Ever since I learned to drive, something about traffic lights has been glaringly obvious: The yellow light simply isn't sufficient warning of a light change. It may be okay if you're a long ways off, but I'm sure all of us have, on numerous occasions, experienced a "sour spot" (play on words of "sweet spot") where you are almost at an intersection, get the yellow, and have to make a split-second decision to "gun it" and try to make the light, or slam on your brakes to stop at it. Human nature is to "gun it" -- it's even a part of pop culture, the Starman "red = stop, green = go, yellow = go very fast" -- hence the type of red-light running that these cameras are tuned to maximize revenue from.
What I propose to all municipalities in states that have made the cameras illegal, as well as manufacturers of traffic-signal equipment:
Create a standardizable device which will let motorists know at a glance how much time is left on the green. It could be a numeric countdown such as the one on many pedestrian signals, a border of blue LEDs around the signal heads that extinguishes light by light as the yellow draws near, or (like in parts of Canada) a green light that flashes during the early part of the cycle, then goes to solid green 5-10 seconds before the yellow. Whatever the mechanism, it should give at least 15 seconds' warning of a light change, and do so in a manner understandable to most drivers of standard aptitude.
(I feel that a numeric countdown would be the best, as virtually everyone is familiar with countdowns [New Year's Eve, microwave oven timers, etc.])
Next, install this extra signaling scheme on busy intersections that formerly would have rated the installation of red-light cameras. Then trend the red-light-running and accident rates at these intersections for a few months (before and after).
I'd almost bet money that the red-light-running rate would drop precipitously.
Another way to improve traffic flow and cut down on light running, of course, is to synchronize signals on a city-wide basis, simply decreasing the number of opportunities to run a red. The technology exists for smart traffic control systems. It's time to implement them!
The thing that disgusts me the most about red-light cameras is the amount of manpower and technological muscle wasted to create and install these systems that could have been used instead to implement solutions like I outlined above. Red-light cameras are simply a profitable, Band-Aid solution for a real problem that has plagued traffic signals since their introduction. We must get rid of the Band-Aid and use the right tools to fix the issue.
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