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The Ins and Outs of Red Light Cameras
Red-light cameras have become ubiquitous around the country. But what do you really know about these sometimes controversial devices and the laws surrounding them? And why are some cities turning their cameras off?
What They Are
A form of automated enforcement technology, red-light cameras are used to detect and deter drivers who run red lights at intersections. Cameras are also sometimes used to catch drivers who speed, block intersections, fail to stop at a stop sign, disregard a railroad crossing signal or drive through a toll road station without paying.
Laws Around the Country
As of December 2016, 21 states have established laws that allow for some form of red-light camera use, 10 states have prohibited their use and 19 states don’t have any laws concerning red-light camera enforcement. Many jurisdictions treat red-light and other automated enforcement violations like parking tickets, meaning the registered owner of the vehicle is liable for paying the fine, even if he or she wasn’t driving the car at the time of the offense.
What Critics Say
Some see the cameras merely as an easy source of revenue for municipalities. Others take a big-brother view of the technology, seeing it as an overreach of government into citizens’ lives. A 2016 court case sided with critics, ruling that the devices violated drivers’ rights. As a result, the city involved made the decision to suspend the practice until officials could obtain clarification on the legality of the devices.
What Studies Say
Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red-light programs in 79 major U.S. cities prevented almost 1,300 fatalities through 2014. The data also showed that when the cameras were turned off, the rate of deadly crashes caused by red-light runners increased up to 30 percent.