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San Diego Drops Red-Light Cameras

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the another-one-bites-the-dust dept.

Transportation 330

gannebraemorr writes "U-T San Diego reports that the city has become 'the latest in a cadre of California cities turning their backs on red-light cameras — aloof intersection sentries that have prompted $490 tickets to be mailed to 20,000 motorists per year' there. 'Mayor Bob Filner announced his decision to take down the city's 21 cameras at a news conference set at the most prolific intersection for the tickets, North Harbor Drive and West Grape Street, near San Diego International Airport. A crew went to work immediately taking down "photo enforced" signs throughout the city. "Seems to me that such a program can only be justified if there are demonstrable facts that prove that they raise the safety awareness and decrease accidents in our city," Filner said of the cameras. "The data, in fact, does not really prove it."' I have to say I'm a bit surprised that my city is voluntarily shedding potentially $9.8M in revenue after objectively evaluating a program. I wonder how much a system would cost that could switch my light from green to red if it detected a vehicle approaching from a red-lit direction at dangerous speeds. Can you think of an other alternative uses for these cameras?"

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330 comments

So Floor It ! (2)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773169)

" I wonder how much a system would cost that could switch my light from green to red if it detected a vehicle approaching from a red-lit direction at dangerous speeds. Can you think of an other alternative uses for these cameras?"

Hey, I will go for that and just keep my pedal to the metal...unless you do the same and then we are in deep too doo.

Re:So Floor It ! (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773323)

Exactly. This would be crazy stupid.

It would teach red light runners that they can, and will, get away with running red lights, because cross traffic will be stopped. I can't imagine the number of rear-ends this would cause for those having a green light switching to Red with no warning. I'd rather see it raise a crash-rated bollard to the high speed red-light runner. If someone is going to get hurt, it should be the scoff-law, not the guy with the green light.

Re:So Floor It ! (4, Funny)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773445)

I had a buddy who used to cut his headlights when he'd come to a blind Y at night in their rural county to see if anyone was coming on the other leg. Woe unto him when he ran into someone (literally) who did the same thing....

Re:So Floor It ! (3, Insightful)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773511)

I flash my lights instead. This gives a VERY visible signal to anyone coming the other way and most people will clue in and return the signal. I also make sure that I take the corner slow enough that I can stop if someone does appear doing the speed limit. I still flash the lights in case the other guy is going faster than the speed limit.

Re:So Floor It ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773541)

You need to flash the lights off/on/highbeams and reduce speed. The rapidly changing lights could not be confused with anything but a car, and the moments where the lights are off would be good enough to see incoming cars.

Re:So Floor It ! (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773591)

Seriously, how many Y intersections are there in the civilized world which are not also provided with a merge lane on the tail of the Y?
Wouldn't slowing to a reasonable speed make more sense?

Using one dangerous act to cover for another dangerous act qualifies your "buddy" as an idiot.
Like Harry M. Whittington, you should choose your friends more carefully.

Re:So Floor It ! (3)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773647)

Seriously, how many Y intersections are there in the civilized world which are not also provided with a merge lane on the tail of the Y?

I see you're not familiar with rural county roads in the US. You are lucky to get two full lanes.

Re:So Floor It ! (1)

xclr8r (658786) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773343)

AN effective use would be to post them on major traffic zones so someone can view 4 cameras on a rotation that people can lookup an avoid high traffic areas and grab alternate routes.

Re:So Floor It ! (1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773571)

Sounds more like entrapment.

Re:So Floor It ! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773639)

In my city, red light cameras are also speeding cameras. City put them on all intersections that had lots of crashes. People do not speed through these intersections anymore. Number of crashes was reduced by over 50%. Number of serious crashes was reduced by 80%.

Red light cameras, shortening yellow light to "catch" more people, etc. are not good. Speed+red light cameras and normal yellow duration, then put them on all the troubled intersections and you'll see positive results.

Then again, the purpose of these cameras was not to make city money. The purpose was to reduced crashes which reduces costs for everyone. But then we have single auto insurance (gov't corp), so maybe the metrics are a little different. Seems to be working just fine though.

So put cops at that intersection near the airport (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773191)

Preferably in various hiding places to keep drivers guessing.

After people start getting pulled over for running red lights, word of mouth will spread from people driving by. This is how it's done in the rest of the country.

Re:So put cops at that intersection near the airpo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773693)

Most of the tickets at the intersection were issued to idiots who pulled into the intersection when the light at the train crossing on Grape Street was red and and they had no way to exit the intersecion when the light turned red on Harbor Drive.

Hmmmmm..... (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773193)

Not sure where the 9.8 Million figure came from, the actual story says they took in 1.2 Million in 2011. But after paying out to the camera company and the cost of for cops (who in today's whacky world generally make low 6 figures), the city only cleared 200,000$

My guess is that the only people that actually "make out" are the camera companies.

The real question is: Do red light cameras discourage running reds?

I don't know.

