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Monday, September 17, 2012

WASH,D.C. - Are Traffic Cameras Dying a Slow Death?

Springfield, Ohio traffic camera photo by Derek Jensen.

By Claire_Martin
The District of Columbia is adding more cameras to catch traffic offenders,
but some states and cities are banning them.
The District of Columbia is doubling down on camera enforcement of its traffic laws: It already uses the devices to catch speeders and red-light runners, and this fall it plans to add them at stop signs, according to reporting by The Washington Post. But high-tech policing is a surprisingly divisive issue; cities such as New York are contemplating it, but others are banning the use of cameras.
Twelve states have prohibited the cameras while 13 others and the District of Columbia use them, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Last year, Houston and Los Angeles turned their backs on the technology due to difficulties with enforcement.
The cameras' Achilles heel is that the person driving the car (and breaking the law) may not be the car's owner, who is the one who receives the ticket in the mail. "Los Angeles County Superior Court officials ... said that for the last decade they have chosen a less forceful approach partly because the person receiving the ticket may not be the person who was driving the car," the Los Angeles Times reported. Last year it was revealed that payment for camera-enforced tickets in LA is voluntary. Only one-third of offenders reportedly pay up.
Critics of the technology say many of the cameras are installed at intersections considered likely to generate revenue rather than those in need of a boost in safety. Certainly, they do make money. The District of Columbia's existing cameras helped bring in $55.1 million in fines in 2011.
Camera use is up across the country. Speed cameras have been installed in 93 communities since 2005. But will it stay that way? New Jersey is conflicted on the topic; some municipalities continue to add cameras, but the state considered a law earlier this year to pull all of them down.
It may be a matter of time before more legislators and drivers adopt the mentality of New Jersey state Sen. Mike Doherty, a Republican, who sponsored that state's anti-camera bill. “The cameras are not about safety; they’re about generating revenue for municipalities,” Doherty said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “The towns are using their citizens as cash cows.”