weneedhelp points us to yet another report suggesting that red light cameras quite frequently appear to increase the number of car accidents, even as they’re pitched to the public as a way to decrease accidents. In this case, police data from Philly showed that aggregate accidents apparently increased 12% at the locations where cameras have been installed for at least a year. What’s odd, however, is that the local Parking Authority, who runs the red light camera program, insists that the police data is inaccurate, and that its own data shows a decrease in accidents. Of course, it’s not clear why or how the Parking Authority would have crash data. The police seem much more likely to have such data, so it seems like that’s a lot more trustworthy. As we’ve noted in the past, if municipalities really wanted to decrease accidents, they’d do two things: (1) increase the length of yellow lights and (2) add a delay after lights in one direction turn red before the lights in the other direction turn green (and, yes, many places do this already — but lots of them do not, including most lights near where I live).
Of course, it’s not difficult to see that local governments have no desire to actually stop violations at all, because things like red light cameras have never been about safety on the roads, and have always been about money:
Motorists have paid $45.3 million in fines since 2005, of which $21.1 million has gone to PennDot.
The rest of the money – $24.2 million – has gone to pay the expenses for operating the program, mainly to American Traffic Solutions Inc., the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that installs and maintains the cameras, and to the Parking Authority.
PennDot distributes its revenue from the camera program for transportation projects: half to Philadelphia and half to the rest of the state.
So far, Philadelphia has received $8.4 million; another $8.4 million has gone to 116 other municipalities in the state. Philadelphia is to get $1.5 million more, and a like amount will go to the rest of the state.
Apparently, the amount being made today absolutely dwarfs what was made in tickets before the cameras were installed. And, so, rather than actually making the roads safer, they’re being made less safe in order to beef up government revenue.