Traffic enforcement by camera: a public safety tool or just a cash cow for cash- strapped municipalities?

My friend and Hofstra University colleague Eugene Maccarrone and I published an article in 2015 on the popular trend across the U.S. of local municipalities resorting to traffic enforcement by the use of unattended cameras. Red light cameras, speed-trap cameras, stop sign cameras and even school bus cameras intended to catch violators. Under the guise of “traffic safety”, cash strapped municipalities have rushed to install cameras in cities large and small–very often at no cost to them with revenue sharing arrangements that often allow vendors who own, install, calibrate and maintain these cameras to get a percentage of the ticket revenue they generate. Although the justification for what is a lucrative revenue generator for municipalities is accident reduction, the evidence does not always back up that claim. Red light cameras which represent by far the most ubiquitous use of this type of technology, for example, do tend to reduce accidents related to individuals running red lights–but they also increase the incidence of rear-end collisions as drivers stop short for fear of running a yellow light that may turn to red as the approach the intersection and are struck from behind by drivers following too close behind them and often accelerating to try to “beat the light” and avoid a ticket.

Nor is safety the only issue involved in traffic enforcement by camera as the technology raises issues of privacy, fairness, and due process (e.g., only drivers of cars and motorcycles are subjected to what has essentially become strict liability offenses while pedestrians, skateboarders, bicyclists and others can flaunt the law with impunity when cameras are present, but not when actual police officers are present to hand out citations).

You can read the entire article at the link below.


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