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November 14, 2013

If concerned principally about saving lives and public safety, can one reasonably oppose mass use red-light cameras?

The question in title of this post is prompted by this local news item from my own local paper headlined "Coalition says red-light cameras reducing accidents, saving lives." Here are excerpts:

The battle over whether red-light cameras are primarily lifesavers or money-makers is being re-fought in the General Assembly seven years after it began. Cameras placed at critical intersections, including 38 in Columbus, help dramatically reduce accidents and save lives, a statewide coalition said yesterday, pushing back against a legislative proposal that would all but eliminate the devices in Ohio.

House Bill 69, passed by the House this year, “is bad public policy that puts people at risk on Ohio roads,” Sgt. Brett Bauer of the Springfield Police Department said at a Statehouse news conference. Red-light cameras “are making roads safer in Springfield and across the state,” he said. The bill would limit cameras to school zones — and then only when an officer was present.

A coalition of police officials from Columbus and other cities, plus municipal officials, bicycle enthusiasts and safety advocates, appeared at the news conference alongside Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Minerva Park, who is planning legislation to reform how the cameras may be used rather than repeal the use of cameras, as the House bill would do.

The most emotional advocate in favor of continuing using the cameras was Paul Oberhauser of Somerset, whose 31-year-old daughter, Sarah, was killed in 2002 when a motorist ran a red light and hit her car in an intersection at 55 mph. “The year Sarah died, about 1,000 people nationally were killed in red-light accidents,” Oberhauser said. “I know you understand this carnage has got to stop.”...

Right-angle crashes are down 74 percent in Columbus, while rear-end crashes have dropped 25 percent at intersections with cameras, said Lt. Brenton Mull of the Columbus Division of Police. The city has 38 cameras at intersections scattered across the city. “It is a model program that should be emulated, not thrown out because someone doesn’t like getting a ticket from a red-light camera,” he said.

As regular readers (and my students) know well, I like to focus on traffic laws as a means to test whether and when citizens are really prepared to live up to oft-heard claims about the importance of public safety and saving innocent lives. In the context of debates over gun control, the death penalty, mass incarceration and other high-profile public policy criminal justice debates, there is often considerable competing claims and evidence concerning whether and when certain government policies actually do or do not save innocent lives and improve public safety. But this local article confirms my understanding that red-light cameras do tend to improve public safety at least somewhat (and does so in a way that actually raises revenue for localities rather than require significant expenditures).

I fully understand why persons principally concerned about privacy rights or due process or government graft might have real problems with widespread use and potential abuse of red-light cameras. But I really want to hear from readers if they think that those persons who say their principally criminal justice concerns relate to saving lives and public safety (as I do) have any sound basis for opposing mass use of these cameras.

November 14, 2013 at 03:15 PM | Permalink


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Q.If concerned principally about saving lives and public safety, can one reasonably oppose mass use red-light cameras?


Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Nov 14, 2013 3:35:04 PM

I have often cited the statistics of 20 million FBI index felonies and 2 million prosecution. Here is a camera that captures all crimes of red light running, all day, every day. The results are evident.

1) The malum prohibitum should be popular, preferably approved by a popular vote, and lawyer elites. They are hated and hateful.

2) It should be proven to enhance safety.

3) There should be large and plentiful notices of the cameras in operation before reaching the intersection. To deter.

4) It should not be used as a profit center for government nor for its contractors. Profit introduces a conflict of interest and bad faith, detracting from popularity. It should be an utility, cost plus 2%.

5) It should be supported by data, to maintain validity.

6) It should be superior to the less oppressive alternatives. For example, removing all traffic lights markedly cut the accident rates. Having competing alternatives.

7) Because a dozen factors cluster to make an accident, the other eleven must be in investigated and pursued.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 14, 2013 3:45:22 PM

We could also save thousands of innocent lives by having a nationwide speed limit of 10 mph.

Q: Is anyone for that (along with the red light cameras)?

A: Of course not.

Q: Why not?

A: Because it's so much silliness.

Same deal with suggesting that those supporting the DP must, "logically," support red light cameras at every light.

By the way, my own main reason for supporting the DP and the increase in imprisonment over the last 20 years is not that these things reduce crime and save innocent life, although they do and that's very important.

The main reason is that serious crimes rightly earn serious punishment. I understand that this is now called racism or barbarism, etc. It used to be called what it actually is, to wit, justice.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 14, 2013 4:36:31 PM

It is my understanding that previous research, that I do not have the time to find, showed that red light cameras led to increases in rear-end collisions at traffic lights and intersections due to fear of running red-lights and receiving tickets due to the camera

Posted by: dino | Nov 14, 2013 5:03:15 PM

I know someone who saw a fire truck delayed for 15 minutes at a really crowded Boston (I think) intersection because no one would run the red light due to a camera.

Posted by: Poirot | Nov 14, 2013 8:38:26 PM

fuck the police

Posted by: bubblegum casting | Nov 15, 2013 3:10:02 AM

:: bubblegum casting ::

Prof. Berman,
I thought Obamacare groupies were prohibited from posting due to
the pathological lying of their mentor!

Barack Obama, June 15, 2009: “That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people:
If you like your doctor you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.
If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

Barack Obama, August 15, 2009: "No matter what you've heard, if you like your doctor or your health care plan,
you can keep it."

Barack Obama, September 9, 2009: “Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.”

Barack Obama, June 15, 2010: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.
If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.
No one will take it away, no matter what.”

--- & again & again as mindlessly as "bubblegum casting"


Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 15, 2013 9:54:01 AM

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