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“No Taxation Through Citation!”

by Melissa Bailey | Apr 3, 2012 7:46 am

(52) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: State, Transportation

Melissa Bailey Photo If the city starts using cameras to catch red light-runners, argued Andrew Schneider, New Haveners will “give up civil liberties” without getting any safer.

Schneider (at megaphone in photo), the executive director of Connecticut’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, made that argument Monday evening on the sidewalk outside City Hall. Members of the ACLU joined protesters from local civil rights group as well as Occupy New Haven to denounce a bill at the state Capitol that would allow New Haven to install cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights.

The bill, which would apply to municipalities of over 48,000 people, passed the state legislature’s Transportation Committee on March 14. It awaits final votes in the state House and Senate. Mayor John DeStefano and local activists, who have fought for years for such a measure, now have the support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Some of New Haven’s legislators are on board, too, including Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney.

Under the bill, drivers caught blowing traffic lights would face a $50 fine and a $15 administrative fee. Drivers would get a ticket in the mail; they wouldn’t have to appear in court or face points on their licenses. The ACLU has tried, successfully, to block similar legislation for years.

Supporters argue the bill would help avert tragedies that hit New Haven in recent years, sparking a citywide traffic-calming movement.

Taking the megaphone Monday, Schneider argued the opposite: That red light cameras actually make the streets more dangerous. He cited a 2005 Washington Post study that found that injury and fatal crashes rose 81 percent in five years at intersections in Washington, D.C. where the cameras were installed.

Schneider raised two main civil liberties concerns. The information from the cameras can be used to track drivers’ whereabouts. And the bill tramples on due process rights, he argued: It would deny the driver the right to confront his accuser. The timeframe for issuing a ticket—up to 60 days after the alleged offense—is so long that drivers wouldn’t be able to remember the incident well enough to come to their own defense.

“Why are we giving up our civil liberties for no safety at all?” Schneider asked.

About 20 people joined him on the blustery sidewalk.

“Don’t make New Haven a red-light district,” urged one sign. “No taxation through citation,” argued another.

New Haven civil rights activist Barbara Fair elaborated on that last point.

“People here are unemployed and struggling,” she said. She called the red-light camera bill just another way for government to continue to “rob this community” by citing a large number of people who drive cars.

“I think this is nothing but a revenue generator,” Fair argued. She was making an argument that many others have made this year, as one vendor that stands to profit from the legislation heavily lobbies the Capitol.

“It’s only about making money,” agreed local filmmaker Jimi Patterson (at left in picture, handing the megaphone to Fair).

If the city starts nabbing red-light runners, it will use the money from the red light cameras to roll out new grass on the Green on the grave of Occupy New Haven, he predicted. He said he believes in “laissez-faire capitalism” that protects individual rights.

Down the street, Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen, who has lobbied legislators for the bill this year, defended the effort.

Hausladen pointed to an insurance industry-backed 2011 study showing a dramatic reduction of “T-Bone” (front-to-side) car crashes. While the number of rear-end collisions crept up due to people suddenly stopping at red lights, the drop in deadlier T-Bones prevented far more damage and loss of life.

In response to Fair’s argument, Hausladen said the bill does not impose any tax or rob citizens.

“It’s not a tax; it’s a penalty. You only have to pay that penalty if you break the law,” he said.

As for the privacy concerns, Hausladen said he is confident that “safeguards” could be written into the law protect against privacy abuses, such as tracking New Haveners’ cars around town.

The bill now sits before the state House. Lawmakers have said it will likely be amended before a final vote, which must take place before the legislative session ends on May 9.

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posted by: anonymous on April 3, 2012  8:34am

One of the ACLU guys there said on TV he’d “rather see bodies piling up on the street” than have people get the $75 parking ticket for running a red.  Seems pretty offensive to the tens of thousands of Americans killed by drivers breaking the law each year, given that these “parking ticket cameras” are used in thousands of cities.

I’d support raising taxes on the folks who currently break the law and kill the 10 year old kid trying to cross at the crosswalk, like recently on Whalley. I saw an entire family and baby almost get run over and killed by a speeding red light runner at a crosswalk (with walk signal) a few weeks ago.  Civil liberties would be enhanced if people could cross their street and get to know their neighbors again.

posted by: robn on April 3, 2012  8:42am

20 protesters…hmmm, almost as many people as were killed or injured by red light runners in recent years.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on April 3, 2012  9:01am

I was sick yesterday so I could not make the rally. But I wish I could of. My dislike of this bill may differ from some. I did call my alder with my concerns. That being that the bill should not past until the do a mandatory yellow light time extension. To me this is to much like entrapment.
Am I against it on all levels, no. High traffic buss. areas this can be a plus. As a person in a crime area it can be a plus (but not sure if it is legal to use them that way) EXTEND THE YELLOW LIGHT TIMES. to say this is ok because it stops more serious accident while creating more of another kind is kind of ridiculous!

posted by: KB on April 3, 2012  9:13am

Subsequent articles in the Washington Post to the 2005 article that Mr. Schneider cites:

January 31, 2011
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2011/01/31/GR2011013106750.html?hpid=dynamiclead

February 1, 2011
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/01/AR2011020100021.html?sid=ST2011022303839

“Our traffic fatalities have been cut in half in four years,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. “We see less high-speed crashes, we see less crashes at what used to be the worst intersections. Because of speed enforcement, when people do crash, it’s at a slower speed, so there are less likely to be fatalities.”

