood that the make, model, style, and color match between two similar plates is pretty low.
3. Since there is a video taken from multiple cameras, and the vehicle is shown from multiple angles along with the red light, setup or timing issues may happen, but are also easily reviewed. Which is why you can request to have the video reviewed with an officer.
4. Review it with an officer. If there are extenuating circumstances, it would be shown on the video. Or take it to trial.

Re:Confront your accuser? (1)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399038)

2. Then challenge it...

Usually you can't challenge until later. This is the problem with the cameras (at least where I live in Chicagoland). You are essentially guilty by default. They expect you to pay no matter what without a trial. You can appeal, however it is already after you have paid the ticket. I think that they get around the whole PITA 6th amendment thing because it is not a 'crime' per se, but rather an administrative issue when you are caught. If you choose not to pay the fine, then they will send bill collectors to try and collect against you until you pay the fine.

Re:Confront your accuser? (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399134)

>>>1. There are multiple videos taken.

Which are often destroyed by the police in order to Make more money off fines.

I found this part of the article interesting. It shows you can't trust studies from Insurance companies: "A few studies show a decrease in accidents, funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a trade group for the insurance industry. Insurers tend to profit from red light cameras, because revenues go up with increased citations and accidents." - They also profit by claiming speeding is dangerous when it's not the speeders that cause accidents (it's the reckless lane changers that drive like it's a race).

Re:Confront your accuser? (3, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399336)

It shows you can't trust studies from Insurance companies: "A few studies show a decrease in accidents, funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a trade group for the insurance industry. Insurers tend to profit from red light cameras, because revenues go up with increased citations and accidents." - They also profit by claiming speeding is dangerous when it's not the speeders that cause accidents (it's the reckless lane changers that drive like it's a race).

Insurance companies are in the business of betting against having to pay a claim. In order to prevent these payouts, insurance companies routinely look for ways to make improvements in safety and survivability in crashes. The IIHS not only encourage better law enforcement in order to lower the number of careless drivers, they also lobby against bad automotive designs like those spare tires that hang on the back of SUVs which causes large dollar amount damages if the SUV was involved in a parking lot fender bender.

This isn't some shadowy conspiracy group. It just so happens that what benefits the insurance companies also benefit us.

As for your other assertions, I haven't seen any data that explicitly states that speeding is safe. I have seen data that shows that speeding is one of the causes listed for auto accidents. Insurance companies profit from red light cameras because the total of accidents at intersections is predicted to go down which lowers the amount of money they have to pay out. They get way more profit from not having to pay on an auto policy during that fiscal year than they could ever collect from that single driver with a higher insurance rate. Not to mention, higher insurance rates occur after the insurance company paid a claim and therefore this higher rate is used to not only compensate for a loss in investment (it is a numbers game) but also apparent increase in risk. My auto insurance policy does not automatically increase in cost after an accident. My daughter totaled one of my cars, so I am thankful for that. Anyway, I just don't see how this "red light conspiracy" could even be profitable.

Re:Confront your accuser? (1)

archer, the (887288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399022)

*nod* A still camera shouldn't be used for a red light system, unless it's supplemented by a video camera. The video could be reviewed by a human to verify things such as correct plate ID or extenuating circumstances.

While the image is just a vehicle, the owner should know who was driving the vehicle at the time. As such, I could see fines being OK, but nothing that goes on the owner's record. The owner can get the fine reimbursed from whoever actually ran the light.

As for how one knows if the camera is installed correctly, the field of view should include the traffic light. Then the video can show the light changing, and the vehicle entering the intersection.

WRT timing, that isn't as simple. The only thing I can think of to do would be to remind people that it's better to run the light and fight it in court, than to get rear-ended. That's not an easy task, however.

However, all of this costs. Has anyone checked the data to see if the rear-end collisions are "cheaper" than t-bone collisions? (E.g. less medical expense, less time recuperating, etc...)

Re:Confront your accuser? (2)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399102)

A still camera shouldn't be used for a red light system, unless it's supplemented by a video camera. The video could be reviewed by a human to verify things such as correct plate ID or extenuating circumstances.

Which is exactly how it's done in my town. And you get sent a link to the video that you can review with your fine... just ask my wife. Why do the GP and GGP assume that it's not that way in LA?

Re:Confront your accuser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399348)

Why do you assume it IS that way. Your anecdotal evidence doesn't mean butpkis buddy.

