The Arguments Against Red Light Cameras

On this page you will find the common arguments against the use of red light cameras, each will be followed by comments on the reason from the opposite viewpoint

  1. Red Light Cameras cause more crashes and reduce safety
    Summary: The majority of the 20 red light camera studies and reports that we analyzed show increases in crashes, showing an average of a 27% increase in crashes and a 21% increase in injury crashes after red light cameras are installed.
    Comments: Just about every study or report that comes out showing a rise in crashes cause by red light cameras generates a response from the IIHS(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) criticizing the study in some way. The 2007 Virginia DOT study that showed an increase in total crashes of 23% and an injury crash increase of 17% after the installation of RLCs at intersections was heavily criticized by the IIHS, even though the they noted that while conducting the study the VDOT essentially bent over backwards to accommodate the IIHS, but because the ultimate results were unfavorable, the VDOT study should be discarded.

  2. Red Light Cameras are an invasion of privacy
    Summary: With most new red light camera systems, they are recording video 24/7, meaning all drivers(not just red light runners) are being recorded at all times. The video and still images are stored on privately owned computers servers without any verifiable audit trail of when the video is deleted.
    Comments: RLC advocates claim that only the vehicles are recorded and not the drivers, although in some states(like California) there are pictures and/or video taken of the drivers. They also claim that you have no expectation of privacy if you break the law. The problem with this argument is that it only works if the cameras are 100% accurate, which they are not. In fact, the camera makers themselves claim that existing systems in operation can have from 4 to 40% false positives.

  3. Red Light Cameras are not the most effective way of reducing red light violations
    Summary: 70 to 80% of red light runners go through red lights within the first second after the light turns red. Studies in Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia show significant red light violation drops after extending the yellow signal time on intersections. Also, several communities in the state of Georgia has seen an average 72% decrease in red light violations after mandating one additional second of yellow time to existing red light camera intersections.
    Comments: RLC advocates claim that the benefits of longer yellow time are only temporary(the 2003 Texas study specifically refutes this), and that red light camera benefits are long standing(the 2010 Las Cruces, NM report refutes this).

  4. Red Light Cameras are used primarily to raise money, not improve safety
    Summary: While not true of all communities that install red light cameras, there are many communities that use these systems to fund large portions of their budgets, such as Houston, Texas that is now facing a $10 million budget shortfall after citizens voted to remove that city's 70 red light cameras. There are even several communities like Chicago, Chattanooga, Dallas and Nashville that have lowered yellow light times below the FHWA minimum of 3 seconds in order to attain higher red light violations at their red light camera intersections.
    Comments: There are many documented examples of communities in states that have state-wide red light camera regulations where the communities looses money on their red light camera system due to the small share that the issuing community receives from red light camera citations. As for the red light camera companies themselves, they often promote on their websites about the millions in revenues that cities have collected by installing red light camera systems.

  5. Ticket recipients are not notified quickly after the offense
    Summary: Unlike receiving a traffic ticket from a police officer, or even receiving a parking ticket, a red light camera citation often arrives weeks after the offense has taken place, making it difficult for the person receiving the citation to remember the circumstances of the offense, or even if they were the person driving the vehicle at the time. There is also the issue of receiving multiple citations during this lag time without being aware of the citations causing the fees to pile up without any warning.
    Comments: We haven't seen an answer from the pro-camera side on this argument.

  6. There is no guarantee of delivery of the citation
    Summary: Unlike receiving a traffic ticket from a police officer, or even receiving a parking ticket, where you immediately receive the ticket in person or attached to your vehicle, a red light camera citation often arrives by first class mail, with no guarantee of delivery to the accused offender. If the citation is not paid then the accused offender may be sent to collections, have a lien placed on their house or vehicle, or may have a warrant issued for their arrest (depending on the municipality) all based upon non-verified delivery of a piece of first class USPS mail.
    Comments: Some communities and red light camera companies do send violations using parcel carriers that have tracking numbers, although there is still no guarantee that the parcel is being received by the supposed violator.

  7. There is no certifiable witness to the supposed violation
    Summary: Unlike receiving a traffic ticket from a police officer, or even receiving a parking ticket, where a person issues the ticket, a red light camera cannot be an "accuser" that can be confronted in court and testify about the circumstances of the supposed violation. Also, just because a red light camera was operating properly when it was installed does not mean it was operating properly at the time of the supposed violation.
    Comments: This defense has been affirmed and rejected in different jurisdictions around the country, there is no uniform rule applied for this defense.

  8. Red Light Cameras do nothing to prevent an accident from happening
    Summary: The red light camera is only a mechanical witness to a red light violation crash, it can do nothing to prevent it, except as a potential deterrent. The ironic part about all of the videos and photos that red light camera companies and other advocates show to illustrate how horrible a red light running problem might be, is that almost all of those videos are taken directly from red light camera systems, which shows in effect that red light cameras do nothing to prevent crashes.
    Comments: Pro-camera advocates respond to this by saying that red light cameras are a deterrent, and the threat of receiving a ticket changes driver behavior and makes people better drivers. This is in spite of the video evidence that they themselves are showing of course.