Skip to comments.Red Light Cameras, Government Greed, and the Libertarian Quandary
Posted on 12/28/2014 9:36:52 AM PST by Kaslin
Like the good people of Arizona, I despise speed cameras.
But not because I want reckless driving. Instead, my disdain is based on the fact that governments set up cameras where speed limits are preposterously low in order to generate revenue. And I speak from personal experience.
Like the good people of Houston, I also despise red-light cameras.
But once again, this isnt because I want jerks racing through red lights and endangering innocent people. Instead, my opposition is based on the fact that greedy governments operating recklessly use such cameras as tools to fleece drivers.
Holman Jenkins has a column in todays Wall Street Journal, explaining how the industry was supposed to operate.
A promising industry betrayed by the behavior of its customers—thats the story of the red-light camera business. …Redflex Traffic Systems, leading practitioner of the once-sparkling business of setting up automatic traffic-enforcement systems for municipalities. The company and its industry were set to grow. The product improved traffic safety, freed up officers for more important work, and paid for itself. Towns and cities didnt even have to budget a dime upfront because Redflex assumed the costs and risks of setting up cameras at designated intersections.
But in the real world, thats not what happened. Politicians all over the nation used cameras as revenue-generating devices.
…serial revelations by the Chicago Tribune about the citys buccaneering ways—running its camera system for profits rather than safety. …New York state conspicuously authorized cameras at various upstate locations in 2010 to close a budget gap. When New Jersey last week let a five-year experiment lapse amid a voter backlash, Moodys called the decision a credit negative for local treasuries. In California, public acceptance steadily eroded as politicians kept piling on surcharges that turn a hundred-dollar traffic offense into a $500 fine in the mail. …the Trib cited the citys long-standing reliance on using the lowest possible yellow light time to maximize revenues even at the cost of encouraging more accidents. …a universal peeve of motorists, being fined for a harmless rolling right on red.
At this point, some people may be thinking that this is no big deal. After all, they might argue, at least the cameras make the roads safer.
But according to research commissioned by the Chicago Tribune, the cameras simply replace one type of accident with another, at least in part because the city government rigged the system to maximize revenue rather than safety.
Here are some excerpts from a report published by Reason.
Chicagos red light camera program hasnt made driving in the city any safer and has replaced one type of car crash for another. The cameras are there obviously to make money for the city, not for the benefit and safety of the residents. The Chicago Tribune commissioned a study to break down the citys claims that cameras have reduced right-angle crashes at intersections by 47 percent and calls the number nonsense. They calculate that it actually dropped the rate of crashes that caused injuries by only 15 percent. That wouldnt be such a terrible number if engineers hadnt also calculated that their cameras didnt also cause a 22 percent increase in rear-end collisions that caused injuries. …the Tribune story makes sure to point out how much revenue the city has gotten from the program—$500 million over 12 years. The Tribune also reminds readers of the many, many, many scandals and issues the program has faced, like tickets handed out for lights that had yellow signal times below the national standard, unexplained ticket surges, and outright bribes from a company operating the cameras to city officials.
By the way, this data from Chicago isnt an anomaly. Radley Balko has reported on similar accident-causing scams all over the nation.
So now, perhaps, youll understand why I wrote more than three years ago that Jay Beeber is a hero.
I’m part of a red light camera class action lawsuit here in Florida. Big abuse of the red light cameras. I have to remember to check the status of the lawsuit this week.
Freedom-loving people should smash down these damn cameras.
I’ve never seen one here in Maine, fortunately.
Hate, hate, hate those cameras. We survived decades without using them. Feel like rats in a maze for the govt. glaze. That they use cameras and police as revenue collectors is a disgraceful shame. Politicians should run on the issue with promises to get rid of this extortion by govt. —unless they lie.
It is not about safety but revenue. This is just like the drunk driving money making scam. It also is not about safety but revenue.
I say this as someone who has never had a drink ever in the 46 years I have been around. It is clear when a person decides that they are to drunk to drive so they sleep in their car at the bar. If they turn it on to stay warm they are ticketed and run threw the money making system. I personally find this disgusting. In essence it says go ahead drive home because we will get you either way.