Re:Confront your accuser? (3, Interesting)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399052)

1. Its not a picture of you. Its a picture of a car and its license plate.

I do not know of USA, but here if the driver cannot be identified then the owner is legally responsible of the fines. Of course, if he can prove that someone else was the driver it then gets passed to the driver. Apart from theft, it is pretty sure to say that the owner knows who was driving the car and can discuss the matter with him.

2. The plate is read with OCR, sometimes its wrong.

I am pretty sure you can ask for the picture to check it yourself and correct the OCR. It would be better if the fines were served with a printout of the picture attached to it, to simplify things (I do not know if this is done or not).

3. How do you know the camera is set up correctly? How do you know the timing is correct?

The only thing that should really matter if is the camera is only triggered while the light is red (v.g., by the cable that powers the red light runs through the camera and activates it). Way better if the camera is set so you see in the picture both the car and the red light.

About the settings, I think these cameras must be networked. And if not, when the crew in charge of downloading the pics come, they must check that evertything is ok. Anyway, if the camera date/time is incorrectly set, it can only benefit you ("but your honour, if the date/time is not set correctly I can not verify this proof so it must be invalidated").

4. How about extenuating circumstances. In DC, I moved out of the way of an ambulance, into the intersection. That triggered the red light camera. Then I was blocking traffic, so the safest thing to do was continue with an illegal right on red. I got 2 tickets. The camera could not testify to any of this happening, where a cop would have been able to.

I agree with that, a limitation of automatic systems is that they do what they are programmed to do, without any common sense. For your case it might have been possible to ask for the previous pictures from the camera to check your story, but even winning that would mean a lot more work than explaining to a cop (provided that the cop had not seen it himself).

Re:Confront your accuser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399144)

It's like a parking ticket: the owner is responsible for the ticket even if they did not leave the car next to the fire hydrant.

Re:Confront your accuser? (3, Informative)

sargon666777 (555498) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399070)

I cant speak for LA, but I know in Philadelphia the move on most of the lights between green - yellow - red was roughly 1 second of yellow... its almost impossible to not run a red light there...There actually are several cities other than Philly who have intentionally shortened duration of the yellow light to get more of these tickets.

Re:Confront your accuser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399324)

in my country, camera confront accuser!

It's not making money (2)

paradxum (67051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398756)

"the commission estimates that the program costs between $4 million and $5 million each year while bringing in only about $3.5 million annually."

So it's not making money. Surprising and rare (since red light cameras are generally a cash-cow), but I'd guess that's the main reason to kill it. If it were making $10 a year I bet they'd keep it going.

Re:It's not making money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398832)

Kudos to them for not just raising the fines or shortening the yellows. (as some towns have done)

Re:It's not making money (2)

dave024 (1204956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399220)

The fine is already $476. If they can't make money with the fine they should just give up.

Re:It's not making money (2)

Bloodwine77 (913355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398916)

I think it is a cash cow for the traffic light camera companies and not the cities, and that more and more cities are just now waking up to that fact.

I'd like to say that some cities are doing away with traffic light cameras because it is the right thing to do, but the reality is that they really don't make much money (if at all) from the system.

Re:It's not making money (3, Insightful)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399120)

So it's not making money.

I'm not really clear on why that's part of the decision. Since when does anything the police do have to turn a profit?

Re:It's not making money (2, Informative)

IMightB (533307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399274)

Since the entire system was pitched to them as a way to

1) Increase revenues
2) Reduce police workload
3) Make intersections safer

It does none of those things and evidently costs the city money annually on top of that. The only things that they do seem to do is

1) Make money for operators
2) Piss off everyone else.
3) Erode your rights

Red light accidents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398782)

Accidents at red lights are usually caused by carelessness, drunk driving, or some other obvious problem that no camera is going to fix. Whoever is doing something like that is outside running through the light like it isn't there, they don't care about a camera.

People that sneak through a light right after it changes or whatever rarely cause accidents. Not that they should be doing that because it's dangerous and can cause an accident, it's just must less likely to cause an accident.

Re:Red light accidents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399286)

Accidents at red lights are usually caused by carelessness, drunk driving, or some other obvious problem that no camera is going to fix.

Are you sure about that now? [bbc.co.uk]

A campaign to cut criminal behaviour on level crossings reveals that more than a quarter of offenders were women aged 50-65.

Those damn middle aged women just wont listen to reason!

tradeoffs (2)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398784)

the cameras instead cause rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes

So which is better, a rear-end collision outside the intersection, or a broadside collision inside the intersection?

Re:tradeoffs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398838)

Lengthening the yellow light, which reduces accidents of all kinds.

