Around the country every proponent of automated enforcement will tell you that the reason the systems are being installed is because of the vast safety benefits they provide. This, of course, is nothing but a cover. The real reasons these systems are installed is for the money they bring in. It usually starts with a slick sales presentation from a private company that has invented a problem and just happens to have the solution. Once the dollars get discussed the city representatives are pulled into a zombie like trace; only in this case they only have an interest in greenbacks, not brains.
In many cases the public safety is sacrificed in favor of the city bank account. While the federal government has suggested that cities look to reduce the problem of speeding or red light running with engineering solutions, few cities ever do. So the decision to outsource traffic enforcement is made. In many cases these contracts include incentives for the private company. If an engineering solution, such as adjusting the light timing, were to solve the problem, then the location would not be profitable. In many cases the company will come out in advance and identify problem intersections for a camera, and in many cases the most dangerous intersections are the ones to get ignored. More disturbing is the fact that many systems limit what engineering efforts can be made once a system goes online. Doesn’t sound like safety is the real reason anymore, does it?
We could also talk about how many of the before and after stats are altered. In one study the definition of “intersection” was changed so that before was to include the approach of the intersection and the after stats only included the area inside the “box”. This allowed for any rear-end collisions that didn’t happen inside the intersection to be removed and a “reduction” in the number of accidents were achieved. The cameras got full credit. As I mentioned, sometimes traffic counts go down, especially in economic downturns. This lowered traffic count won’t get any credit for a reduction either!
Then we fined out several months back about the stunts Redflex had pulled in Chicago. It was trying to grease the political wheels with some dollar bills in order to get a lucrative contract. They have since been disqualified, but keep in mind, this isn’t the only company to do this. Our very own ACS/Xerox was found out to be doing some dirty dealings in Edmonton, AB. All it takes is a few campaign donations, some nice meals or hotels, or maybe donations to causes city leaders have a soft spot for, and boom, you’ve just bought a supporter. For people like myself who oppose this nonsense it is very difficult to make any traction at all. We just don’t have the money to fund our position.
For further research, please see the following articles:
And of course, lots of thanks to the NMA, where you can find even more studies to educate yourself with.