Editorial: Law will make streets less safe

February 22, 2015 • By The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus drivers will need to exercise more caution at 38 busy intersections that used to be some of the city’s most dangerous— and, courtesy of the Ohio legislature, may become so again after March 23.

That’s when the city plans to stop issuing tickets from red-light cameras under a new law that requires an officer to actually be stationed at the intersections.

This mandate is so costly that it effectively serves as a ban, and a pointless one at that. The video is a far more accurate witness; it allows for review and reconsideration; and it serves as a force-multiplier, holding lawbreakers accountable even when a police officer can’t be present.

Columbus would have to pull 126 officers from neighborhood patrols and other areas to man the mounted-camera crossings around the clock. This would cost city taxpayers $15.4 million annually, the nonprofit Traffic Safety Coalition calculated.

In Cleveland, which last year had 46 cameras, the cost would be $15.1 million. And Springfield, which had 17 cameras at intersections, would need to spend $5.6 million.

As it is, taxpayers still will take a hit. The ban is expected to cost Columbus $2 million to $2.5 million in revenue from fines. Those are dollars that would have paid for a lot of road resurfacing, recreation center programs for kids and additional policing.

If the complaint was that the cameras were used in a predatory manner, as alleged in some municipalities, all the Ohio legislature had to do was to pass reasonable regulations. Columbus provided a ready model for a review process with legal guardrails.

But there is an even easier way for Ohioans to avoid a ticket. Obey existing traffic laws. Don’t blaze through a red light, and come to a full stop before turning right on red.

These are tiny delays that people, literally, can live with.

Not surprisingly, Ohioans who didn’t break the law loved these cameras. They felt protected.

In 2012, six years after Columbus installed its first red-light cameras, the number of right-angle crashes at the monitored city intersections had dropped by about 73 percent.

These cameras spared a multitude of Ohioans injuries and suffering, or, at the least, the hassles involved with car repairs.

So what happens now? Consequences have been dramatically bad in cities where the traffic-safety cameras went dark: Collisions at these intersections increased 147 percent in Houston, and speeding and red-light running jumped 584 percent in Albuquerque, N.M.

The legislature knew this. Still, it voted to take away a valuable safety tool.

Since the cameras no longer will serve to hold reckless drivers accountable, the cities affected by the ban should hold the General Assembly accountable. Municipalities should track any increase in crashes at intersections formerly calmed by the safety cameras.

If there is serious harm to Ohioans, that blame should be laid at the feet of the legislature.

And then voters should hold their elected officials accountable.

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Red Light Running Up 98% Since Newark Red Light Cameras Shut Off

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Nick Juliano
(312) 768-4798

Red Light Running Up 98% Since Newark Red Light Cameras Shut Off
New Figures of red light running violations tracked by City of Newark show dangerous trend since end of camera enforcement program

Newark, New Jersey – February 20, 2015– Dangerous red light running is up an alarming 98% at intersections where red light cameras have been for five years after being shut off in the City of Newark.  According to statistics provided to the Traffic Safety Coalition by the Newark Department of Engineering, Division of Traffic and Signals, 39,638 red light running violations were detected from January 17, 2015 through February 15, 2015 compared to just 20,007 when the cameras were in operation during the same time period the year before – an increase of 19,631 more people running a red light.

The increase in red light running during the second month cameras were turned off is nearly twice as much as it was during the first month they were off when red light running was up 56%.  Also according to data from the City of Newark, 31,494 red light running violations were detected from December 18, 2014 through January 16, 2015 compared to just 20,162 from December 18, 2013 through January 16, 2014 when the cameras were in operation.

The dramatic increase represents an alarming trend in Newark: the longer cameras are off, the more reckless drivers are becoming.

“As a mother whose daughter was killed by a red light runner, a 98% increase in red light running  is something I find very concerning because more people are now at risk since traffic safety cameras were turned off in Newark,” said Sue Oberhauser, national co-chair of the Traffic Safety Coalition, whose daughter Sarah was killed by a red light runner in 2002.  “Red light cameras reduce red light running, crashes, and save lives.”