I've never got a "red light camera" ticket, because I don't run red lights, or speed through school zones.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773251)

$490 * 20,000 = $9,800,000

The math was not hard.

Until someone tells how many repeat offenders get fined its hard to say. But then fines and prison for criminals dont stop reoffending but I don't propose stopping those actions as deterrents.

Perhaps if the fine was $1000 it may have more of an effect ?

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773289)

Yes, but the text of the story CLEARLY says 1.2 million. So, are a significant number of people having their fines mitigated in court?

By the way, no need to be "snide" in you comments.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773373)

That was since they were installed in 1998.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773439)

It wouldn't. People don't intend to run lights, and the biggest effect (here, not CA, I haven't seen the numbers for these ones) was an increase in rear-end crashes as people panic braked at yellows, and a decrease in traffic throughput as people slowed for intersections, causing more traffic (and traffic indirectly causes crashes, so that number wasn't determined). Longer yellows seems to have a greater effect on safety. The other option is moving to a system that works well elsewhere in the US. The red-yellow light. After a red, before a green, the yellow light comes on with the red, indicating a "fresh" green. You may go as if it's a green, but proceed with caution. That stops people like me - I once went on a green in front of a red light runner because I saw them coming and knew they could stop. They screeched to a halt in the intersection, knowing full well they could have stopped before entering, and traffic was heavy enough that the people behind me followed me, stranding them in the intersection, hopefully teaching them the lesson better than a ticket would.

The problem with the cameras is they are there for revenue, not safety, in most cases. Safety is easy, change the lights. That's proven, and was known 20 years ago when these first started out. They doubled the yellows on some intersections, and put in red light cameras on others. Crashes decreased with longer yellows and went up with cameras. Those were dismissed because the intersections were trials and cameras were new, so they ignored the results they didn't like. Much like airbags killed more than they saved.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (4, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773679)

The other option is moving to a system that works well elsewhere in the US. The red-yellow light. After a red, before a green, the yellow light comes on with the red, indicating a "fresh" green. You may go as if it's a green, but proceed with caution.

That's not how it works. I grew up with them, and hold a license in a country where they're in use.
Red+amber is treated as a red light, and you get the same fine as for going on a red light.

The purpose of it is to make all the cars waiting prepare[*] for the green light, so they can all start rolling when it turns green. Yes, you read me right, all of the cars, not just the first one. Here in the US, one car slowly starts rolling, then the next one, then the next one. The lights have to stay green a lot longer as a result, which in turn blocks people going the other way, which in turn leads to idiots blocking the intersection or running yellow lights because they don't want to have to wait for three minutes for the next light.

[*]: Like clutch, gear, or handbrake. All foreign concepts to the majority of US drivers, alas. But even with three-on-the-tree, you can rev up slightly with one foot on the gas and one on the brakes (another foreign concept), or just mentally prepare to drive in a second, even if you're not the first car.

Yes, red+amber is a great idea. But not for the reason you think. And it wouldn't work here in the US, because it requires alert and active drivers, not slugs.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773485)

Perhaps if the fine was $1000 it may have more of an effect ?

The vast majority of red light tickets are for rolling rights (turning right on a red but not coming to a 100% stop). Very few tickets for red light cameras are for people that buzz through intersections. And since rolling rights are not dangerous [saferstreetsla.org] , these high cost tickets are bullshit.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773513)

Rolling stops are against the law so none of those tickets are bullshit.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773563)

Rolling stops are against the law so none of those tickets are bullshit.

Right, the law isn't designed for public safety. It is designed simply to be obeyed. And if it isn't obeyed, the government can hit you with any penalty they damn well please, including a $500 fine (+$200 if you contest it and another $200 if you request a jury). And if you download JSTOR files, you can get a $1 million fine and 50 years in jail. After all, it is the law and you must OBEY.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773627)

Unlocking your phone is also against the law, maybe we need a trillion dollar fine to discourage it?

Re:Hmmmmm..... (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773257)

The real question is: Do red light cameras discourage running reds?

Yes. In a lot of cities, people just kind of sneak through on a red if they are close enough to the car in front of them that is already going through the intersection (if there's less than 4 feet between you and the car in front of you, then it's ok). I confess I have done that when I know I will be stuck at a red light for a long time. If there's a camera, I'm extra careful. I don't think that's the kind of red-light-running that would cause accidents, though.

The thing you really need to watch out for at red light cameras, even if you never run red lights, is the right-turn-on-red. If you don't come to a complete stop before turning, then you can get ticketed. A lot of people don't completely stop when the light is red but there are no cars around. I read somewhere that is actually the most common type of red-light ticket, but I'm not sure.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773357)

Yeah, right turn on red is complete bullshit.

Also, if your front wheels are over the line before the light turns red, I'm pretty sure you're legally good to go in most places.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773457)

No your not.

The rules of the road state that you DO NOT enter an intersection if you cannot make it all the way through that intersection before light turns red then you should have never entered the intersection if the first place.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773475)

The rules of the road state that you DO NOT enter an intersection if you cannot make it all the way through that intersection before light turns red then you should have never entered the intersection if the first place.

