Several citizens have recently penned letters to the Review-Journal seeking the installation of red-light cameras as a safety remedy for Las Vegas roadways. But let this former Chicagoan and former suburban traffic commission member warn all valley residents to be careful what you are asking for.
As the Chicago Tribune often pointed out, the prolific installation of red-light cameras throughout the metro area was more of a money grab than a safety issue. In fact, the number of collisions at many intersections increased subsequent to camera installation due to sudden braking upon the transition from green to yellow lights in the direction of traffic.
Additionally, communities banked the fines to help keep budgets in the black. Safety was simply not a consideration. But revenue was.
How does this happen? The Tribune found that yellow-light sequences were intentionally shortened to increase violations. Right-turn drivers “rolling” through a red light at 1 mph or 2 mph were cited for not coming to a “complete stop.” Violations were being determined by out-of-state contractors and assessed to the registered vehicle owner via license plate number irrespective of who was actually driving the car.
For right-turners daring to challenge their fines, the video evidence had to show a sudden stop-jerking motion to prove a complete stop. Often, contesting a ticket cost more than the fine itself. And, of course, there were many media reports investigating the contract awards between the various municipalities and the camera companies.
A new era of nickel-and-diming at hundreds of intersections. Rear-end collisions everywhere. A majority of violations having nothing to do with the classic definition of running a red light. Most fines assessed to the community’s poorest. Municipal coffers flush with new cash. And still, drivers continued running red lights the classic way because those kind of motorists couldn’t care less. So much for safety.
Again, be careful what you wish for.