Newark’s red light cameras were turned off on December 16, 2014, when the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT)-administered camera pilot program was ended despite the state not issuing its mandated reports on the program’s 4thand 5th years.  To measure the impact of the end of the camera program on driver behavior, the City of Newark continued to collect data at intersections formerly equipped with cameras without issuing citations.

When traffic safety cameras were in operation, Newark experienced a dramatic decrease in red light running and crashes.  Total crashes were down 83%, including an 83% reduction in rear-end crashes, at intersections where cameras were present for five years. Perhaps most significantly, the most dangerous category of accidents, right-angle or “t-boning” crashes fell 100% at those same intersections according to reports from the City of Newark’s Division of Traffic and Signals.

“[W]e [are] trying to get to zero, zero is where we want to be and the red light cameras help us get to zero,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at a news conference on December 5, 2014 with law enforcement, other New Jersey mayors, state legislators and traffic safety advocates calling for a continuation of the program.

Legislation (A3964/S2643) has introduced by Assembly members L. Grace Spencer (D-29), Ralph Caputo (D-28) and Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) and Senators Ronald Rice (D-28) and M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), respectively, would make New Jersey’s traffic safety camera program permanent and remove the cap restricting the number of municipalities able to participate.  The Traffic Safety Coalition and its partners support this legislation and urge lawmakers to pass it in order to keep New Jersey’s roads safe.


About the Traffic Safety Coalition:

The Traffic Safety Coalition is funded by the traffic safety camera industry and its supporters to assist ongoing advocacy and education efforts of traffic safety experts, law enforcement, public officials, victims’ advocates, health care professionals and concerned citizens committed to making our roads and intersections safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. TSC partners share a commitment to traffic safety. No TSC partner organization or individual is compensated for their involvement. The Traffic Safety Coalition is managed by Resolute Consulting, a Chicago-based public affairs firm.

The Traffic Safety Coalition received the 2011 Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award from the Governors Highway Safety Association for outstanding achievements in highway safety. Read more here.

We work with our partners throughout the country to teach drivers the importance of safe and responsible driving.  By buckling up, slowing down and obeying the rules of the road, we are working together to create a safer environment for everyone on the road.

To download the full press release, click here.

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New Jersey Department of Transportation Report Shows Traffic Safety Cameras at Dangerous Intersections Reduce Crashes by 86 Percent

For Immediate Release
March 28, 2014

New Jersey Department of Transportation Report Shows Traffic Safety Cameras at Dangerous Intersections Reduce Crashes by 86 Percent

Legislature should move to make pilot program permanent and expand to all New Jersey cities

Newark, NJ – Right angle traffic crashes are down by as much as 86 percent and rear-end crashes are down by as much as 58 percent at New Jersey intersections where traffic safety cameras are in place, according to a New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) report released today. Citations have also been reduced by 83 percent, indicating a change in driver behavior at New Jersey’s most dangerous intersections.

The NJDOT’s third annual report on the traffic safety camera pilot program examines traffic safety cameras working at the 83 intersections in 25 New Jersey municipalities in the 2012 calendar year. NJDOT has capped the number of municipalities with access to the life-saving technology at 25, despite dozens of communities that have applied for permission to use the technology on their roads.

The report, which breaks down the data at the 83 intersections according to the number of years cameras have been in operation, shows the longer cameras have been in place, the greater the safety benefit:

– Cameras active for three years: 72% reduction in total crashes, 86% reduction in right-angle crashes and a 58% reduction in rear-end crashes;
– Cameras active for two years: 27% reduction in total crashes, 60% reduction in right-angle crashes and a 7% reduction in rear-end crashes; and
– Cameras active for one year: 5% reduction in total crashes, 15% reduction in right-angle crashes and a 3% reduction in rear-end crashes.