Lanier also said the cameras conserve police resources. “Those automated enforcement programs can take the place of 100 officers. In order to have the same effect with police officers, I’d have to divert them from crime-fighting.”

posted by: AyJoe on April 3, 2012  9:51am

I am not a fan of red light cameras.  But some folks here do drive like maniacs, and are blatantly irresponsible in driving through red lights.

I do have concerns about where the revenue will go, and whether a contractor will be used to build and maintain the cameras.  If the revenue goes back to the city for transportation funding, I am fine with them.  If the majority of the revenue will go to subsidize the private company for installation and maintenance, then no way.

posted by: DingDong on April 3, 2012  10:01am

So, a few days after the Supreme Court held that any person who is arrested can be strip-searched, a few days after the NY Times revealed that police are routinely tracking citizens using cell phones, at a time when three millions Americans are incarcerated and another four million are under others forms of correctional supervision, my local chapter of ACLU is organizing a protest for drivers’ right to run red lights without having pictures of their license plates taken?

What a joke.  This is, after all, the organization that supported the outcome in Citizens United.  They were once useful but they remain mired in a bunch of outdated twentieth-century platitudes about “free speech” and “privacy” with absolutely no sense of how those concepts should be adopted to contemporary reality.

posted by: Bruce on April 3, 2012  10:07am

The ACLU does a lot of good work in a lot of areas, but this is just absurd.  They are grossly distorting and exaggerating the concerns. 

The city will not make any significant money on this technology.  The point is to save the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle drivers.  More people die every year from traffic accidents than gunfire and New Haven is a particularly dangerous city. Cycling advocates (like myself) have engaged in a grassroots effort to get this program in place for many years.  To hear these people dismiss it as some sort of nefarious fundraiser is downright offensive.

I would love to hear how the ACLU proposes to combat this epidemic.

posted by: DingDong on April 3, 2012  10:11am

Okay, let me respond to their substantive points:

1. “The information from the cameras can be used to track drivers’ whereabouts.”

Well, you can already put up a camera (as long as it doesn’t issue tickets) to track drivers’ whereabouts.  In fact, go outside and you’ll see the City has a number of such cameras.  Good work, ACLU, on focusing on a distraction.

2. “And the bill tramples on due process rights, he argued: It would deny the driver the right to confront his accuser.” 

Right, so, on this logic, parking tickets are also unconstitutional, since you don’t have the right to confront the metermaid. 

3. “This is just about generating revenue.”

I doubt it; Elicker and Hausladen have not made increasing taxes and reducing spending their signature issues—instead, these guys really do care about developing a safe, walkable city.  But the more important answer is, so what?  Maybe it’s all about revenue generation, but last I checked, the City is short on money.  Raise money from scofflaw suburbanites instead of higher property taxes.

posted by: PauletteCohen on April 3, 2012  10:19am

Companies who manufacture, install and maintain red light cameras have spent the passed eight years lobbying the State Legislature to pass legislation enabling red light cameras in Connecticut’s big cities.  Last year they spent $150,000 on their efforts.  They would like us to believe that if we give up a little of our privacy and due process rights we will get traffic safety.  Here’s what we’re likely to get instead:

Increased rear end collisions,
increased fatalities,
perverse incentives against instituting real traffic safety measures,
tracking without a warrant,
a way to raise revenue that falls unfairly and regressively on those least able to afford it,
a system where we’re required to remember where we were three months ago when we didn’t know we were getting a ticket.

I was astonished to learn that the New Haven Police department does not keep statistics that would tell us how many traffic accidents were caused by running red lights each year—and they doubted any other Connecticut city did.  They simply list statistics for traffic accidents, they don’t categorize the causes. 

If the State Legislator is worried about traffic safety the first thing it should do is pass a law to require state and municipal traffic departments to keep statistics on the causes of traffic accidents.  Once they know the problems they should work with traffic safety professionals to identify best practices to reduce the accidents.  I doubt installing red light cameras will be on the list of best practices.

The red light camera companies will tell you there is plenty of research saying the cameras improve safety.  They should know.  They’ve funded it, directly or indirectly.  Independent studies show the cameras increase accidents, and even fatalities.  You can find the study for the increase of fatalities here:

http://hsc.usf.edu/NR/rdonlyres/5FD239D2-785E-4EA6-82C0-603E34A8F60C/0/FPHR2012pp001008Orbanetal.pdf

On the other hand simple measures like increasing the length of yellow lights by minute amounts can decrease accidents at an intersection by 70%. 

They say it’s not about the revenue, it’s about the safety.  If that’s so we shouldn’t do it.  There is very little safety to be gained.  In fact, we could well be less safe.

If it is about the revenue, lawmakers should be up front, and find ways to raise revenue that is not a regressive tax.

And lastly, I wish people would stop dismissing my privacy and due process rights as trivial issues that can be ignored.