This entirely depends on state law, each state does it differently. If you are in a different state, better to stop on yellow lights until you know what the rules are.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773515)

The rules of the road state that you DO NOT enter an intersection if you cannot make it all the way through that intersection before light turns red then you should have never entered the intersection if the first place.

You're close. The rules say that you should not enter an intersection if there isn't enough space on the other side of the intersection [ca.gov] for your vehicle. That means you can be in the intersection when the light turns red as long as you can immediately clear the intersection. (This is a rule to prevent blocking traffic, not a rule for safety.)

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773565)

Wouldn't that require pre-cognitive powers?

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773635)

Wouldn't that require pre-cognitive powers?

No they tell when the light is going to turn red by making it yellow first. People just choose to treat the yellow light an extended green and not a warning to slow down and prepare to stop.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773667)

In an overwhelming number of situations, no it doesn't.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (2)

pjbgravely (751384) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773413)

In my state it is 3 seconds after stopping before you can go, the same for a stop sign.

I think most people are just too lazy to stop. A guy in my car pool runs right on reds and stops all the time. He never gets caught but I still wouldn't try it.

I always look both ways before going though a green light. The runners have already won.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773497)

In my state it is 3 seconds after stopping before you can go, the same for a stop sign.

Wow, what state is that??

Re:Hmmmmm..... (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773467)

Yes. In a lot of cities, people just kind of sneak through on a red if they are close enough to the car in front of them that is already going through the intersection (if there's less than 4 feet between you and the car in front of you, then it's ok). I confess I have done that when I know I will be stuck at a red light for a long time. If there's a camera, I'm extra careful. I don't think that's the kind of red-light-running that would cause accidents, though.

You figured it out in your last sentence. What's the point? To discourage running reds, or to decrease crashes? Red light cameras don't decrease crashes. What happens when the guy 4 feet in front speeds up at the yellow, and you follow, then he slams the brakes because he changes his mind because of the camera? Oh yeah, more crashes. And the worst crashes are when someone is more than a second after the red. The tickets go out to people like you describe at 0.5s after the red. But it's those seconds late (drunk, asleep, reading the morning paper) that kill, and they don't see the red light, they won't see the camera.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773489)

they don't see the red light, they won't see the camera.

That's a good way to say it.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773549)

What happens when the guy 4 feet in front speeds up at the yellow, and you follow, then he slams the brakes because he changes his mind because of the camera?

If the guy following behind wasn't tailgating (driving on a road too close to the vehicle in front, at a distance which does not guarantee that stopping to avoid collision is possible [wikipedia.org] ), then there's no collision.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773671)

What happens when the guy 4 feet in front speeds up at the yellow, and you follow, then he slams the brakes because he changes his mind because of the camera?

Which is his fault for following too closely. Rearending someone is almost always the fault of the person in back. The only time I've ever come close to making an exception was when I stuck behind a stupid idiot "driving" a giant SUV who couldn't figure out how to make a right turn into a gas station and had gotten the thing turned 90 degrees blocking the street and kept backing up and pulling forward doing some crazy ass 50 point turn thing. If they had gone one more point I'd have called it justifiable homicide, but they finally gave up and just floored the thing over the curb.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (3, Interesting)

xclr8r (658786) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773325)

1 data point. I've received one, it was a weird intersection where the light was in the middle instead of at the far side of the intersection. It was a fresh yellow and I was turning right, I slowed down to look for a pedestrian then back to oncoming traffic from the left, it was clear and I went. I slowed down enough so that the light turned red before I started seriously turning. The light was out of view from my perspective and I took the right hand turn. A live cop would probably let it go after a license plate check came up clean. The ticket was not high enough to warrant me fighting it in court but high enough that it stung a little. Also the video when analyzed was clear from an outside perspective that a violation occurred. Now I pay really close attention to the lights and practically full stop on all yellows to the complete frustration of people behind me. Safer? I don't know but it does affect how I drive. I just hope I don't get rear ended.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (2)

socialleech (1696888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773491)

Your last point is exactly what makes these, and speeding camera, dangerous and even deadly. When these started going up in my state, I noticed a marked increase in rear-endings at the lights with these. My state also was the first to put the speed cameras on the freeway. Even though people routinely would do 90+ on that freeway, you rarely saw crashed.

After the speed camera's went up on the freeway, I personally witnessed 5 accidents directly caused by the camera. It didn't make people drive slower on that freeway, it just meant they would speed down the freeway, and SLAM on their brakes right before the camera, as to not get a ticket when passing the sensors. All it took was a driver not paying that much attention, and the driver in front of them changing speed by 20 MPH for no obvious reason, and BAM.