Safety advocates are encouraging the legislature to make New Jersey’s traffic safety camera program permanent before the 5-year pilot program expires in December 2014. Advocates are also calling on legislators to make all New Jersey cities eligible to use camera programs including the dozens of municipalities which have applied for NJDOT approval to use this proven technology to reduce crashes on their roadways.

“Red light running is irresponsible and dangerous and we know firsthand how it can rip families apart,” said Paul and Sue Oberhauser, National Co-Chairs of the Traffic Safety Coalition, whose daughter, Sarah was killed by a red light runner in 2002. “This report again shows safety cameras reduce crashes in New Jersey and we encourage the legislature to continue the program and open it up for all communities wishing to make their roads safer.”


About the Traffic Safety Coalition:
The Traffic Safety Coalition is a not-for-profit grassroots organization comprised of concerned citizens, traffic safety experts, law enforcement, public officials, victim’s advocates, health care professionals, and industry leaders who are committed to working together to make our roads safer for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. We work with our partners throughout the country to promote technology and education that save lives and keep our roads safe.

The Traffic Safety Coalition received the 2011 Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award from the Governors Highway Safety Association for outstanding achievements in highway safety.

For more information about traffic safety issues, visit http://www.trafficsafetycoalition.com or connect with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/trafficsafetycoalition and Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TrafficSafetyCn

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Traffic Safety Coalition Encourages Safe and Responsible Driving This Thanksgiving Weekend

Traffic Safety Coalition Encourages Safe and Responsible Driving This Thanksgiving Weekend

Coalition creates holiday pledge to remind drivers of traffic safety

CHICAGO – Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season but also marks the beginning of a busy and deadly time on U.S. roadways. This year AAA estimates more than 43.4 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Of those, 38.9 million will be traveling by car. 

As the Thanksgiving holiday weekend approaches, the Traffic Safety Coalition and its partners are encouraging drivers across the country to travel safely and responsibly.  http://www.trafficsafetycoalition.com/content/holiday_pledge/

To keep our roads safe for those traveling this weekend, the Traffic Safety Coalition is encouraging drivers to take its holiday pledge to commit to safe driving behavior this season. The pledge reads:

During this holiday season and every day throughout the year,

  • I pledge to buckle up when driving and as a passenger.
  • I pledge to obey traffic signals and always stop on red.
  • I pledge to obey the speed limit.
  • I pledge to never text and drive.
  • I pledge to never drink and drive.

“We are encouraging everyone using our roadways this holiday season to practice safe and responsible driving.  Especially during busy travel weekends, it is crucial to always stop on red, obey the speed limit and drive sober,” said Traffic Safety Coalition Co-Chair Paul Oberhauser, whose daughter Sarah was tragically killed in 2002 when a driver ran a red light and crashed into her car.

Thanksgiving Weekend by the Numbers

During the Thanksgiving weekend and beyond, drivers should remember the importance of observing fundamental traffic safety laws.  Statistics demonstrate the serious consequences of ignoring these laws:

  • Red-light running kills more than 600 people and injures another 100,000 each year (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes and 9,994 people were killed in speeding-related crashes in 2011 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  • More than 170 people were killed over Thanksgiving weekend in drunk driving crashes in 2010 (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
  • More than 150 people will survive Thanksgiving weekend traffic accidents because they wore seat belts, while more than 112 people would have lived if they had done the same (National Safety Council)

The TSC works with more than 700 partners nationwide, including local chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Safe Kids USA and other local community organizations across the country.

If you are interested in learning more about the TSC or participating in its efforts, visit www.TrafficSafetyCoalition.com.


About the Traffic Safety Coalition:

The Traffic Safety Coalition is a not-for-profit organization comprised of concerned citizens, traffic safety experts, law enforcement, public officials, victim’s advocates, health care professionals and industry leaders who are committed to working together to make our roads safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.  We work with our partners throughout the country to promote technology and education that save lives and keep our roads safe.