Info:

http://stopthecameras.org/red-light-camera-fact-sheet/

http://www.acluct.org/legislation/opponentsofredlightcameras.htm

posted by: jcwconsult on April 3, 2012  11:12am

The ACLU is correct. Red light cameras are very likely to RAISE the accident rate, and they violate proper judicial process/privacy.
In almost every case, using safer, longer yellow intervals on the lights will reduce violations by MORE than ticket cameras - without the risk of raising the total accident rate.
Red light cameras are a very effective revenue program.  Better engineering is the true safety program.  Cities that want to use cameras are after revenue, NOT safety.
Please read all the research and science behind engineering traffic lights for maximum safety on our website.  If it makes sense to you, please contact your state legislators to say you oppose this revenue program.  Contact your local officials to say you want better engineering and you oppose the use of predatory red light cameras.
Please note that the IIHS is not an unbiased research group and their study was debunked by the University of South Florida for flawed methods that did not lead to valid conclusions.
Note the ACLU is supporting a bill to ban ticket cameras entirely in Iowa.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

posted by: Threefifths on April 3, 2012  11:57am

Aldermen Doug Hausladen and Justin Elicker, supporters of the bill, read an ACLU handout.
Hausladen pointed to an insurance industry-backed 2011 study showing a dramatic reduction of “T-Bone” (front-to-side) car crashes. While the number of rear-end collisions crept up due to people suddenly stopping at red lights, the drop in deadlier T-Bones prevented far more damage and loss of life.

How about this update insurance industry-backed 2012 study.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Studies Refute Insurance and Camera Company Red Light Camera Claims

New studies from Kansas City and Florida debunk claims by the insurance industry and photo enforcement companies that red light cameras reduce accidents.


A report appearing in the Florida Public Health Review evaluated claims made by a previous report by the IIHS (an insurance industry funded group) which had claimed that red light cameras broadly reduced accidents in many US cities.  The critique, entitled “Counterpoint: The Insurance Institute for highway Safety Study Actually Found Cities Using Red Light Cameras Had Higher Red Light Running Fatality Rates” was written by three PhDs identified numerous flaws in the IIHS study (read complete report and the report summary on the hsc.usf.edu web site).  “Our review reveals the 2011 IIHS study is logically flawed and violates basic scientific research methods that are required for a study’s findings to be valid. It has neither internal nor external validity.The Florida report noted that there was an extreme sampling bias in the study, given that 25% of the cities in the ‘control’ group in the IIHS study had extremely low red light running fatality rates(0-2) in the “before” period, and as such it would have been impossible for those cities to ‘improve’ in the after period.  The Florida study also noted some math errors in the IIHS data “For example, population is the denominator in both outcome measures reported (e.g., fatalities per 100,000-population), as well as a numerator in the variable ‘population per square mile.”

The Florida report concluded “Thus, cities using cameras are estimated to have a 25 percent higher red light running fatality rate in the ‘after’ period relative to cities not using cameras, despite the greater reported percent reduction in the former,” and that “This suggests other interventions were more effective in lowering fatality rates at signalized intersections. However, the authors of the IIHS study did not cite these findings.”
Also The Florida report also noted that insurance companies actually.

http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2012/01/studies-refute-insurance-and-camera.html

posted by: Threefifths on April 3, 2012  12:10pm

I already havethe license plates on all of my cars sprayed with this.

PhotoBlocker Spray.

http://www.phantomplate.com/photoblocker.html

posted by: Jones Gore on April 3, 2012  12:14pm

So who or what is getting the ticket? The car or the person driving the car? How is it proven that the owner of the car was driving?

Isn’t there supposed to due process? And if so how does that happen when the city or state can’t determine who was driving the car at the time of the infraction?

Not a good idea. Lets see how may New Haveners (anyone that lives in New Haven County) will allow this to happen.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 3, 2012  12:34pm

3/5: Good luck with that.
http://mythbustersresults.com/episode73

The paint might be worthless, but for just another $30 I’ll sell you my soon-to-be patented cloaking device. Fits in your coat pocket and you and your car will be completely invisible.

It would be interesting to get the views of some professional traffic engineers regarding yellow light timings. It’s an article of faith among the apologists for red light runners that the yellow lights are adjusted to be shorter to increase the fines. Every engineer I’ve ever heard quoted has said that’s bogus but it would be interesting to know how the intervals are determined.

My guess is that they’re set for the speed limit of the street; drive at 25, for example, and you’ll have adequate time to stop without slamming on your brakes to come to a squealing halt.

Lengthening them seems like surrender to the idea that speed limits are meaningless.

posted by: gerardw on April 3, 2012  12:46pm

So does the bill include license plates on bicycles?

posted by: anonymous on April 3, 2012  12:47pm

Paulette, ConnDOT already collects those statistics by town and they are readily available upon request. Also who even needs them when anyone who lives here can rattle off names of people who have been injured or killed by red light runners.

As explained previously, the single study that you and ACLU buddies can cite is the “Florida Public Health Review” which is the result of one advocate’s research and which has been thoroughly and completely debunked by hundreds of experts.

Perhaps this is the reason why thousands of cities, including the most progressive, most livable, and healthiest cities throughout America and Europe, use these devices to guarantee safety.  Red light running is virtually eliminated when drivers receive parking tickets for breaking the law, and serious injuries plummet.