These things also have no judgement on whether your actions are safe, they just give you a ticket for doing anything over X. I don't know about you, but cruising under that limit to avoid a ticket, while every other car on the road is doing 10+ mph greater than you, is far more unsafe than the increase in speed. And it also works in the other direction: these things wont give someone a ticket for doing say 50 on the freeway, but if traffic is at a stop or slow crawl, you are being incredibly unsafe driving at those speeds, but the camera only sees you going under it's required limit.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

The_Revelation (688580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773335)

I had a RL camera up the road that would go spastic every time my car, or anyone elses, would go near the intersection. I'll tell you, public strobe lights while driving do no make for a safer driving experience. Its almost as harrowing as any time I receive a phone call, which now involves driving while successfully negotiating a bluetooth link, screaming at my 'hands free' unit until it finally picks up once all the audio finishes routing properly, then tilt my head back so the speaker can hear me... but thats another administrative cluster f$#k.

I guess the question is how many false positives do these damn cameras cause. Even if not for the highly defective cameras like the one near here, I constantly find other drivers stuck in the middle of red-light intersections who are ensuring the safety of the intersection, even if they're still clearing the intersection after the lights have cycled. I can imagine these dummy cameras must be really easy to contest in court.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (4, Interesting)

socialleech (1696888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773523)

Closer to impossible to contest. I received a RL ticket for a car in my name, but I was not the driver. Also the visor was down and you could not completely make out the driver, it was obvious it was my girlfriend, and not myself. After attempting to contest that, the judge told me it was my car, and therefor I was liable for any actions taken in it. Found me guilty of running a red light(while I was at work, with proof I was there), I had to take a safety class(in which in instructor was incredibly demeaning, and knew if you spoke up, he could throw you out, and you lost your license for failing to complete the class), and took a few points hit to my DL..

Now, I could have likely appealed this, and won in a county court vs the city court I was found guilty in; who has time to miss another day of work, and a possible double or triple in court fees because you just wouldn't shut up and pay your fine?

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773359)

Nope
I live close to an intersection with a camera and at night I'm always seeing the flash when someone runs the light. Multiple flashes lots of times

Re:Hmmmmm..... (5, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773385)

It may be hard to understand what's really going on here unless you live in CA, so let me try to explain.

These cameras were originally installed to raise tax revenue. When the city you live in gets busted by the state for using illegally short yellows in order to increase camera ticket revenue, it's very clear this has nothing at all to do with safety.

During the boom years, the police liked this idea - more revenue from the police dept meant more money to pay officers - what's not to like. But now most local governments in CA are either bankrupt (or like my county will be when Moody's changes their rules for rating Muni bonds), or for the first time in decades actually, finally starting to lay off employees in respose to the lack of revenue. In this new fincanial climate, the police hate these cameras! These cameras mean fewer officers are needed for the same ticket revenue, and that's just unacceptable. Since the cameras really aren't that great as a revenue source in the first place, they're being removed in city after city.

Sad as their reason for removal is, it's still great that they're gone. At least in my city, you had no right to challenge these tickets - sure, the constitution says something about a jury for criminal offenses and civil matters over $20, so, hey, we declare these tickets to be a new thing, neither criminal nor civil, so there! There's very little a California city won't do for money.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773469)

I suspect most cops would like to make "low six figures" but a quick Google found multiple sources which showed San Diego cops start at $51,000 and go up to $88,000 with a median of $71,000.
This sounds reasonable for a dedicated public servant... not "whacky" at all.

I do agree that the camera companies are the ones making the big bucks. Typical privatizing public services so that the private sector makes lots of profit from the public.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773533)

I saw an advert for BART police the other day: Base pay $127k, plus benefits, including fully paid retirement.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773473)

>Do red light cameras discourage running reds?

Well, there's three types here:

  - Those who don't get tickets. We can ignore this group of people.
  - Those who do get tickets and continue to get tickets. We can ignore this group of people as they have proven they don't care and the only way to stop that group will be with a police officer and a jail cell.
  - Those who get some tickets, but then go on to no longer get tickets. This is the group we're most interested in.

That last set of people is made up of those who changed their driving habits. There's three changes that can ocurr:

  - They choose to never enter an intersection on red (In this case the program was successful). These people are now "safe" drivers.
  - They choose to avoid the last intersection they were caught at (and all previous intersections they received tickets at). These drivers are still dangerous drivers, but the intersections with cameras are now safe. Pollution has increased and the problem exists elsewhere, and in a greater amount most drivers try to choose an efficient method of driving by default and detours mean more intersections. (In this case the program was very unsuccessful, as all it did was push crime elsewhere and also increase it overall)
  - They choose to not to go through reds at intersections they are caught once at, or that are signed. These drivers are safe in the monitored zones, but unsafe elsewhere. (The program was partially successful, but has a high maintenance cost, as for it to be fully successful, all intersections require monitoring).

In the end, we have three major cases with only one major case that shows any red light camera effect. Subdividing that case you find one very positive outcome, one very negative outcome, and one neutral outcome. With an even distribution of people, that means the cameras did nothing but cost money.