Government is suppose to protect he citizen and yet they make life more dangerous so they can get more money.
You reduce corruption by reducing government functions. There is a one-to-one relationship.
I did get one ticket one time, but I knew I would get one, so I send the $50 in that it cost me
Exactly. And that is what I try to do
OK. So when the light goes from green to yellow to red in five seconds on a road with a 50 mph speed limit you won't mind paying a $500 fine and seeing your insurance go up for three years?
'Cause... why again?
As Hoppe observes in Democracy, the God that Failed, it is in the nature of all governments, regardless of their type, to continually seek to increase revenues while simultaneously decreasing their level of actual service.
It’s easy to find a principled reason to oppose them: they increase collisions and create opportunity for corruption on a large scale. The supposed reason for their implementation is belied by the facts. Increasing yellow light times has been proven to decrease traffic accidents without any expense.
Here in Florida, it is especially bad because they design the systems to fleece tourists and commuters. The majority of municipalities that implement cameras decrease yellow light timing to increase revenue. Many also outlaw right turns on red. Both of these actions increase revenue at the cost of safety and congestion. It is outright fraud by both the government and the companies that produce the camera systems. How can you not oppose it?
I don’t see where there’s a libertarian quandary with these. They’re a pure big government cash grab with nothing to recommend them, clearly the kind of thing libertarians are against.
Tip of the iceberg, boys, I blame the libertarians!
This guy wouldn’t like driving through Europe. Of course every city that puts up these cameras obligatory says “we’re not setting these up for revenue, they are for your own safety.”
But I don't see any of those being done, so dump the red light and speed cameras.
Just more of the baloney, don't do anything that violates the law and the fascist tactics won't affect you. Most of us violate some law every day of our adult lives, simply by going about our lives in an orderly fashion.
The government's function is not to intimidate the populace into submissive behavior that suits its desires.
Counties and cities often lower the length of the yellow light phase when they install the cameras to a couple of seconds.
When the Georgia legislature passed a law requiring traffic lights in the state to have a minimum of 4 seconds for the yellow light phase, the number of camera based tickets dropped by 80%. This disproved the idea that the cameras were only catching dangerous drivers running redlights.
Our town has never had the speed cameras but we did have red-light cameras. They were sold as (of course) a safety measure that would only be used in school zones. Now who would complain about that?!
Once they got their foot in the door they quickly expanded to every major intersection in town. Despite all the negative fallout the (pubbie) mayor refused to remove them. He’s not the mayor anymore.
Oh and they’re removing the cameras as we speak.
It’s basically a TOLLING SYSTEM that feeds on people driving safely and normally, but making “technical mistakes”, such as stopping just over the line, or not quite getting to full stop before turning right.
I watched an intersection in Los Angeles (Sepulveda and Victory Blvd, in the Valley) for several hours, back when they were in force, and I saw the flashes (from all different directions - I counted 7 cameras at that intersection, and I think it was only for North/South traffic) and I saw the reactions of the drivers (some even tried to roll back). They knew they were out $500 for going a foot over the line, and they weren’t happy about it.
So how about taking away the money angle? If they help safety so much, then the cities should put up the cameras and then assess driver license points for each violation (with some maximum, maybe one point per month). Then people would get punished, but politicians wouldn’t be lining their pockets with their hidden tolls. A few of those tickets and they watch their insurance zoom up...a few more and their license goes bye-bye.
...of course that will never happen, as that is not the point of the cameras...which is my point.
The problem with red-light cameras is they aren’t profitable forever. People learn to stop running red lights and the cameras eventually cost more to operate than they bring in. The solution, of course, is to shave half a second off the yellow light and WALLAH! MONEY! For a while.
But there is really no need for red-light cameras at all. If there is an intersection with lots of red-light runners, it means the yellow isn’t long enough. Add a second or two, and the red-light runners disappear.
But as Ayn Rand said, the only power government has is the power to punish criminals, and when there aren’t enough criminals you pass more laws to manufacture more criminals.
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