Take the example of DC, for one, which has dramatically cut injuries and crime even as New Haven’s crime rate has remained out of control. “Our traffic fatalities have been cut in half in four years,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. “We see less high-speed crashes, we see less crashes at what used to be the worst intersections.”

posted by: KB on April 3, 2012  3:05pm

Under the bill, it is a defense to an alleged violation if the owner provides the traffic authority or authorized municipal agent an affidavit that:

“1. establishes him or her as the owner of a motor vehicle renting or leasing business at the time of the alleged violation;

2. establishes that someone other than the owner or the owner’s employee had custody of the vehicle under a written rental contract of 60 days or less at such time; and

3. gives the traffic authority or authorized agent the name and address of the lessee.”

With respect to the number of violations and accidents at intersections with RLC, the bill says:

“Not later than the latter of October 1, 2017, or twelve months following the date of implementation of an automated traffic enforcement safety device program by a municipality, each municipality that has installed such a device and has been operating such a program shall submit a report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to transportation. Such report shall include a comparison and analysis of: (1) The number of violations of section 14-299 of the general statutes that occurred at the intersections where such automated traffic control signal enforcement devices were used, prior to and during the use of such enforcement devices; (2) the number and type of related traffic violations and accidents that occurred at such intersections prior to and during the use of such devices; and (3) the number of violations of section 14-299 of the general statutes and related violations and accidents that occurred at intersections where such control signal enforcement devices were used and at similar intersections where such automated traffic control signal enforcement devices were not used.”

The bill can be found at:
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/H/2012HB-05458-R00-HB.htm

Increasing the yellow light timing reduced RL running by 36%, while adding camera enforcement further cut red light running reduced it by 96%.

Retting, R.A.; Ferguson, S.A.; and Farmer, C.M. 2008. Reducing red light running through longer yellow signal timing and red light camera enforcement: results of a field investigation. Accident Analysis and Prevention 40:327-33.

If someone could provide a link to the statistics that cite a 70% reduction with yellow light timing alone that would be great.
Thank you.

posted by: uncompromised on April 3, 2012  3:21pm

Kevin Witkos, a senator and police officer is opposing this bill due to several concerns: The amount of money being spent to lobby legislators to pass this bill, cameras will not be placed where most accidents occur but rather where there is the most traffic to generate the most revenue,that 15 states have installed the cameras and have removed them due to the controversy behind them so why is Ct initiating something that is already being outlawed in other states,that 98% of the tickets issued have been for not coming to a complete stop as one turns right on red and not for running the red light and finally that evidence has been shown tht the best way to alter driving habits is with direct patrol and enforcement.In addition to his concerns I am concerned about what happens during a funeral procession or parade or one is forced thru a red light due to emergency personnel or it’s icy and it would be safer to go thru the light than suddenly stop. I am concerend that New Haven residents, already struggling to keep food on the table and shelter will pay for this controversial service. Where’s the data to support New HAven has a problem with people running red light? Months ago taxpayers had to invest in the shot spotter, another million dollar useless tool. Why must taxpayers continue to pay for these bad investments?East Rock residents are the biggest supporters since it was suggested (at a meeting) cameras can be a revenue source. My suggestion: reform hiring practices. When nearly 80% of city adminstration lives outside new haven you can expect their income will be spent in their town. For more info on Sen Witkos position call 1-800-8421 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) As always when one is not expected to be impacted by policy it is easy to dismiss the concerns of those who likely will. This is not simply about obeying traffic lights.

posted by: PauletteCohen on April 3, 2012  4:18pm

The most fine grained statistics available from ConnDot is a category called Violating Traffic Control.  It is not broken down any further to indicate what the violation is.  Thus we presently have no way of knowing how many of the accidents were caused by running red lights as opposed violating other traffic control.

We also can’t tell from current statistics whether the driver was also drunk or stoned, or whether there are persistent accidents at an intersection because of poor signage, or obstruction of sight lines, or inability to see cross traffic without moving out into traffic.  None of these problems would be fixed by red light cameras.

posted by: Bruce on April 3, 2012  5:00pm

I’m sure we can all find studies to suit each of our assumed positions.  At some point you simply have to use logic.  I try to read studies only from familiar sources that are typically respectable and have no motive for bias.  I also apply my own logic to the results.  The one below shows an increase in rear-end collisions (logical) a decrease in T-bone collisions (also logical) and an overall decrease in injuries.

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/05049/

Looks like pretty sound science to me.

As for privacy concerns, I simply don’t understand where the invasion is.  Isn’t a live policeman, who pulls you over and can peer into your car, much more invasive? Can’t you get a parking ticket without any proof of who was driving the car?  Can’t an officer track and follow you home? 

But when cameras are used, people get the creeps.  Cameras are already here—they’re all over the highway, they’re on police cars, they blanket the city sidewalks. Police constantly use surveillance cameras to track suspects and conduct forensic work.  Why the big backlash when we try to use them for public safety?

posted by: GregoryL on April 3, 2012  5:33pm

I’m pro-red light cameras.