So, the cameras can only work marginally, and only when you have a specifically weighted distribution of people. Doesn't sound like a likely scenario to me, but I'm not a traffic cop. :D

These are rolling-right-turn cameras. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773555)

It's easy to image that a red light camera would provide a great good. Nobody wants people blowing red rights and zooming across (or blocking) intersections in violation of the lights. *But that's not what red light cameras are for.*

What these articles rarely talk about are the number of tickets generated for completely safe situations where an oncoming motorists slows for a red light to an extremely slow speed, and then makes a right turn on red without technically coming to a "full and complete stop" picked up by the cameras. Brake to 1mph, enough to safely check out an empty intersection, then make a completely safe right turn on red? Boom! That's a $400-$500 violation right there for something that has *no negative impact*. It is a government abuse, as the fine is in no way appropriate for the violation.

I have received one of these tickets, as have many others that I know, and it dramatically lowers quality of life in the area rather than improve it. These red light cameras are the equivalent of installing speed guns on the highway that mail you a $500 ticket if you're traveling at 70mph in a 65mph.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773569)

The real question is: Do red light cameras discourage running reds?

I don't know.

I can tell you the definitive answer to that: The yellow light times at red light camera intersections are lowered specifically to cause an increase in the number of red lights run.

You don't have to take my or anybody else's word for it either - you can verify it yourself with a stopwatch. Go time the yellow lights at some revenue camera intersections near you, and then time the yellow lights at nearby non-revenue-camera intersections.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (3, Informative)

Tridus (79566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773611)

Red light cameras discourage running *yellows*, out of the fear of running reds and getting a ticket. They dramatically increase accident rates: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/825583--red-alert-lucrative-cameras-spark-crashes-injuries [therecord.com]

The other side effect is that they never bring in the money that's expected, and so yellows get shortened to catch more people running reds. They're a good deal for the companies selling them, but don't do anything for safety.

Re:Hmmmmm..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773651)

In my experience what happens when red light cameras are put in play, the council tries to milk them for revenue and shortens the length of the amber light to try and catch people going over the line. In the city I live in there's one particular set of lights that has very short green and amber lights during busy periods and there have been several rear enders at the intersection by people trying not to get fined. Pleas to the council to change the timing (and arguments pointing out that it violates relevant laws regarding traffic lights) have been ignored.

Like unions, red light cameras were initially a boon, but now do more harm than good to the average joe.

Or... (1)

destinyland (578448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773195)

How about a light that just stays green longer if it detects more traffic in one direction than another?

Re:Or... (5, Informative)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773229)

That would mess a lot of things up. Contrary to popular belief most civil engineers aren't dumb, they've done fluid modeling and simulations (you know, science) to determine how long each light needs to be red and at what intervals. If you accelerate one part of the system you might disrupt the flow of traffic miles down the road. In my area some traffic lights are disabled past 7pm to improve traffic flow at non peak hours because the lighter traffic past 7 allows some optimizations.

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773293)

Wait till you make ISP's design that system. Then you will see how efficiently they regulate the traffic!

Maybe we will have some sort of tiered pay model.

Re:Or... (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773339)

You snark, but there is a lot of good reasons to support toll roads (tiered pricing). Toll roads actually reduce congestion by getting people who value time more than money to pay up, which frees up the city road for everyone else. Price discrimination may suck for ISPs but it's known to be effective, albeit unpopular, on highways.

Re:Or... (2)

djmurdoch (306849) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773307)

Contrary to popular belief most civil engineers aren't dumb

I must live in the city that hired the rest of them:

Light cycles are very long here, regardless of the time of day. If you miss that green, you'll be sitting there for 2 or 3 minutes, even if you are the only car on the road. (Unless you just drive through the red.)

There are loops in the road to detect cars from less travelled roads, and they'll trigger a change in the light. There are also buttons to detect pedestrians, but they don't advance the cycle, they just give a walk signal. Eventually. The pedestrian buttons are also the only way to detect a bike, though it's illegal to ride your bike onto the sidewalk to press them.

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773499)

Contrary to popular belief most civil engineers aren't dumb, they've done fluid modeling and simulations (you know, science) to determine how long each light needs to be red and at what intervals.

I need to avoid the main (7 lane) parkway in Brooklyn, NY in order not to be "parked" for a few minutes at each and every intersection; lesser parallel roads go much faster. My guess is that "fluid modeling" is a figment of your imagination.

Re:Or... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773519)

No, they are dumb. Lights are right for 10 seconds of every day. They don't work for most of the day. They set the timing of the lights based on the "main" (arbitrarily assigned, most of the time) and adjust the rest to minimize pain points, *not* to maximize throughput. If you time all the lights to 25 mph in a 35 or 45 mph zone, then everyone goes a slow, easy, 25 mph, no jams, no slowdowns (25 is slow enough that if someone slows to turn, the others go to 35 to make up the difference). If they timed them to 45, then someone who was slightly delayed by a turner will have to speed or get caught by a red light. But that may result in a greater total throughput. So consistency is more important than throughput. People don't complain at a steady 25 mph, even in a 55 mph zone, but stop and go with a 30 mph average will get more complaints.

