Red Light Cameras Spark Controversy Over Protection and Rights

In 2011, Houstonians voted against the installation of red light cameras (RLCs) at intersections. One of the main reasons to install the red light cameras was to discourage people from running red lights.

It was hoped that this would substantially decrease traffic accidents at those intersections and save lives.

However, Houstonians felt that the cameras would infringe on fundamental rights and, therefore, voted against them.

Four months later—and much to the surprise of Houston safety officials—it appeared that the majority opinion had merit, as accidents at dangerous intersections decreased by 16 percent.

Now, there could have been multiple explanations for the timely decrease: lower rainfall (the study took place between January and May), fewer people on the roads, overall safer driving habits, or fresh public awareness of intersection dangers. Interestingly enough, the same statistics from that period show that although accidents decreased at these intersections, more people had been running the lights.

So, what does that tell us?

Five months may not have been enough time to thoroughly grasp the safety effects associated with the cameras. However, five years has been plenty of time to shed light on the RLCs’ efficiencies as well as stir up more fodder for the fight for their constitutional removal.

The Safety Debate

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has taken up the challenge to thoroughly investigate the effects that red light cameras have on intersection accidents across the country. Throughout numerous studies, it has compiled the following data:

  • Cameras decrease overall violations. Red light violations such as turning right on red, failing to stop on red, etc. decreased significantly, in some places as much as 40%, when RLCs were present.
  • Cameras decrease light-change violations. Where RLCs are present, the number of violations that occurred after the light changed decreased significantly as time passed. Violations that occurred less than half a second after the light turned red decreased by nearly 40%. Violations that occurred, at least one second after turning were down by 48%. Violations that occurred at least 1.5 seconds into the red phase fell by an astounding 86%.
  • Cameras decrease accident rates. Intersections with RLCs were found to have a 24% reduction rate of fatal running red light crashes and a 17% reduction of all other types of intersection collisions.

The Constitutional Debate

Despite the obvious safety benefits of RLCs, many drivers feel that the cameras violate their constitutional rights. The argument is that since the purpose of the camera is to convict a person of a crime (tickets are automatically sent to the owner of the offending vehicle), the driver’s rights are being violated, as he…

  • Isn’t given the ability to confront the witness (the camera).
  • Isn’t given a trial by an impartial jury (the camera acts as witness, judge, and jury as the photo condemns the driver to a ticket).
  • Isn’t given the presumption of innocence (if the camera takes the photo you’re automatically presumed guilty).

City officials argue, on the other hand, that RLC programs comply with state laws that allow the use of cameras to make intersections safe for motorists and pedestrians.

The lawsuit determining whether RLC installations are constitutional is on-going and has left many cities wondering which is more important: Safety, or debating a $30 ticket?

The Accident Solution

Accidents are not uncommon in Houston. With or without these cameras, hundreds of people die each year due to traffic accidents. If you become a victim of a negligent intersection accident you might be able to hold the driver responsible. You may even be able to collect compensation to help secure your family’s financial future.

As such, it’s advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced car accident attorney with Steve Lee. With over 35 years’ worth of experience, we can help you prove negligence and work toward a settlement that your recovery is depending on. For help in reviewing your case, contact us today at 713-921-4171 or 1-800-232-3711.

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