We have red lights in order to keep people safe, and to keep traffic flowing at a reasonable level.  People who run red lights should pay for breaking the law, and these cameras would take a little bit of the burden off of police officers, who have quite a bit to worry about.

posted by: srd275 on April 3, 2012  6:02pm

Also let me add that in DC, ONE PAPER IS OPENLY QUESTIONING THE FACTS OF THE SCAMERA VENDOR AND CITY THERE TOO!

http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/2012/02/examiner-local-editorial-if-traffic-cameras-increase-safety-wheres-proof

Quote:  “In January, for example, The Washington Examiner asked officials in D.C. and Montgomery County how they determined whether speed/red light cameras resulted in fewer accidents, injuries or deaths at each specific location where they were deployed. If the cameras really do increase traffic safety, as officials insist, the before/after data should confirm it with concrete numbers.
A month and a half later, we’re still waiting. District officials told us they determine that the cameras increase traffic safety “by comparing statistics, where available, from one fiscal year or calendar year to another.” That’s fine, but they still failed to provide the data they claim to have. Montgomery County didn’t even bother answering the question. Freedom of Information Act requests for this elusive data have since been sent to both jurisdictions.”

http://www.banthecams.org

posted by: gerardw on April 3, 2012  6:16pm

widespread adoption of longer yellow lights are not a good idea. They currently work at selected lights because they are longer than standard; if they became standard throughout the region drivers would simply adjust their habits.

The same thing happend with third brake lights years ago ... when adopted in pilot studies they reduced collisions because they were different. Now that they’re commonplace the effect has been negligible (http://www.carwrecks.com/1/post/2012/01/rear-end-collision-research-continues.html) and they just make our cars more expensive.

posted by: lizv on April 3, 2012  7:19pm

I have the following reservations:
1. A 15.00 administrative fee on top of the ticket cost??? Seems excessive; who gets this fee revenue?
2. Cyclists get a free pass on running red lights. Seems unfair.
3. This will do nothing to deter those individuals that drive unregistered or misuse plates. Quality arrests come from traffic stops, I fear we’ll see a decline in those arrests.
4. Ticketing the car owner instead of the driver (if they are not the same) is just wrong.

posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on April 3, 2012  7:31pm

ALEC (American Leg. Exchange Council) is behind many of these laws. They are a front group for corporations.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Traffic_Solutions#Ties_to_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

Red Light Cameras actually CAUSE more accidents (rear ends).

posted by: FrontStreet on April 3, 2012  8:19pm

Hey people, the traffic-driving culture in New Haven is really really bad.  And I mean, really really bad (have I made my point yet?).  I’ve lived and traveled throughout the developing world and seen some pretty bad traffic situations.  And, honestly, some days New Haven drivers don’t rate much higher. 

Red light cameras?  No brainer.  No one has an intrinsic right to drive a car, and even less so to endanger others with irresponsible driving.

posted by: KB on April 3, 2012  8:33pm

With respect to accidents/injuries from red light running, the following have been reported over the past 2 years in CT media:

A 14 year-old New Haven girl http://nhregister.com/articles/2011/04/18/news/new_haven/doc4dac6ba4e9f9b065610449.txt)

Two New Haven police officers http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/rounduppp/

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2011/09/13/blotter/doc4e6fd42ef0ce6736143841.txt

A woman and her dog had to be extricated from a crash from a Red Light runner who crashed into a market in New Haven:

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/woman_rescued_after_co-op_crash/

A woman in Bridgeport was sent to the hospital due to a crash from a red light runner:
http://www.ctpost.com/policereports/article/Car-collides-with-bus-in-Bridgeport-2688108.php

Three deaths from red light running, including Angel Arce:
http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/hartford_cty/push-for-red-light-cameras-in-hartford

posted by: Righteous Cyclist on April 3, 2012  8:42pm

I can’t wait for traffic cameras to be placed at EVERY intersection. I hope the technology advances to the point that it can catch speeding cars too. Unless the system malfunctions, it’s entirely fair for fines to be levied based on traffic cams. Hamden is already using this, and their residents aren’t suffering.

I’ll be at the ribbon cutting for the first camera!

posted by: PauletteCohen on April 3, 2012  9:37pm

Some information about extending the yellow lights.  This comes from John Large, a PhD in both Public Health and Engineering. 

There is an established traffic safety engineering term called the “dilemma zone”.  From the moment a driver first sees a yellow light she enters the dilemma zone, where she has to decide whether it’s safer to stop or speed up.  For each 10 mph she’s traveling she needs 1 second to stop.  She also needs 1 second for reaction time.  If she is going 30 mph that’s 4 seconds to stop safely.  If she’s your grandmother she’ll need another second, or maybe more.  That’s why adding a tiny amount of time to the yellow light—or adding a brief 4-way red period—decreases accidents so profoundly.

I know this because Professor Large asked me to explain this to the Transportation Committee when I testified during the red light cameras hearing in Hartford.  Large had testified before I did.  He stopped when the three minute buzzer went off.  He was prepared to explain this during the question period, but not one question was asked of him.

posted by: HenryN on April 3, 2012  10:26pm

Ignoring questions of privacy or taxation, there’s a practical reason to not install cameras:  They don’t work.