Coming up with dynamic systems that see the traffic and adjust will be better for flow than the current system.

That and fluid modeling is a bad way to model traffic. Humans are dumber than fluid. We leave more space when we should leave less, and we brake and turn randomly, causing fluid dynamics to be a starting point, but then having to model in stupidity, otherwise you get roads like where I am. They'd be fine if we were fluid, but suck for actual drivers.

Re:Or... (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773641)

It's not like a fluid, but the dynamics of traffic flow are modeled. But it's a relatively new science and has not been widely applied. For many decades, traffic light controls were programmed heuristically, with some being very bad and some systems being quite good. 30 years ago, the traffic controls in Denver along major roads was excellent, without causing big interruptions on the minor streets. That was all done based on timers and heuristics because there were no good mathematical models of traffic flow in those days. But get out of Denver into the suburbs and drive on roads where the lights weren't programmed by Denver's competent traffic engineers and things were not nearly as good. Sometimes you'd have to stop every 3 or 4 blocks. Ugh.

Re:Or... (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773553)

...and then the cops, bureaucrats, and private enforcement firms change it for their best interests. Science doesn't rule traffic law, profit does.

Re:Or... (1)

cdwiegand (2267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773577)

And then your local HOA (like mine) asks the Council to have the traffic department change the timing anyways.

Re:Or... (1)

xclr8r (658786) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773351)

Or turns a red light green when there is only one car. at the intersection. This happens a lot in the wee hours of the night.

http://www.utsandiego.com/traffic-cams/ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773215)

http://www.utsandiego.com/traffic-cams/

switch my light from green to red (1)

shine (1502) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773217)

Oh my gosh, its Traf-O-Data on steroids. It won't work though cause the ppl will just charge the lights.

Follow the real criminals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773223)

Attach each of these cameras to a California (or federal) Politician - You'll make way more than 9.8m each year in fines alone.

Great idea (2)

vivian (156520) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773225)

wonder how much a system would cost that could switch my light from green to red if it detected a vehicle approaching from a red-lit direction at dangerous speeds. Can you think of an other alternative uses for these cameras?"

Such a proposed system would quicly train motorists to rush red lights even more than they already do, because they could supposedly depend on the system stopping motorists coming the other way. Problem is, if a red light isn't stopping a guy running a red light in one diection, what's going to stop a like minded driver in the other direction?

The cost wold probably be not a lot more than about 1000 deaths a year, based on http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/story?id=118914&page=1 [go.com] but it would have the bonus of selectively knocking off the idiots that think it's ok to run red lights, as more safety concious drivers will be safely stopped.

Dollars wise? probably not too much given the hardware is already mostly in place.

Re:Great idea (2)

jayveekay (735967) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773305)

A variation of this would be that when cars traveling at dangerous speeds are detected coming from perpendicular directions, turn the lights green for both of them. ;)

One soulution.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773233)

See where offending car is heading. Control next traffic light to build up a nice queue and keep it red for a while.

Can you think of an other alternative uses...? (0)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773259)

pjorn?

What's wrong with money? (0)

JohnWiney (656829) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773285)

Assuming the city really is making money (and I agree that needs to be determined), what is wrong with using red light cameras to do that? If people want to make a voluntary contribution to the city coffers, let them go ahead. There is no need to run red lights - if someone decides to do so, and accepts the risks and penalties, that is their right (at least to the point where they put someone else at risk).

Re:What's wrong with money? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773311)

It is a violation of my civil rights to obey red lights. And it is a violation of my civil rights to be filmed in public. And it is a violation of my civil rights for the government to spy on my private affairs (I'm just driving my car, which I -own!). See a problem?

Re:What's wrong with money? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773501)

It is a violation of my civil rights to obey red lights.

You have no right to drive a car on public roads. That's why you need to be licensed to do it. When you don't obey the laws your license should be revoked.

And it is a violation of my civil rights to be filmed in public.

There is no right to privacy when you are in public.

And it is a violation of my civil rights for the government to spy on my private affairs (I'm just driving my car, which I -own!).

Driving on a public road isn't a private affair.

See a problem?

The problem is you.

Re:What's wrong with money? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773551)

Without a driver's license I can't go to work so I don't make money and I end up on the street. That makes it a civil right. I could take public transit but I'd have to sit next to black men.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773573)

Without a driver's license I can't go to work so I don't make money and I end up on the street.

Then you should obey the rules of the road.

That makes it a civil right.

No it doesn't.

I could take public transit but I'd have to sit next to black men.

Again the problem is you.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773613)

Don't you see they're going to take all our guns away? They're afraid the people will rise again so they're taking away the tools we need to live so we will die on the street. First they take our guns so we can't defend ourselves then they take our driver's licenses so we can't feed our families. It's a conspiracy and if you can't see it you're a fool. Like I said, I have a civil right to the road and it's just as important as gun ownership and free speech. You must live in the USSR (Except I think its called the ~EU~ now)

Re:What's wrong with money? (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773581)

I use public transit all the time and it saves tons of money with gas prices the way they are. It must suck to be a racist.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773355)

City was breaking even. The system cost about as much as it took to run the cameras.

