Many people have become all too familiar with the nationwide red light camera controversy. Governmental agencies assure us that the red light camera program is all about safety and that many studies support their claim of reduced accidents, injuries and deaths. However, a growing number of people believe that the red light camera program is all about raising revenue and that many studies support their claim of increased accidents, injuries and deaths.
The problem is that both advocates and opponents of the red light camera program often generalize when answering the question as to whether or not the program is beneficial or detrimental. One cannot state as a matter of fact that all red light camera intersections are safer or less safe, because every intersection is unique and different. There are many factors to consider including traffic volume, time of day, light sequence, light timing, local driver characteristics and the type of intersection, just to name a few.
Notwithstanding, based upon my more than 25 years experience as a personal injury attorney on Long Island, I am of the opinion that red light cameras on Long Island are a detriment more often than not. Perhaps one of the biggest problems that stands in the way of true success with red light cameras, is that not all drivers drive alike and they never will. When approaching an intersection some drivers proceed slowly while others increase speed, both in an effort to safeguard against getting a red light camera ticket.
In our age of red light cameras, we have some people who stop short very abruptly not to risk receiving a ticket from the seemingly subjective red light camera eye. This tends to increase the risk and frequency of rear end accidents, especially when the second car in line fails to anticipate the short stop of the car in front of them. Likewise are the cars that accelerate to beat the changing color of a light effectively increasing the danger to cars, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. This becomes especially problematic when the lead car approaching a changing light brakes abruptly to stop for the light, while the car behind the lead car accelerates to beat the changing light. Unfortunately you can never know which type of driver is going to be behind you as you approach an intersection.
While these types of issues pre-date the red light camera era, they were seemingly with significantly less frequency, intensity and uncertainty. Over the years I have observed local intersections where red light cameras were placed, appear to transform from relatively safe to perilous with a multiplicity of accidents, injuries and even deaths. This type of observation and opinion is shared by countless others across the country.
The existence of red light cameras should be dependent on continuously updated case by case specific and detailed data analysis, that truly justifies the camera's existence at a particular intersection. The ostensible question relative to many of the location selections for red light cameras, is how many of us need to have accidents, get injured or die before our governmental agencies look away from the blinding light of greed, become humanized and do the right thing? Let us not lose sight of the forest for the trees. If it looks like greed and smells like greed, then perhaps it is greed.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.