Re:tradeoffs (2)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399036)

Actually, lengthening the yellow light probably increases running red lights as people think they have more time to get through. The better way to reduce accidents is to increase the all-red time of the intersection.

Re:tradeoffs (5, Informative)

paintballer1087 (910920) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399110)

Actually, lengthening the yellow light probably increases running red lights as people think they have more time to get through. The better way to reduce accidents is to increase the all-red time of the intersection. *citation needed*

Actually in a test done in California, lengthening the yellow lights by 1 second reduced left turn violations by 80% to 85%, and reduced straight through violations by 92%. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/30/3055.asp [thenewspaper.com]

Re:tradeoffs (1, Informative)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399076)

But this causes less tickets. So cities shorten the yellow light instead.

Then this causes real, significant risk to human lives:

HOW do you make way for an ambulance? There is no proof to defend you, and even if there was (say, ambulance logs) obtaining them is a great hassle and will probably cost more (in lost work time) than the ticket. So, drivers aware of that will just flip a bird to the ambulance driver and wait patiently for the red light while the accident victim dies in the ambulance.

Re:tradeoffs (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399234)

No, that just makes it more likely that people will try to zip through since they perceive it as having more time. What you actually want to increase is the delay between when one light goes red and the other goes green.

Re:tradeoffs (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398874)

A better question, in this context, would be: Which is better, fifty rear-end collisions outside the intersection, or five broadside collisions inside the intersection?

Re:tradeoffs (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399098)

or one casualty in an ambulance, because the driver could not make way.

Re:tradeoffs (3, Insightful)

eam (192101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398954)

It's a bullshit question. Read-end collisions are caused by idiots hitting you from behind. It's not like they wouldn't have hit you if you stopped for some other reason.

However, ultimately the question is not whether they prevent accidents, bring in revenue, or make the sun shine brighter. The only question to answer is do the voters want them. If the majority of people (not the majority of people complaining, but the majority of people voting) want them, then they should stay. If they don't, then they should go.

Re:tradeoffs (2)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399236)

Another person who believes in democracy. I don't know what local and state laws are, but most are set up as a republican form of government. In other words, it doesn't matter how many people support something if it violates your individual rights. I don't care if 99% of people support censorship if it's forbidden in the constitution. So the real question is, does having red light cameras violate your individual rights?

Re:tradeoffs (1)

Japher (887294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398980)

It depends on the frequency of each occurrence and your definition of "better". I would bet that one mid intersection collision is, on average no worse than two rear end collisions. Whiplash can kill, and it doesn't take much to total a car.

Facing your accuser (5, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398796)

'These cameras remove our fundamental right in this country to confront our accuser.

The accuser is the local government. The evidence is the red light camera's photo.

If you robbed a bank, or shot someone, and it was photographed or recorded, you wouldn't be arguing that the evidence was inadmissible because you couldn't challenge the camera.

You can challenge a camera (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398876)

Your argument is incredibly naive or indicative of some sort of bias. Is your argument that the automated sensors attached to the camera are flawless? I suppose just like the sensors that detect a car at a light and change it to green that I've been stuck at forever. Beyond this, these cameras create danger instead of remove it. Since they are only designed to fire when someone enters the intersection after the light is red it naturally makes people either floor it or slam on their brakes when they see a yellow light. Let's be honest -- these aren't for safety, they're for revenue.

Re:Facing your accuser (1)

WhirlwindMonk (1975382) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398920)

Except you get taken to court for those crimes. Red light cameras just result in you getting a ticket mailed to you with the expectation you'll pay. You want to fight the decision? You get to pay anyway, both court fees and with your time. Imagine if those bank cameras had facial recognition software that compared to a database of citizens, and the computer claiming a "match" was all that was necessary to throw you in prison without a trial.

Re:Facing your accuser (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399198)

Look at it this way. You get taken to court for those crimes and for red-light camera offences. You want to fight the charges? You get to pay anyway, both court fees and with your time. The only difference with red-light camera offences is that you get an alternative, cheaper way out if you want to take it.

Re:Facing your accuser (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398940)

The problem with red light cameras is lack of context; the camera triggers because you were in the intersection during a defined time period, but it doesn't know and cannot see *why* you were in the intersection at that time.

Re:Facing your accuser (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399218)

Either you blew through the light which is illegal or you were forced into it via an accident, which would counter the ticket due to the accident report.

