Red light cameras are traffic cameras installed at the intersections to monitor vehicles that violate the traffic regulations, namely the ones which enter the crossroad during the red light traffic signal. The cameras work automatically by taking photographs of vehicles entering the intersection during the stop bar traffic signal. Photos by these cameras are used as evidence of traffic violation and are taken only when the traffic lights turn red. Trained police officers analyze the images and can form a case against the violating drivers. However, the exploitation of the cameras has resulted in a heated debate concerning the necessity of their using in place of intersection by police officers. Therefore, the present paper will critically analyze the pros and cons of using the red light traffic cameras at intersections.
Red light cameras were first developed in 1965 in the Netherlands and had since been used in many countries, including Israel, Australia, and Europe among other nations across the world (Baratian-Ghorghi, Zhou, & Zech, 2016, p. 56). The cameras operate by being installed to posts at intersections. The poles are placed at intersections because these locations experience high cases of motor vehicle crashes. The cameras are automatically set to take pictures of vehicles at the intersections during the red light signal, which serve as evidence for booking the drivers.
The reason behind the use of red light cameras was to reduce the number of accidents which occur at intersections. Violating drivers are booked for tickets. The fines have made drivers to adhere to the red-light regulations, hence reducing the number of motor vehicle crashes. The red light cameras have tremendously reduced the number of intersection violations by 40% (“Red Light Camera Enforcement,” 2016). The cameras are accurate since they capture the front pictures of vehicles entering the intersection during the red light and the rear while the vehicle is at the crossroad. Once the drivers are noticed to violate this rule, they are fined; therefore, it becomes hard for them to repeat similar mistakes. This factor has thus reduced the number of violations on the roads hence improving road safety.
The red light cameras have been significant instruments in the reduction of intersection crashes that are often resulted by T-bone and right direction turn collisions. Intersection collisions frequently cause injury to the drivers and pedestrians. Nonetheless, red light camera usage has reduced the number of such accidents significantly. For instance, the injury cases have been decreased by 5% (“What Safety Benefits,” 2016). Right turns at intersections are considered more dangerous than turning left as they amount to most of the crashes. With the decline in the low traffic violations due to the red light cameras, pedestrian injuries are likely to reduce in the intersection areas with red light as well as those not installed with cameras.
The red light cameras have changed the behavior of many drivers. Behavior changes in humans often depend on the frequency of doing such an activity. Drivers used to the intersection regulations are more likely to drive safely in other major road times such as the primary roads hence reducing the chances of pedestrian injury in these areas. The subconscious mind of many drivers at intersections will make them adhere to the red-light traffic rules (Obeng & Burkey, 2008, p. 815). Therefore, since the behavior change becomes a routine, such drivers are more likely to drive safely even when they are not crossing the intersection, hence ensuring safety on the roads.
Private investors own many of the red light cameras around the country. While this fact may be regarded as a reduction in the cost of installation, the local government pays the services of the local private investors from public resources thus affecting the general public. To ensure the successful running of these programs, heavy fines have been placed on the red-light violators. Research by Chen, Meuleners, and Hendrie (2012) reveals that almost half of the proceeds received from the fines as a result of the red light cameras is paid to the investment owners. It is a drawback to the running of this program which not always offers the remedy to the problem of red light violations. Since the cameras work automatically, there is no need to hire personnel to guard this equipment. It, in turn, makes the red light equipment vulnerable to vandalism hence an increase in the cost of running the program. Thus, the technology is not cost-efficient.
Contrary to the idea that red light cameras have contributed to a reduction in vehicle accidents might be misleading as driving through the freeways seems to become more dangerous due to the introduction of the cameras. Many accidents occurred because of driving interruptions as a result of drivers trying to adhere to the red light regulations. The red light rules prohibit vehicles from entering the intersection after the red light signal has been shown. Thus, in order not to be booked, many drivers apply instant brakes leading to rear crashing with the vehicles from behind. While the program purports to ensure the safety of motorist, it does not factor in the negative effects the program will have on the security of the drivers trying to adhere to the rules.
The red-light system is run in such a way that it often leaves the offending motorists defenseless before the law. The violations are not booked immediately; the motorists are often served with the tickets several days or even months after committing offence. Such cases make it hard for an individual to recall precisely what happened hence is forced to pay the penalty and move on. The pictures are taken once the red light signal appears. Thereafter, the time is taken to cite these violations. Therefore, it may be hard for the driver to recall or even collect evidence concerning the signal on the date of the picture (Bautista, Dy, Maýalac, Orbe, & Cordel, 2016). On the other hand, due to the system of booking, the motorists violating the red light often find themselves on the losing end. The reason is that if they take the time to fight the case, they will lose their time, and if they pay, they would have lost their resources. Impliedly, it may lead to wastage of useful resources that could have been channeled to other productive endeavors.
Before motorists are charged with violations of the red-light rules, the pictures taken by the red light cameras are first analyzed by trained police officers. However, many cases do not represent valid evidence of the offenses. In Louisiana, a case regarding the violation of red light regulations found the police evidence to be falsified through fake photo enhancements. In other incidences, the red-light vendors often shorten the times between the yellow and the red lights (O’Brien & Farid, 2012, p. 4). The shorting of time is aimed at falsely getting motorists to violate the red light rules and increase their profits. The unfair practice of the photo vendors poses more harm to the drivers as opposed to the safety the program was intended to promote.
Many of the accidents occurring on the roads depend on the engineering expertise conducted during the construction of the roads. Various cities have particular areas with high probability of accident occurrence. However, the governments installing the red light cameras are often under the notion that accidents are a consequence of bad driving habits from the motorists. There are various means of ensuring a reduction of accidents in an area. For example, if a particular intersection has a high probability of occurrence of accidents, the authorities may use other means such as the addition of road signs, expansion of roads to ensure more visibility among other. It is thus unfair to trust technology which does not offer solutions to engineering problems such as flaws in the construction of roads and intersections.
Red light cameras are used in traffic to ensure the safety on the roads. It is one of the various initiatives by the authorities to ascertain that accidents and other undesirable traffic incidents are mitigated. However, the program which has been adopted by many cities across the globe has its advantages and disadvantages. It has benefits as it reduces the number of injuries at intersections, lessens the number of red light violations, improves the safety on the roads, and changes the behavior of motorists to drive safely. However, the arguments against cameras suggest they have multiplied the number of motor vehicle accidents due to the increase of rear vehicle crashes to motorists trying to avoid red light violations. In addition, the program has been revealed to be flawed when the vendors tend to shorten the yellow light time in order to increase their profits. Thus, while the red light cameras have various benefits to ensure safety on the roads, it is also important to expose the primary cause of accidents.