Ticket camera corporations like Redflex and American Traffic Solutions are great at extracting the most money possible from drivers in the cities that they partner with. Unfortunately for them — and fortunately for anyone who values justice — their biggest revenue-producing tricks are starting to be exposed and gradually shut down.
Here’s how cities ensure that they scam their residents out of the most money possible — straight out of the camera corporation playbook:
1) Make sure you let the camera company choose where to place the cameras.
Ticket camera corporations are often given carte blanche when it comes to choosing where their cameras are installed. The public is told that the cameras will be placed at the most dangerous intersections, but the ticket camera company has no interest in improving safety. They do have an interest in revenue though, so the cameras always seem to end up at intersections with the most traffic. If an intersection is dangerous, but has very little traffic, the ticket camera corporation will simply refuse to place a camera there.
This is very rarely publicized because no one directly involved (the city and the camera corporation) has any incentive to bring it up. Letting a private corporation make traffic safety decisions looks bad for the city and the ticket camera corporation doesn’t want to jeopardize the extra profits.
Unless the local media is paying attention, the citizens are left completely in the dark — or worse, they only hear the propaganda pushed out by the city and the ticket camera company.
2) Shorten yellow light times or take advantage of existing short yellow lights.
Yellow light timing is often the key to reducing red light violations. According to one study, an increase of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds in yellow-light duration will decrease the frequency of red-light running by at least 50 percent. There are numerous studies showing similar results.
However, the ticket camera corporations know that high violation rates are the key to making money from red light cameras so they either shorten yellow light times or make sure to place the cameras at intersections where the yellow light time is already too short.
The city goes along with it either out of ignorance or because they want the extra money to pad their budget.
Over the past couple years, through the efforts of the National Motorists Association and the media, this trick has been discovered by the public and they have demanded changes.
For example, thanks to citizen outrage in Georgia, there was a law passed that forced a one-second increase in the duration of the yellow warning light at intersections with red light cameras. This resulted in huge drops in red light violations and prompted several cities to disband their ticket camera programs.
3) Strictly enforce right turn on red violations.
After the yellow light timing trick was exposed, the camera corporations started to focus more on another popular way to drive up revenue at ticket camera intersections — right-turn-on-red violations. Cities with ticket cameras sell the cameras to the public by explaining that they’ll help prevent right-angle crashes. However, the majority of tickets given out inevitably end up being for minor right-turn-on-red violations.
According to the LA Times, Los Angeles officials estimated that 80% of the red light camera tickets are for right turn on red. And according to the Chicago Daily Herald, right turn on red violations have accounted for 90% of the tickets generated in several Illinois communities. These tickets are often given to drivers who actually stopped safely but were inches over the line.
Right turn on red violations have been proven to have very little effect on driver safety. In fact, a review of US Department of Transportation statistics shows that an average motorist could drive a billion miles — the distance from Earth to Jupiter and back — before being involved in an accident that resulted from a motorist making a rolling stop on a right-hand turn.
The chorus of drivers who are outraged by this camera corporation tactic is growing louder and many ticket camera cities are considering dropping right turn on red violations to appease the public.
The bottom line is that if cities installed cameras only at the most dangerous intersections, set appropriate yellow light times, and de-emphasized right-turn-on-red violations, their ticket camera program wouldn’t make enough money to survive. The cities know this and the camera corporations know this and that’s why they do the opposite.
But that’s only if their constituents let them. In each city, it’s ultimately up to the citizens to stand up for their interests and say no to the cameras.