They can’t stop the real late runners, who cause the crashes. (If cameras worked, sellers wouldn’t have the crash videos they show us.)
A real late runner (2+ secs. into the red) doesn’t do it on purpose. He doesn’t know (a visitor) or doesn’t remember (a distracted or impaired “local”) that there’s a camera up ahead, so the presence of a camera won’t stop him. To cut these real late runs, improve the visual cues that say, “signal ahead.” Florida’s DOT found that better pavement markings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signal lights bigger, add backboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the corner. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for the cross streets. 
Cameras are not “neutral” - they come with many side effects: They (indirectly) block emergency vehicles - cars stopped at a camera hesitate to get out of the way! Other side effects: Rearenders, local $$$ sent to Oz, AZ or Goldman-Sachs, where it won’t come back, and tourists and shoppers driven away.
Want safety, no side effects?
Install the visual cues.
Remove unnecessary external distractions, such as changing or flashing commercial signs. 
To cut car/pedestrian accidents, train your kids (and yourself) not to step out just ‘cuz the walk sign came on.
To cut nuisance running (a fraction of a second late), lengthen the yellows. It’s cheap to do so can be done all over town.
Who needs cameras?
Who needs their side effects?
Who needs gullible politicians who fall for Snake Oil like cameras? What will they fall for next?

posted by: GregoryL on April 4, 2012  8:37am

HenryN, I don’t understand your point about the 2+ second late red light runners.  The point is not to get people to stop at specific intersections, it’s to push for people to stop at all red lights.  Not knowing or remembering where a red light camera is irrelevant - people who go through a red that late are choosing to break the law.

I’ve seen several people in New Haven come to a full stop at a red light, look both left and right, and then hit the gas.  I’ve seen this with people going straight, turning right (at intersections with “No Turn on Red” signs posted), and even TURNING LEFT.  What the hell is that?  Even worse, I’ve seen people choose to run red lights in school zones.  I’ve seen it three times at Crown and College, right next to Co-op High School.  It’s flat out absurd that anyone thinks this is OK.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 4, 2012  9:00am

Let’s have a little more precision in the way we talk about things. Red light cameras aren’t the primary cause of more crashes of any kind, even if some studies suggest they’re correlated with higher numbers of rear-end crashes (even while they’re associated with lower numbers of more serious crashes).

The primary causes of rear-end crashes are motorists failing to maintain a proper following distance and traveling too fast to be able to stop safely in a short distance.

posted by: Nobody on April 4, 2012  10:18am

I live in a city where there are cameras.  And I will say you will see that people are very aware of that fact.  They slow down and stop when they are supposed to.  Yes, it generates revenue but it deters people from running red lights.  You will see people once in a while try to beat the light, and you will also see a bright flash go off if they do run it. 

Any concerns as to whether or not they know who ran it will be addressed.  Because they mail you pictures of your car when you run it, after you have run it, along with clear snapshots of your license plate.  You will receive a copy of it in the mail (I’ve personally seen one).  You don’t want to pay, then don’t run the light.

posted by: Perspective on April 4, 2012  10:34am

I agree with the comments of “Uncompromised”.  There are situations where going through the red light are warranted(funeral procession, emergency,etc).  I reconginze the need to enforce the traffic laws and to restrict the arbitrary running of red lights.  In this case however, I’m not sure the solution is cameras.

posted by: anonymous on April 4, 2012  3:46pm

Paulette, isn’t Large the author of the hopelessly flawed study I referred to above?

Also, care to cite how many injuries from the DOT database were caused by traffic signal violations? It’s on the DOT website. Next tell me how a driver can disobey a traffic signal other than a red light when the only signal at a given dangerous intersection, which is where virtually all serious injuries occur, is a light. The numbers on injuries and fatalities are well known- questioning a well known public health crisis is irresponsible. I suggest you look into the databases more.

posted by: streever on April 4, 2012  7:21pm

uncompromised:
When I testified for RLC, I saw numerous police chiefs, assistant chiefs, and other officers show up to testify for automated enforcement, after having seen it work in other states. It seems a shame that one retired officer is against them, especially when he hasn’t read the bill.

If he had, he’d know that—for example—the RLC do not catch right turn on red under the proposal, but only straight runs through.

posted by: uncompromised on April 5, 2012  8:23am

Streever: It takes courage to be the sole person to stand on principle for what’s right and just and I admire that quality. Courage is where one stands in moments of challenge and controversy. I have seem far too many compromise what is best for the broader community to appease colleagues. I, too attended the hearing and testified. I’m not sure how you know the senator did not read the bill.It seems he actually went beyond reading and did some research. Research indicates many states who accepted the cameras have now ended their contract due to the controversy including the fact they have not reduced accidents and over 98% of the tickets were not from people “blowing thru a light” but for not stopping long enough on red before turning right on red. LA is the latest city to get rid of cameras. It is my belief that cameras will likely turn out to be just another useless and wasteful investment as the million dollar shot spotter that the mayor sold to the community as another valuable tool. I wonder who profited from that venture? i say follow the money.Struggling city residents must pay for these errors in judgment.It’s not fair to them.

posted by: AyJoe on April 5, 2012  10:26am

I wish folks would expend the same amount of energy spent here on dialogue regarding the real problems of the day.  This is ridiculous.

posted by: streever on April 5, 2012  10:34am

Uncompromised

In every version of the bill I’ve seen, it stipulates that the cameras CAN NOT be used in the way you describe.

This is why I suggest that he should familiarize himself with the actual legislation in CT.

The people who wrote the bill have learned from the mistakes other communities made, and made a very large number of changes and additions to the bill to address those mistakes and problems.

I actually don’t call taking an extreme stance and ignoring the needs of others “courage”, but “extremism”, which is what the ACLU and your hero are engaging in.