Re:Facing your accuser (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399164)

If your robbed a bank or shot someone the photograph would be 1 piece of evidence. If I sent a picture of a guy holding a gun inside of a bank, that alone is not enough evidence to convict, it would involve the testimony and a few witnesses. Context is key in any situations and charging people for crimes that are detected through an algorithm and a single still photograph, is not a fair system.

Re:Facing your accuser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399202)

Because in that case,the BANK is the accuser, not the camera.

Re:Facing your accuser (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399266)

But there would be OTHER evidence. And no one was robbed or shot, this is about a minor traffic offense.

What's the deal-o ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398806)

You see a red-light, STOP!

You're driving, keep distance and pay attention.

You didn't stop a red light? Besides being against the law, you risk other peoples lives.

"""These cameras remove our fundamental right in this country to confront our accuser.""" -- How are you going to confront a picture of you running a red light? If you were making passage for a ambulance or policy vehicle, there will be witnesses and incident logs.

Re:What's the deal-o ? (1)

WhirlwindMonk (1975382) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398956)

How are you going to confront a picture of you running a red light?

That's kind of the point they're trying to make. You can't, despite having a right to do so.

If you were making passage for a ambulance or policy vehicle, there will be witnesses and incident logs.

So you get to take a day off work to go into a court room, demand that the GPS logs of the emergency vehicles in that area be retrieved (assuming they even exist), show that your ticket was at the same time the emergency vehicle was going through, hope that the judge believes you that you really were making room and not just taking advantage of all the stopped traffic, and even if you do get out of the ticket, possibly have to pay court fees. All of which could be avoided if it were a cop on the corner instead of a camera. Sounds like a plan to me!

Re:What's the deal-o ? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398982)

That's just not the way traffic works. Traffic of any area has a personality of its own. The personality of traffic is a composition of the various moods and mindsets of the people behind the wheel. You can't "logic" or "reason" your way through a problem with a mob. And traffic is a mob. You might see a collection of individuals, but they are no more individual than a flock of birds.

When you learn to understand those dynamics and you will be closer to a real solution to any of the problems you see.

And keep in mind, people while driving are not the same people you meet on the street or at work or even at home. If you can't see that much, then I dare say you have not driven very long.

Re:What's the deal-o ? (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399226)

"How are you going to confront a picture of you running a red light? If you were making passage for a ambulance or policy vehicle, there will be witnesses and incident logs." What event logs, what witnesses? You are talking at an intersection of which the person moving for the ambulance may or may not have even noticed the camera when being forced to move. Are you implying the ambulance speeding by has someone in the passenger seat taking notes "Just cut off a guy with the license plate A123-456 please submit this to court so they don't write him a ticket". Or after doing that you round up all the other cars that saw what happened and say "when I get this in the mail, come to court with me to testify that I didn't run the red light".

Re:What's the deal-o ? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399322)

"If you were making passage for a ambulance or policy vehicle, there will be witnesses and incident logs."

witnesses that they won't bother to find and incident logs that will be "unavailable" until after you go to court.

Not the Only Place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398816)

The town I live in did the same, largely due to resident backlash. Cities love them for the revenue... end of story, really.

Last I'd heard, any supposed safety benefits had been completely debunked. I'll leave it to someone else to cite that claim.

Re:Not the Only Place (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398962)

The town I live in recently installed speed cameras for a couple school zones. They claim it's about safety, so I want to see the before- and after-camera statistics - how many pedestrians were saved from injury? Are incidents of other accidents on the rise? I suspect that information doesn't exist, though. (I got a ticket from one of them on a holiday. They're allowed to keep them on year-round, whether school is in session or not.)

If they really believe it's about safety, then they should prove it by donating any revenue above the cost of operation to a non-profit fund (perhaps for victims of accidents) or something similar.

Business of government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398818)

the program costs between $4 million and $5 million each year while bringing in only about $3.5 million annually

When you're spending other people's money, the rules of finance are different. If a government program costs $5 million and brings in $3.5 million, the net total is +8.5 million, NOT -2.5 million. That's $8.5 million worth of cash flow passing through the top of the pyramid. $8.5 million worth of leverage for the elite who have the ability to exploit that cash flow for personal gain.

Again, when you're spending other people's money, there is no such thing as a financial loss -- only in lip service.

Traffic Light Safety (4, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398820)

I always thought a good idea would be to put a yellow line in the road before a traffic light to indicate that if you are travelling the speed limit and are beyond this line and the light turns yellow you can safely make it through the light. If you have not passed the line than you should stop for the light.