The Traffic Safety Coalition received the 2011 Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award from the Governors Highway Safety Association for outstanding achievements in highway safety.  

For more information about traffic safety issues, visit www.trafficsafetycoalition.com or connect with us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/trafficsafetycoalition and Twitter: www.twitter.com/TrafficSafetyCn

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LETTER: City needs more red-light cameras

When I was approaching Broad Street while traveling west on Medical Center Parkway, the traffic signal turned amber, and I knew that I had ample time to stop before it turned red, so I did.

The car next to me didn’t, and the light turned red just about the time that the car crossed the white line, and the driver clearly ran the light.

I was thinking about needing more red-light cameras when I heard the engine rev up next to me, and a little tan car went barreling through the intersection even though the light clearly had turned red 50 yards before the car reached the intersection.

I was sure I was about to witness a t-bone crash, but fortunately the drivers stopped on Broad saw (him) coming and waited.

Thus the article in the DNJ that covered the council approving the continuing of the (red-light camera) program caught my attention and approval.

The shocker was that, even after hearing a glowing report by Police Chief Chrisman, about how well the cameras were working in reducing crashes, Council Eddie Smotherman voted against the extension, saying, “I have to believe when a person runs a red light there’s a reason for doing it,” noting he’d like to know if it was because the driver was impaired or late for class.

“Clearly he person is distracted for some reason,” Smotherman said. “My biggest concern with the six intersections is they don’t answer the question. I’d like to see it carried a step further.”

I hope this is a misquote because, translated, Councilman Smotherman says that the cameras fall short because, while (they) can read the license plates of offenders, they can’t read their minds.

I disagree with that logic (or lack thereof) because even though the cameras don’t record the reason for running a red light, the information that they do provide allows the offender to explain their “impairment” or “distraction” to kindly old Judge Ewing Sellers in Traffic Court.

I am sure his honor has heard enough (reasons) to be able to supply Councilman Smotherman with, at least, a “top ten” list of those that work.

My daily observations of red-light runners tend to make me support the need for more cameras.

Richard J. Baines

Parkview Terrace


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Editorial: Turn the red-light camera debate back to safety

November 26, 2013 6:00 am  •  By the Editorial Board

Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa, is on to something.

The Republican governor to the north is proposing that the state step back from its love affair with speed- and red-light cameras.

Call it a break, not a breakup.

The governor has asked his transportation director to develop rules that make sure the cameras are being used primarily as a safety tool, not merely a revenue source for cash-starved municipalities.

Here in St. Louis, we know that scam well.

In north St. Louis County, in particular, municipalities that wouldn’t exist without revenue from speeders put up the cameras along major thoroughfares, including Interstate 70, to catch unsuspecting drivers and hit them with $100 fines.

And numerous cities in the region, from St. Louis to St. Peters to Ellisville to Arnold, have installed the red-light cameras, which often end up fining the owner of a car even when he wasn’t the one driving his or her vehicle.

As in Iowa, those with a conservative political bent have raised constitutional concerns with the cameras in the Show-Me State, and recently, they won a big victory.

This month, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District ruled that Ellisville’s red-light camera law was in violation of state statute because it punished the owner of the vehicle, and not necessarily the driver. Shortly before that decision, a St. Peters judge tossed a red-light camera ticket because the fines in that city don’t come with penalty points against a driver’s record, as other moving violations in state law do.

There are those in both Iowa and Missouri who would like to ban the cameras entirely.

That’s not going to happen, nor should it.

There are cases in which the cameras — particularly the red-light cameras — do provide a safety purpose.

Yes, companies like American Traffic Solutions make a boatload of money off the technology. They wouldn’t be spending a fortune on high-priced attorneys, public relations professionals and lobbyists if the cameras weren’t cash cows. Here in St. Louis, you can’t toss a stone without hitting a former employee of former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt who hasn’t fed at that trough.