At a time when our nation is the GLOBAL LEADER in incarceration, THIS is the fight the ACLU is waging? Well said DingDong. We are incarcerating more people than any other nation on earth and THIS—forcing you to drive the speed limit—is the invasion of privacy we all need to rally around?

I’d have more respect for opponents of this bill if they just admitted they like to drive 5-10 mph over the speed limit and as such have a hard time stopping on time.

posted by: Bruce on April 5, 2012  10:44am

AyJoe, almost five THOUSAND pedestrians are killed by cars each year.  How is this not an important issue to you?  It’s important for the mothers who’s kids won’t be coming home from school.

Pedestrian and traffic safety should be at the very top of the priority list.  Higher than gang violence.

posted by: jcwconsult on April 6, 2012  10:22pm

For KB asking for data on ~70% reductions in violations from just longer yellows, here are three examples:
http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/fairfax
http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/30/3055.asp
http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/31/3110.asp

The issue on straight through violations is that the yellows are shorter than the engineering formula requires for the ACTUAL 85th percentile speed of approaching vehicles.  Set the speed limit 10 mph below the safety-optimum 85th percentile speed, time the yellows for that false approach speeds, and the cameras are WILDLY profitable.  It has nothing to do with safety and may actually cause higher accident rates.
Ask yourselves something. WHY, when yellows are lengthened by about 1.0 seconds do the violations drop so far that often camera companies pull out of the cities? Then ask, if the yellows were lengthened before the fact, would the camera companies even try to get the contracts?
Correct engineering is the answer IF safety is the real goal, and not the predatory collection of ticket revenue.  Jim Walker, NMA

posted by: streever on April 7, 2012  9:37am

Jim Walker
Yes, that has been an issue.

That is why the lights must be timed to the engineering standard.

Maybe you think the state will lie and change the lights, but guess what? You can verify for yourself with a stop watch.

posted by: FrontStreet on April 7, 2012  4:31pm

A philosophical perspective (quoting Immanuel Kant):


“The problem of organizing a state, however hard it may seem, can be solved even for a race of devils, if only they are intelligent…..

it does not require that we know how to attain the moral improvement of men but only that we should know the mechanism of nature in order to use it on men, organizing the conflict of the hostile intentions present in a people in such a way that they must compel themselves to submit to coercive laws.”

And I say more devils than angels in New Haven, behind the wheel at least.  Long orange lights assume Angels (the intent to stop at some point).  Red light cameras are for the devils.

posted by: jcwconsult on April 8, 2012  5:36pm

For streever:
The likely problem is that the state will time the yellows for the posted speed limit, NOT for the actual 85th percentile approach speeds.  Since most posted limits are 5 to 15 mph below their safety-optimum levels, this times the yellows from about 0.4 to 1.5 seconds too short for the ACTUAL approach speeds. This is exactly how the scam works in Florida where it is specifically allowed to time the yellows for the posted limits, regardless of how under-posted and unrealistic they are.  Jim Walker, NMA

posted by: William Kurtz on April 9, 2012  7:50am

So now we’ve entered the Bizarro world in which, according to Mr. Walker and the National Motorists’ Association, holding drivers accountable to posted speed limits is a ‘scam’.

The statistical jabberwocky about ‘85th percentiles’ and ‘safety-optimum approach speeds’ ignores the fact that 25 mph speed limits in downtown and residential areas are more for the safety of other, more vulnerable users of the streets than for the convenience of motorists.

It shouldn’t matter how the street is designed. No one has any business going faster than 25 mph–even that is often too fast–in a complex, chaotic urban or residential environment.

Having said that, I do agree that for too long now city streets have been designed with the sole purpose of enabling speeding and other irresponsible driver behavior. The physical infrastructure should be changed to reduce this behavior.

posted by: jcwconsult on April 9, 2012  10:24am

For William Kurtz,
Low speed limits set below the speeds where the road feels safe and comfortable for the vast majority of drivers simply do not work.  They cause higher speed variance, more passing, more tailgating, less smooth traffic flow, etc., etc.  Altogether, it means reduced safety and higher accident risks. 
You CAN change the character of the road so that only lower travel speeds feel safe and comfortable to most drivers, but traffic calming is not usually appropriate for main roads.
85th percentile methodology is 70+ years old and is one of the most often proven and re-proven methods to make traffic flow as safe as possible.  Read the last article at this URL from the Michigan State Police titled “Establishing Safe and Realistic Speed Limits.”
http://www.motorists.org/speed-limits/articles
There is the link to http://www.michigan.org/speedlimits for a booklet with similar content on the Michigan government website. I have a 1941 National Safety Council Report on Speed that says to post limits between the 80th and 90th percentile for the best results.
Setting posted limits that define 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, or 90+% of drivers as violators or criminals is simply counter-productive.  It can be VERY profitable for ticketing, but not for safety.  Jim Walker, NMA

posted by: William Kurtz on April 9, 2012  12:45pm

I can only assume your last post is satire. Safe for whom? Certainly not anyone not protected by a car, the wisdom of your 70 year-old pamphlet aside.

First, we’re not talking about ‘main roads’ here. We’re talking about city streets, where people live, work, shop, walk, ride bicycles, roll in wheel chairs, ride skateboards, and other things besides drive.