Presumably, the state was making money (although I don't know, but I don't see the state having too many red-light-camera expenses), and the camera companies were.

Re:What's wrong with money? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773391)

The problem has been the open secret which allows anyone with any technical knowledge to get out of a ticket and open the city to counter-suit: The contractors who created the motion control software refuse to open source it, and so all you have to do is ask for the source code at your hearing so that you can defend yourself properly. The judge will throw out the case because the city cannot produce the source, and does not want to pay an expert to testify.

IANAL but I have direct as well as anecdotal evidence that this will work.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773395)

There are cases where an intersection starts seeing more collisions after a Red light camera is installed. People afraid of the fine start slamming on the brakes and getting rear ended when the lights give a hint of yellow.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773425)

People afraid of the fine start slamming on the brakes and getting rear ended when the lights give a hint of yellow.

This is why we need tailgating cameras.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773607)

The rear end collision is no excuse except for the other driver was following too closely.

I say let Mr. Filner pay the insurance claims and medical costs of those who are hit by a driver who runs a red light. It's San Diego, people turn left just as the light turned red because they didn't slow to a stop, they make rolling right turns, and the cameras did in fact deter red light runner regardless of camera revenue.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773423)

The whole reason they give tickets for running red lights is because it is defined as being a violation of the rights of others.

Re:What's wrong with money? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773471)

I haven't received a ticket for running a red light, but I used to drive several intersections daily that had cameras like this. And I'll tell you that the length of the yellow changed frequently at each signal. I would travel the route at the same time of day every day, and the yellows would change about once a week. Compare that to once every year or two for regular signals.

  After a year or so of this, people would slam on their brakes as soon as it went yellow to avoid the ticket. This caused such a large number of rear-end accidents that the city was finally pressured to remove the cameras citing 'safety concerns'.

You're thinking too much like a government official. The goal for traffic safety shouldn't be revenue for the city, it should be... traffic safety.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773521)

Assuming the city really is making money (and I agree that needs to be determined), what is wrong with using red light cameras to do that?

What's wrong is that all of these camera installations are initiated with politicians explicitly stating that it is NOT about money and it is ALL about safety. This, in the face of privacy advocates crying about government monitoring, lack of proof that the cameras solve the problem of red light runners or improve safety... The cops then continue with this chant that it is all about safety and not about the money for a few years after the cameras go up.

In Florida, most of the money goes to the state and the camera vendor, yet the city still rakes in millions.

Re:What's wrong with money? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773649)

Habitually running red lights definitely puts other peoples' lives and property at risk.

Re:What's wrong with money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773657)

But, most of the revenue stream from the red light camera is going into the pockets of private companies. So, why not build more private prisons for the law breakers. If someone decides to break the law, they have to accept the risks and penalties right and the society "profits" right? Wait that's already the reality.

hell no! (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773295)

"I wonder how much a system would cost that could switch my light from green to red if it detected a vehicle approaching from a red-lit direction at dangerous speeds."

Once people know that they'll get a (de facto) green light by speeding, what do you think will happen? That does not sound like a good idea at all.

America, big respect (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773303)

Now convince Victoria Australia, I sincerely doubt we'll ever get rid of the revenue raisers over here. The local govt need the money too much.

The mayor wants to be re-elected. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773321)

> I have to say I'm a bit surprised that my city is voluntarily
> shedding potentially $9.8M in revenue after objectively
> evaluating a program.

Votes matter more than money.

Re:The mayor wants to be re-elected. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773561)

wait till they put the property taxes up to compensate then you will see a fuss

crowd-sourced traffic enforcement (1)

mspring (126862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773365)

Once our cars are as "smart" as our phones today, traffic enforcement can be crowd-sourced.

Cameras Create Liability (0)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773387)

I have to say I'm a bit surprised that my city is voluntarily shedding potentially $9.8M in revenue after objectively evaluating a program.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the city's IT dept discovered a security hole that could enable a 15-year-old (possibly working for the Chinese military) to spontaneously switch red lights to green, or allow the light to be green in all directions, causing an accident. Then the legal department pointed out that the city could be held liable for the accident if the red-light cameras provided evidence, and the potential liability was significantly greater than the $9.8M they were making on people who run red lights, but still less than the cost of replacing all the traffic lights in the city.

It's about time (1)

ntropia (939502) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773419)

I can tell you that in several of places here in SD, the cameras went "bananas" a long time ago.
There's an infamous one right next to where I work that is flashing almost at random even with green lights. If you are unluckily driving there at night or dusk, you get the flash facing you that goes medieval with your retina... you just have to remember where the wheel was turned and Don't Panic(C).
An engineer friend said these cameras had problems and needed to be re-calibrated very often due to their lack of adaptation to light and weather changes... you know, 'cause of the crazy and unpredictable the weather of SoCal, you know?

