Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Driver safety, the camera scam

The Examiner
William Heuisler

Last week County Manager, Chuck Huckelberry, announced 12 new photo enforcement cameras will join 10 others in Metro Tucson - making 22 cameras in all.

But many Tucsonans loathe traffic cameras - they say the devices only extract their money.
Some politicians stubbornly assert traffic enforcement cameras improve driver safety.

Most camera data supporting “driver safety” come from organizations like Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and others profiting from traffic cameras. IIHS released a public opinion study on June 30th that “proved” motorists favor red light cameras. The problem? IIHS is an insurance company front. (Consumer Reports, 2011)

Consider: Traffic tickets add points which mean higher premiums and insurance profits. So insurance companies like red-light cameras. But, given the choice in cities across the US, voters turn down traffic cameras overwhelmingly. 

The IIHS study disputes reality.

The LA Police Commission voted June 7th to end red-light cameras in LA. Voters in Houston last year amended the city charter to compel a reluctant city council to unplug cameras that were generating $10 million a year. In Sykesville, Md., 61 % opposed cameras. Sulphur, La. voted 86 % against. Anaheim, Calif. voted 73 % against. Another six municipal votes are likely as camera opponents gather signatures in California, Ohio, Texas and Washington state. Fifteen other US cities placed red light cameras on the ballot. The cameras were rejected every time. (Pruden, 2011)

Huckelberry said the most important reason for cameras is to reduce speed and accidents, "Generating revenue for the county or court system is not a relevant consideration."  (Bodfield, 2011)

Revenue? County Administrator, Lindy Funkhouser says the county spent $1.8 million on camera enforcement in 2010 and received $2.6 million. But, he says, “The $800,000. profit is not much in the scope of the county's $1.3 billion budget.”  (Bodfield, 2011)

Words do not matter. Pima County citizens will have no choice about the cameras.

Nor will there be a vote of our elected County Supervisors on the new cameras.

Supervisor Ann Day’s Northwest District is where most new cameras will be sited. She said that, in general, her constituents don't like the cameras and, at first, she voted against them, concerned they were just a revenue-generating tool. "But the more I use them, I have noticed they do seem to slow down the traffic." She said, she wants to see more empirical data on their effectiveness. (Bodfield, 2011)

Empirically speaking, Tucson accidents dropped at five camera intersections, but accidents increased at four others. Ruthrauff east of La Cholla doubled accidents, and the biggest increase in accidents was on Alvernon between Irvington and Ajo. (O’Dell 2011)

So, Tucson safety statistics are questionable. And $800,000 is a lot of money, no matter how much a county administrator pooh poohs, “not much profit”.

Looks like the politicians think they already know what is best for their voters.

Bodfield, R. (2011). Arizona Daily Star. 12 speed cameras planned, mostly for Northwest Side. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_4b0e0e2a-4686-539b-80cd-1b7c175b34f4.html

Consumer Reports. (2011). News Cars. Support for big brother: Survey finds use of red light  cameras favored. http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/06/support-for-big-brother-survey-finds-use-of-red-light-cameras-favored.html

O’Dell, R. (2011). Arizona Daily Star. Traffic camera revenues declining. Fewer tickets issued as drivers acclimate; more options planned. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_c4816750-48a7-5f96-a40d-da9122d448d7.html

Pruden, W. (2011). Washington Times. Red light camera flop. IIHS junk science claims won’t save deeply unpopular ticketing programs. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/30/red-light-camera-flop/

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1 comment:

  1. They're just a money making scam. And it doesn't hurt from the politicians' perspective that they have a surveillance state function, that is to just to watch citizens generally.