But the bottom line remains this: Most people getting tickets broke the law.

You shouldn’t run red lights. You shouldn’t speed. The prevalence of cameras does serve as a deterrent.

If safety truly is the goal, however, the approach being suggested by Mr. Branstad (who, of course, is running for re-election) is a reasonable one.

It’s not much different from the approach taken by St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, a Republican, and a group of African-American pastors from north St. Louis County. During the last session of the Missouri Legislature, they pushed for a bill that passed limiting the amount of revenue municipalities can collect from such cameras.

Of course, there were already higher limits in place and they were ignored. And the cities have sued to block the law.

Safety first?

No, this is and always has been primarily about money.

With the appeals court ruling in Missouri, the issue of red-light and speed-cameras is ripe for some more debate in the Missouri Legislature. The cameras are not going to go away, but putting reasonable and enforceable limits in place that require safety to be the primary objective is an approach that makes sense.

The proposed new rules in Iowa, for instance, require other “engineering and enforcement” solutions to be tried first. And municipalities would have to justify the renewal of the cameras each year.

If safety truly is the primary concern, tightening up the rules governing the use of such cameras seems a reasonable compromise.

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Bill would green-light traffic cameras in Michigan

June 4, 2013

The Times-Herald

LANSING — Drivers might think twice about speeding or running red lights if they knew they could be caught — and Michigan communities could be safer as a result.

That’s the hypothesis behind a bill moving through the state legislature that would allow communities to install surveillance cameras at intersections and use images from them to crack down on dangerous driving infractions.

But civil liberties groups and some police organizations strongly oppose the legislation, calling it an invasion of privacy and a poor substitute for typical police work.

House Bill 4763 has support from a bipartisan group of lawmakers. It was debated for the first time Tuesday before the House transportation committee. There has not been a vote.

State law currently prohibits so-called “red light cameras” but proponents of the House bill said the technology could improve public safety.

“There is concern about excessive and aggressive driving in our communities,” said Rep. Thomas F. Stallworth III, a Detroit Democrat and one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “For me, this is an opportunity to begin sending a clear message that speeding is not tolerated and it provides an opportunity for law enforcement to have additional tools in their toolkit and deploy their resources more effectively.”

Monroe County Deputy Sheriff Dave LaMontaine, of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, argued the cameras can’t make the same judgment call an officer on the ground might make.

“A citizen has a right to face their accuser and it changes the very nature of the police-citizen relationship when that accuser is a high-tech camera on a pole,” said LaMontaine, whose organization represents 22,000 officers statewide.

The bill would set statewide standards for the cameras, including how the images from the devices could be used in court.

All images would need to be reviewed by a police officer and any violations prosecuted could result in a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of no more than $130.

Revenue from the fines would be split evenly between the state and the local government involved. The community would have to bear the cost of installing, operating and maintaining the equipment and could use the fine revenue to defray those expenses.

The owner of the vehicle would be the target of the fine, not the person driving it at the time of the violation.

If the legislation were to become law, it’s unclear whether Lansing is a community that would consider using the technology. Interim Police Chief Mike Yankowski said he hasn’t had a chance to review the legislation, which was introduced two weeks ago.

Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason and a member of the House transportation committee, said he “is totally in support” of the bill.

“This is all about public safety, plain and simple for me,” said Cochran, a former Lansing fire chief who said he’s responded to countless accidents at intersections. “This is about people changing their behavior hopefully so we don’t have incidents where people are injured or killed or worse.”

Opponents of the bill suggested lengthening the duration of yellow lights could be a better alternative — an idea that has the attention of Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, the primary sponsor of the bill and the chairman of the House committee.

“We’re going to continue to work on these bills,” Schmidt said Tuesday. “This is just the first blush.”

Red light cameras continue to be a hot topic in many legislatures nationwide. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 24 states have red light cameras operating in at least one location. Nine states prohibit their use.

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