Where's the independent study? (2)

Media_Scumbag (217725) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773465)

In 25 years of watching these systems try to replace traffic cops, I've yet to read any independent data on whether there's a net increase in safety in using speed and red-light cameras.

There are those who are pro-camera, who usually turn out to be affiliated with the makers of these systems, and those who are against, usually the expert witness traffic engineers who testify against municipalities in cases of those involved in rear-end accidents with the people who stopped for a changing light.

That said, I think they're probably useful in intersections that already have a high accident rate within the intersection itself, but as a pervasive means of generating revenue, I think their net effectiveness and their profitability for local governments may be outweighed by the liabilities of enforcement - such as increasingly necessitating a summons-server in the process - and collateral accidents that occur because people may be distracted or alter their behavior to avoid a ticket.

Likewise, cops going after DUIs in a fashion that renders the officer little more than a citation-machine doesn't seem like a good revenue model either - ie: targeting late-night drivers with "loose license-plates" rather than those who in broad daylight cause multiple-vehicle pileups; the largest number of easy convictions aren't always the ones that benefits society most.

What Are The Real Facts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773479)

The city of Tampa, FL [tbo.com] says that the cameras have definitely reduced the number of accidents.

The city of St. Petersburg, FL [tampabay.com] seems to be having more accidents BECAUSE of red light cameras.

It is however, tough to argue against red light cameras when the city of St. Petersburg issued 36,000 red light citations in one year. That's a lot of red light runners!

My favorite traffic camera story (1)

kdataman (1687444) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773537)

A driver in DC recently challenged a camera speeding ticket because the camera was set to flag drivers at 45 miles an hour when the construction zone speed limit was actually lower. He beat the ticket even though the camera was set to high, and he never denied that he was speeding. Oh, and did I mention that the guy is a cop who had recently been part of the automated traffic enforcement unit?

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-02/local/36211549_1_45-mph-limit-camera-program-photo-enforcement [washingtonpost.com]

Re:My favorite traffic camera story (3, Interesting)

Media_Scumbag (217725) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773697)

I know of a lawyer who beat a photo-cop speeding ticket in this way:

1. He was driving in his wife's car and was perhaps a little over the limit, and the machine flagged him.
2. His wife received the ticket in the mail.
3. Under local law, since she owned the car, but was not the one in the photo, it falls on her to identify the driver of the car at the time, so that he may be cited.
4. This, of course, meant that the lawyer's wife was being compelled to testify against her husband, which is illegal.
5. The lawyer simply told her to ignore it (like thousands of other people do), as there would need to be a summons served to her.
6. No summons was ever served, and the citation was dropped.

Increase the Yellow Light time by 1 second (1)

JoshDM (741866) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773559)

Running a red light is indicative of not having enough time to notice that the light is changing. By extending the amount of time the yellow signal is on, the more likely a speeder will notice the light is changing.

Re:Increase the Yellow Light time by 1 second (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773653)

Running red lights isn't actually a problem. The traffic light goes yellow and then it goes red. Depending on how drivers in your part of the world behave, people will pass the lights up to x seconds after the light goes yellow. That number x is different in different places, but it can be measured.

What's dangerous is not running a red light, what's dangerous is passing the light when cars from the other direction are already entering the crossing. So what matters is not the time between yellow and red, what matters is the time between yellow on my side and green on the other side.

Re:Increase the Yellow Light time by 1 second (1)

Floyd-ATC (2619991) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773663)

1. If the problem is that speeders just don't notice he yellow light, perhaps slowing down would be a better idea. 2. The typical asshat driver already sees "yellow" as "green" and just floors it instead of stopping. Increasing the yellow light time would ofcourse just encourage this incorrect behaviour. Ofcourse, accelerating into a yellow light usually means by the time they acually reach the intersection the light will have changed to red, which is why you're supposed to stop on yellow. 3. The most effective solution would be to keep the red light sensors and just replace cameras with sentry guns.

Alternative uses was the question (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42773575)

None is the answer. The technology has moved on to drones.

Some places, they can be ignored (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42773661)

In my state, red-light camera tickets can be round-filed. As the cameras are a private enterprise, they cannot do anything to your driver's license over them. They have no jurisdiction over you UNLESS you are stupid enough to walk into court. This is obvious from the wording on the tickets if you understand legalese well enough.

Ignore them long enough, they will try to serve you (junk service), and then you get a couple nasty-grams from a (private) collection agency! However, these can be ignored as well, as state law only gives them 90 days to collect, after which they must go away.

I'm not sure what the fraction of drivers to ignore the tickets must be to make the camera program a net loser, but I'm betting it isn't much. Thus, my educational outreach. :) (This is Colorado, btw. Other states probably vary. I hear in California they can take your license or something.)

The cameras are a safety hazard. Constant bright flashes at night cannot be anything but a hazard. Hell, I can see the flashes from my porch almost a mile from the nearest intersection with them. Looks like lightning.

Let's make the damned things a money pit for the cities... to paraphrase Gandhi (I think), "we now propose to withhold cooperation."

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