Re:Traffic Light Safety (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398912)

How do you account for different vehicles with different weights, braking distances, etc? It's like the yellow "suggested speed" signs they use on curves, etc. They're really only a good guideline for a small subset of vehicles (usually trucks or other top-heavy vehicles). A better idea imo is to do what I do... know the vehicle you're driving and as you approach each traffic light, pick a spot to say to yourself "If it's not yellow by the time I reach this point, I'm going to keep going". That way there's no split second decision on whether to slam on the brakes or go.

Re:Traffic Light Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399142)

How do you account for different vehicles with different weights, braking distances, etc?

You don't. Every vehicle going the speed limit drives the same fixed distance in the time between the green and the red (i.e. yellow). If you're further away from the light when it turns yellow, then you won't reach the intersection before the light turns red. If you're closer when it turns yellow, then driving at the speed limit means you'll reach the intersection before red.

This concept is implemented at some intersections in Germany: Additional lights some distance from the intersection flash yellow when you won't reach the intersection before red. See the flashing yellow -> stop at the intersection.

Re:Traffic Light Safety (4, Insightful)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399158)

Physics fail. It has nothing to do with vehicle size and weight. If you're traveling at 45 mph and you reach the yellow line when the light goes yellow, you can make it through the light before it turns red. If your truck is too big to stop that fast.... you shouldn't be driving that fast.

Re:Traffic Light Safety (1)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398922)

I'd have to agree... but here in New England, yellow means the following: punch it. Would it vary by state where they put the line?

Re:Traffic Light Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399100)

Here in Philly, green means go, yellow means floor it, and if it just turned red or is about to turn green, then go while giving everyone else the finger. What we really need is for police to enforce the traffic laws. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people blatantly run red lights in front of cops. I can remember exactly one incident when I saw someone actually get pulled over. I've also seen (regularly) people enter an intersection during rush hour when they clearly won't be able to make it all the way through due to stopped traffic. Then the light changes and they are parked in the middle of the intersection blocking the cross traffic. This is all done IN THE PRESENCE OF A TRAFFIC COP.

One user suggested lengthening the yellow light. We have lengthened both the yellow and the delay during which both lights are red. The result? People know that when the light turns red, they have 2 seconds before the cross light turns green, so they go anyway. Conversely, people stopped at a red light watch the light on the cross street and as soon as it turns red, they go. I've seen people get completely through the intersection before their light turns green. So yes, naturally, we get plenty of collisions in which one person was trying to run the just-turned-red light while the other was advancing on the about-to-turn-red light. As of last year, the cops announced they will no longer respond to collisions in which there are no injuries and less than (estimated) $2000 damage. And half of our drivers are uninsured.

So bottom line, we could use some traffic cameras. Currently, they only have them at high-speed intersections. I'm not too sure on their effectiveness, since I've accidentally run a light in a camera enforced intersection before and not received a ticket, but they certainly serve as a deterrent to the Philly style of driving which, similar to our style of living, is in complete disregard of the law.

Re:Traffic Light Safety (1)

WhirlwindMonk (1975382) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398978)

Not a bad idea, except it differs for different vehicles and different road conditions. Big trucks take longer to stop that small cars, and here in Michigan, the weather is so varied that that line would only be accurate maybe 25-35% of the time. Down in Arizona or something, though, it might work.

Makes Sense (4, Interesting)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398840)

I moved to Los Angeles in the late nineties and left before these traffic cameras were operational. When I first arrived, I noticed that people would collectively pause at a green light. It would be a one or two second delay which completely baffled me. In New England, we'd jump the greens like a drag race.

The answer came rather fast. In a lot of the intersections, there were no green arrows so in some places the only way for people to get across the street was to run a red light. And not just one person would run the light, but four or five. It was crazy but in time, it made complete sense to me and soon I internalized it. So I can imagine the outrage if there were now cameras placed at intersections. It's like paying a toll to cross the street. Maybe things have changed since then, but it seemed pure insanity not to have green arrows considering the amount of people in the area.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399082)

I've been in plenty of LA and NYC traffic where the only way to move forward is to block the box and get caught. How many times have you seen three directions feeding into the forth. When that forth has congestion your stuck ending up mid intersection on a red in bumper to bumper traffic or not moving as the far side will never be clear. Hell if you do not move immediately traffic will flow around you to fill that void.

