Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

In 2010, Newark, New Jersey, collected more than $3 million in fines based on the watchful (and programmed) work of red-light/amber-light intersection cameras. The next year there were even more violations.

Politicians love these Orwellian devices, while citizens remain extremely suspicious.

New Jersey recently suspended ticketing based on the results from 63 of the state’s 85 intersection cameras. It seems that these specific cameras (including all those in Newark) had not been properly configured according to the specifications set by the enabling legislation.Big Brother Is Watching You

A Star-Ledger report neatly explains the calibration method, which requires intersection speed studies to set the proper duration of the amber lights. Figuring caution-light duration based on actual intersection speeds, not on posted speed limits — that is, the average actual speed of 85 percent of drivers — would seem to have something to do with safety. The 85 percent rule is an old highway safety engineering standard, and safety is allegedly why governments are involved in this at all.

A problem, though: This compliance procedure is great for setting speed limits, but in this case, wouldn’t it punish slower, legal drivers on streets where people tend to drive faster than the limit? Were the overwhelming majority of folks to speed through intersections, that would correspondingly lower the duration of the amber lights. Consequence? The folks most likely to receive tickets would be those who drove slowly through the intersections.

Hardly a good idea. As one driver commented, “Virtually from green it turns into red.”

More telling against the cameras is the increase in infractions, suggesting that the robotic cameras do not have a net instructional effect.

That is, they don’t make intersections safer.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Drik says:

    With so much controversy over even the safety, given that a number of real world studies find an actual increase in accidents…

    maybe they ought to just give up on toughting this as a safety issue and admit that it raises lots of revenue that they can’t afford to do without.

  2. Jay says:

    Some time back, The Wall Street Journal had (I beleive it was in the editorial section–I read it on line)- about this.

    It seems that with the cameras, THE TIME THAT THE LIGHT WAS YELLOW WAS SHORTENED, and many drivers ended up rear-ending others.

    Like Mr. Jacobs mentioned, it has not improved safety.

  3. Gary Ottman says:

    I totally agree with your column. Lynnwood,Washington installed these cameras at numerous intersections and collect between 6-8 million a year. Though they have no clue as to how this makes our citizens safer on their roads. They manipulate the lights to raise the revenues. This also has created ethics violations from their police Chief and his subordinates. It seems all the officers want a piece of the pie from consultant fees to jobs from the camera management firm in AZ.

  4. Paul Jacob says:

    I’ve addressed this issue a number of times, beginning in June of 2001:

    That commentary discussed manipulating yellow lights.

    There has also been political manipulation:

    All across the country, every time red-light cameras have been on the ballot, the people have voted them down. Every time. And our so-called representatives ignore our votes to get $$$.

  5. linda says:

    I will not pay one single ticket those city gansters send me and I have many I do not care I think it should be considered illegal what those skanks are doing I really hate stinking politicans

  6. Andrew says:

    Sorry to disagree, but I regularly drive through two intersections with these cameras and I have no problem with them. These intersections were accident magnets before the cameras, and if anything they are safer now. There is ample warning about them, and anyone who doesn’t like them is free to choose alternate routes. The cameras make me more conscientious about trying to squeeze through an amber/red light.

  7. Tree Dee says:

    (Would you like to know more?)

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