Blogs > Liberty and Power > Red Light Scams

Mar 1, 2004 5:28 pm

Red Light Scams

My Cato colleague Jonathan Block has a letter to the editor in today's Washington Post:
The Feb. 14 editorial"Focus on Red-Runners" mentioned a Fairfax City study that apparently showed a 44 percent drop in one year in red-light running at five intersections with cameras. But it did not mention the results of a 2001 analysis by the National Motorists Association of a Fairfax County intersection. That organization found that red-light violations dropped 96 percent at the intersection when yellow light time was increased from 4 seconds to 5.5 seconds.

A 1998 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also found that 80 percent of red-light entries occur within the first second of the light turning red, indicating that inadequate yellow time is the major cause of red-light entries.

Increasing yellow-light times would reduce red-light violations and increase safety. Localities have not done so because it would negatively affect a major source of revenue for local governments.

Incidentally, I presented this information recently during a hearing for a red-light ticket I received in the District after entering an intersection 0.6 seconds after the light turned red. The infraction was upheld.

The National Motorists Association does great work. They're libetarians of the roadways.

I predicted over two years ago that the installation of red light cameras would taint city officials with the promise of revenue. Not only would they no longer consider lengthening yellows -- which would promote the safety of motorists, but cut into red-light-runner revenue -- I predicted some cities might actually shorten yellows, putting motorists at increased risk just so the city can make a little more money.

Sure enough, last summer the city of Bethesda, Maryland was caught shortening the yellow light at an intersection that brought in $1 million+ annually in fines.

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