My favorite traffic camera was I got a ticket for my black sedan when I was nowhere near NJ. The picture was of a white/light ford station wagon with a blur for the plate, I had to hire an attorney to fight it as apparently no human can determine that a white station wagon is not a black sedan. Apparently punching in combos that sorta look like the blur till it's valid is good working practices for these things bonus points for matching the vehicle description.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399222)

Sounds like Christchurch NewZealand.
At the moment if you're turning right across the intersections (driving on the LH side of the road) you get right of way to the oncoming cars turning right(their left) into the same road.

this is soon changing because "noone else does it like this, it confuses visitors from other countries" to me, the way it is now makes more sense, you let the car making the most dangerouse move go first.
in auckland it's going to be a pain to get used to, but in CHCH there are few intersections with arrows. it's going to suck for them.

Safety Revenue ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398842)

So the program isn't a cash cow... how does that undermine the cameras other objective of reducing the number of people that run red lights?

So instead of a bunch of grumpy drivers that ran red lights, we're going to get a few more collisions, possibly fatalities. Great thinking!

Re:Safety Revenue ? (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399118)

I think they should turn them off, but leave them there. Don't tell people they are "fake." People push the door close button in elevators, even tho 90% of them don't work(most work in independent service mode, which elevators aren't in normally) and about 40% aren't even wired.

Amber lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398858)

Don't US signals turn amber before they turn red?

Re:Amber lights? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399092)

They caught some places reducing the time it stayed yellow when they installed the cameras.

Re:Amber lights? (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399256)

The common practice before the advent of red-light cameras was an amber signal timed to provide safe warning that the light is about to turn red. This allowed traffic approaching from a distance to begin slowing, and cars already committed due to proximity and speed to expeditiously clear the intersection. When my region (Washington DC metro) began embracing cameras, the practice changed to a very rapid amber that creates a situation where drivers became conditioned to either slam on the brakes immediately or stomp the gas since unless one is already half-way through the intersection it is otherwise impossible to avoid the trap. So, this is a huge annoyance, but nowhere near as pernicious as the ubiquitous DC speed cameras. To understand the game here, one must understand that Washington DC is one of the most oppressive and corrupt city-states on the planet, with an attitude of entitlement. Broad thoroughfares will commonly shift speeds unexpectedly across a broad range of speeds from 55 to 40 to 35 back to 50 with apparent rhyme or reason and no more warning than a single sign obscured by a bush with a speed camera right behind. So, simplistic, "then don't run red lights, dude!" or "don't speed" fails to understand the corrosive effects of nanny state chicanery.

Higher Fines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398864)

There's another way to deal with this. Set a base rate for a ticket and charge according to income. Since you can't have police sitting at a red light all day long, deter law breakers by making sure it's painful to break the traffic laws when caught. I believe that Germany does this.

Re:Higher Fines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399006)

Unlike some of its neighbors, Germany does not scale traffic fines according to income. Running a red light that has been red at most 1 second costs 90EUR, 200EUR if someone was endangered or 240EUR in case of an accident. More than one second red costs 200EUR, 320EUR or 360EUR respectively. All but the 90EUR fine also include a one month license suspension and every infraction adds 3 or 4 points to the driving record.

Besides, getting caught most of the time changes behavior. The fine almost doesn't matter. Getting caught rarely but with higher fines does not change behavior.

They do work if used where they are needed (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398878)

Yet too many cities buy into the sales pitch about the revenue side. The revenue of course only lasts until people become accustomed to the lights and suddenly, surprise surprise they don't run the lights anymore which fulfills the lie used to sell them to the public while at the same time ending the revenue which was the selling point for the officials to put them in.

We have them at two intersections I drive through regularly and since your used to them you know to not expect people to run them, including the car in front of you. They go yellow and people stop, no more of trying to beat it. I haven't seen an accident there in a long time but that could simply be timing on my part.

Now what I don't care for are speed cameras, those truly are only to generate revenue

Shortening Yellow Lights (1)

Bloodwine77 (913355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398884)

I can't speak about L.A., but when they installed traffic light cameras in my city they shortened all the yellow lights as well. This makes it blatantly obvious that it is nothing more than a revenue generator.

Data about the Crashes and Safety Implications (3, Informative)

GeigerBC (1056332) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398890)

In general the data seems to suggest that yes, total crashes at the intersection will decrease (CMF = 0.8). CMF stands for Crash Modification Factor. Right-angle crashes will decrease (CMF = 0.67) and are generally more severe than rear-end crashes. Rear-end crashes may increase though (CMF = 1.45). Both groups generally tend to loudly argue their own point and both may be correct without listening to the whole safety argument. See http://www.cmfclearinghouse.org/about.cfm [cmfclearinghouse.org] and then search for "red light" and you'll see what I mean. All of this doesn't sort out the monetary costs and privacy aspects of the programs, but the safety data is reasonably easy to figure out so they can stop arguing over it.