Second, using your calculations (”. . .most posted limits are 5 to 15 mph below their safety-optimum levels. . .”) you are encouraging cities to set their speed limits between 30-40 mph. According to more recent research
: <blockquote the risk of serious injury (or death) was 2.1 for speeds of 20 - 29 mph, 7.2 for speeds of 30 - 39 mph, and 30.7 for speeds of 40 mph or more</blockquote>

So at your preferred lower limit, the risk of a pedestrian suffering a serious injury or dying more than triples, while at your upper limit that same pedestrian is 15 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed.

And you can still, in good conscience, argue that speed limits are too low?

This may be news to you as well. The ‘main road’ where a speeding driver killed a childin 2008 is full of businesses that people from the surrounding neighborhood walk to.

posted by: KB on April 9, 2012  2:27pm

William Kurtz:
Thank you for your comments. The driver who apparently ran a red light, struck and killed Gabrielle Lee and ran off has not be found to this day, nearly 4 years after her death, to the best of my knowledge. 

We all have to remember that drivers are not the only ones that use the roads and we have to make our roadways safer for ALL users.

posted by: jcwconsult on April 9, 2012  2:41pm

For William Kurtz,
No, it is not satire to work for 85th percentile posted limits - as also advocated by the Traffic Services Section of the Michigan State Police, the department responsible for traffic safety state wide.  It works.
If you truly want to reduce actual traffic speeds, you have to change the character of the road with some type(s) of traffic calming.
Just posting 25 mph where the 85th percentile speed is 37 mph is useless and sometimes counter-productive posturing that reduces safety.
The thing you have not accepted is that the 85th percentile speed in the example above will be between 34 and 40 mph, regardless of whether the road is posted at 25, 30, 35, or 40 mph.  Changes in posted limits of up to 15 mph change the 85th speeds by a maximum of 3 mph, and usually by 1 mph or less.  So, the whole discussion of survivability getting hit at 25 mph versus 35 or 40 mph being 3 times or 15 times lower is completely irrelevant.  If the car is coming at 37 mph - it makes NO difference whether the sign said 25 or 35 or 40.
Jim Walker, NMA

posted by: Bruce on April 9, 2012  2:58pm

Thank you Mr. Kurtz for continuing this discussion.  The notion that it’s “ok” to speed 5-10 mph beyond the posted limit is a public health epidemic that needs to be eradicated immediately.  Some years ago, after seeing statistics on pedestrian survival rates, I made a concerted effort to start driving at or below the speed limit.  True, it actually felt strange at first but I came to enjoy the feeling.  It’s the feeling of having more time to stop.  The more people lined up behind me the better.  Just more lives I’m saving.  Blow your horn all you want, killer.

I honestly think that police should ticket EVERY driver who breaks the speed limit and take their license away for 30 days for 1st offense, a year for second offense and permanently for a 3rd.  This may seem dramatic to some, but when you consider that speeding KILLS more people than gun violence, you might realize just how serious an epidemic this is and just how EASY it would be to put an end to it.

posted by: GregoryL on April 9, 2012  3:07pm

jcwconsult, your comments only make it more clear that we should be cracking down on speeding drivers.  If people feel like they should drive at 37mph in a 25mph zone, they’re making this city less and less safe for myself, and everyone else who lives, works, and plays here.

Changing the law to suit the lawbreakers is flat out absurd.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 9, 2012  4:38pm

“If you truly want to reduce actual traffic speeds, you have to change the
character of the road with some type(s) of traffic calming.”

I agree that actual changes to the physical character of the road would be best. But that is another discussion, and infrastructure improvements and stricter enforcement of existing laws are not mutually exclusive.

And I did look through that fancy PowerPoint slideshow by the Michigan State Police, and read the Wikipedia article you linked to about the 50-year old “research” by David Solomon. The ‘Subsequent Research’ section was particularly illuminating:

Reporting on these results in 1971, academics West and Dunn confirmed the findings of Solomon and Cirillo, but found that crashes involving turning vehicles accounted for 44 percent of all crashes observed in the study and that excluding these crashes from the analysis greatly attenuated the factors that created the U-shape of the Solomon curve. In 1991, Fildes, Rumbold, and Leening collected self-reported crash data from 707 motorists in Australia with less than 200 reporting they had been in an accident but, unlike Solomon and Cirillo, the researchers found no relationship between slower speeds and increased crash involvement.

Emphasis mine. Perhaps the followup explains why Wikipedia labels article on the ‘Solomon Curve’ an ‘orphan’ with few or no links to it from anywhere else.

But it doesn’t matter. Both the Solomon study and the MSP’s methodology for setting speed limits, and the NMA’s philosophy regarding speed limits (“Speed limits should be based on sound traffic-engineering principles that consider responsible motorists’ actual travel speeds.”) take into account only the comfort and self-assessed skill of the imaginary responsible motorist, and not the safety, convenience, or comfort of anyone else.

Solomon and Cirillo’s research also makes the rookie mistake of conflating correlation and causality. In other words, just because a large percentage of a given set of crashes involve a variation in speed between two vehicles, it doesn’t follow that the slower vehicle caused the crash. It seems crystal clear to me that the faster driver, moving cheerfully along at his comfortable, 85th percentile speed, is the one who is not in control of his vehicle. Dangers are more properly attributed to their causes.

I’ll concede that on interstate highways, the 85th percentile method might be of some utility but on crowded urban, suburban, or residential streets it’s dangerously irresponsible.

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