Re:Data about the Crashes and Safety Implications (1)

kakistocrat (2024254) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399160)

Really? As in, a 45% increase in rear-end collisions while decreasing T-bone collisions by 33%? Still worth it given the comparative severity, but I'm just surprised by that high an increase in rear-ends.

Re:Data about the Crashes and Safety Implications (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399282)

You're talking too sanely. This sounds like a case of too many narcissistic people not taking enough responsibility for their own actions. If there's a rear-end collision because somebody braked approaching a junction then it means the person behind was following too closely, not paying sufficient attention, driving too quickly, etc, etc. Having driven in LA I can attest to a culture of tail-gating and trying to drive too quickly for the conditions. Up the penalties if people won't or can't take responsibility for their own actions.

Cameras don't cause collisions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398896)

Drivers do.

Many people don't know that you are supposed to STOP at a yellow unless you can't stop safely.

And you are supposed to leave enough space in front of your car to stop safely if the car in front stops suddenly. Otherwise you are driving too quickly for the road conditions, or following too closely.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398948)

Exactly this.

Slamming on your brakes should never cause a collision if the following vehicle is travelling at an appropriate speed for the conditions

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

WhirlwindMonk (1975382) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399034)

So now I'm responsible for what the guy behind me is doing as well? Great!

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399104)

No. Which is why in every state in the US I can think of, the guy who slammed into your back end is responsible.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

WhirlwindMonk (1975382) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399192)

If the guy behind me is following too close to stop if I slam on my brakes, and I have to hit my brakes hard for a light with a camera, I have to choose between a ticket or a smashed back end. And while the smashed back end will end up being paid for by the person who hit me, that doesn't fix the fact that I won't get to my destination on time, I may have to deal with a rental car, I have to fill out paperwork for the insurance company, among other things that the guy behind me cannot fix. Sounds to me like I get punished either way simply because the guy behind me was doing something I can't control.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

avm (660) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399244)

No, you aren't responsible for the actions of whoever is driving behind you. However it is suicidal to not be aware of what is behind you, as motorcyclists in particular will attest. However, it is becoming less the case that the person rear ending another is automatically at fault.

Case in point: I drive an 18 wheeler. Its equipped with forward facing camera, accelerometers, a radar system ( Eaton VORAD) and fairly extensive datalogging. Don't blindly assume my 80,000 lb. vehicle can stop short if you decide to stop for a stale green, miss your turn or whatever. Unless I am driving like an ass, the data logged by my vehicle systems is admissible in proving I wasn't at fault.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

mmzplanet (904697) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398998)

One of the problems is that Amber lights to not lengthen for the conditions either. Even my home irrigation system has a rain sensor, why can't traffic signals? So what happens is that during a light rain and you get oily slick roads. A driver in their newer car that has ABS stops quickly to avoid a ticket. The car behind may or may not have ABS.

If you have ever driven a car without ABS on slick roads, you know stopping short is not an option. Typically rolling through an intersection is an option because you know there is no way to stop. The spacing you would need to allow for safety leaves room for all the other vehicles to get in front of you anyway. Vehicles changing lanes usually do not respect the fact you are trying to keep your distance.

When conditions are bad, I always keep in mind what is behind me, If there is an older car or 18-wheeler, I will move elsewhere. If I cannot, you better believe I will not stop short for a red light.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

Admiral_Grinder (830562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399156)

As somebody that has a car without ABS (1970 Chevelle SS), I'm calling bullshit on your reason. It is your responsibility to operate your vehicle within its specs. Trust me, if the weather changes my car lets me know. Anybody with a old car knows it. I have used it for a daily driver for years and didn't have any problems with people cutting in front of me. Even now I don't have that issue with my other cars.

It does not make you any safer to run a red light because somebody behind you has a old car. If they rear end you it is their fault anyways. You blow the red light and you cause a much more serious situation for which you are at fault.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399166)

A driver in their newer car that has ABS stops quickly to avoid a ticket. The car behind may or may not have ABS.

Irrelevant. All vehicles have to drive safely for the road conditions.

If you have ever driven a car without ABS on slick roads, you know stopping short is not an option. Typically rolling through an intersection is an option because you know there is no way to stop.

Yes, I have driven cars without ABS. My first car was a POS 1982 Malibu.

If there is no way for you to stop in time, then you are traveling too fast for the road conditions.

Regardless of what the speed limit actually is, there is a separate offense of driving too quickly for the road conditions.

The spacing you would need to allow for safety leaves room for all the other vehicles to get in front of you anyway.

So? Lighten up.

Vehicles changing lanes usually do not respect the fact you are trying to keep your distance.

That is one of the few cases where the vehicle in behind is not at fault in a rear-end collision, when someone jumps in front of you then stomps on their brakes.

Re:Cameras don't cause collisions... (1)

WARM3CH (662028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399176)

What? Don't you think the obvious answer is that if you cannot stop short, you are driving too fast! If it rains, you have to slow down, doubly so if you don't have a good break.

Minimum safe distance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399178)

The minimum safe distance is what you need to stop in if the car in front SUDDENLY STOPPED. Not braked, not even emergency braked. But STOPPED DEAD. Like hit superman walking across the street.

Now, fair enough, if you ever left enough space for the minimum safe stopping distance, you'd have people overtaking you all the time (and then to get back to safe distance, you'd have to slow down).

But it isn't the rain that's the problem, it's the distance you're at.

If you risk that sort of accident, YOU ARE FAR TOO CLOSE.

And the fact that you can't keep a safe distance may be either your own fault or the fault of drivers in general.

Oh, and for Whirlwind Monk, no. The person getting rear-ended is not at fault unless it is shown they've been driving backward or cut in front too close.

The obvious fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398910)

don't slam the gas pedal when you see a yellow light.

As usual, no-one thinks of the pedestrians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398918)

We have as much entitlement to use the carriageway as car drivers. Anything that coerces drivers to show restraint at junctions and crossings is Good for pedestrians.

Frankly I don't care if cars are rear-ending each other, so long as they stay behind the stopping line when the damn light is RED.

One could argue... (1)

mr_lizard13 (882373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398934)

... that if it's not making money then it's working.

All other arguments to one side (I appreciate there are other reasons why it's suggested the cameras should be pulled) but public safety isn't supposed to be profitable, is it?

Re:One could argue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399066)

two points:
a) The government is supposed to make money so it can use it. And not all of its laws may be bad, though whenever slashdot mentions the gvt, no-one ever appreciates anything it does. And if it does something wrong, then instead of complaining about it on slashdot, why don't you do something against it. Whatever you may think, America does have *a lot* of free speech compared to many other countries. And with free speech I do not mean being allowed to disclose any information, but being allowed to, in 99% of cases, disagree with, vote for and criticise the government. Whining on slashdot about corrupt government does nothing to help, and shows no sense of courage or initiative whatsoever.
b) At least in Germany, any cameras will capture a picture of whoever is driving the car, and if there are multiple people with a liscence for some car, then it's up to the household to decide who was driving the car. It makes sense. And for any privacy concerns, there's no expectancy of privacy if you're driving in a car with windows on a public road, who cares if they take a picture and send it to you.

Leave the cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398970)

Leave the cameras, but don't issue automated citations based on them. Instead use microphones that trigger when there's an accident or gunfire.

This is a very old idea, have a camera that's always recording, but constantly overwriting it's storage. When an event happens, mark 30 seconds before and a few minutes after as "saved", and go back to recording.

Easy solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399240)

Change the penalty for running a red light. Anyone caught running a red light has to let Barney Frank give them a dirty Sanchez.

Conflicted (2)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399312)

As much as I am opposed to private companies getting cushy deals to run red light cameras, and using "civil fines" to get around rules protecting peoples' rights, I am actually for red light cameras. And I'll tell you why. They save lives. Oh, I'll admit that the total number of accidents increases slightly, but the types of accidents are important. The serious accidents, people getting t-boned when someone runs a red light, (the kind of accident that often leads to serious injury and death, not to mention severe damage to the vehicles), drop drastically when red light cameras are put up, but the number of minor accidents (someone rear-ends the car that stopped at the intersection) increases - with people getting used to the new behavior, I would expect those to go back down. And I have personally seen the numbers, as compiled by law by my city's Traffic Engineer. He hates the red light cameras, just because they are so much of a hassle, both bureaucracy-wise and politically, but he admits they save lives. The local news stations will interview him, and then report just the part about "total number of accidents increase," leaving out the part where "red light cameras prevent traffic deaths" because that doesn't sell as well. The issues of proper appeals, confronting your accuser, private companies taking on law-enforcement roles and acting in the government's name, etc. can be dealt with (and should be - the system needs to be fair), but running a red light needs to be discouraged, and this is a cost-effective way to do it. I have seen no evidence that camera speed traps increase safety.
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