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From Cleveland to Washington, D.C., criticism of traffic cameras

A number of states and municipalities across the country employ one driving-enforcement mechanism that has a number of motorists seeing red in more ways than one.

Namely, those are speed and red-light cameras used by officials who routinely cite their utility in materially reducing car accidents and encouraging cautious driving behaviors around busy intersections.

Many motorists, including in Ohio, have a differing interpretation of the primary rationale underlying the cameras, as well a contrasting view on their alleged safety-promotion benefits.

Ohio does not have a state law that addresses either speed or red-light cameras, but programs operate liberally in a number of areas under local ordinances. Cleveland has dozens of such cameras, for example, and Columbus just installed its 28th red-light camera in July.

In that same month, camera foes picketed Cleveland’s City Hall and presented city council members with nearly 1,000 signatures of state residents who oppose the cameras. Critics say the cameras do not truly reduce car crashes or otherwise promote safety in any meaningful way and, in fact, are primarily revenue generators for local governments.

Far from being an argument confined to a few Ohio malcontents, that concern is widely shared across the country, with growing criticisms being expressed in many areas regarding the installation and use of such cameras.

A prime example of that discontent is currently on view in Washington, D.C., where many residents are piqued by the District’s widespread use of both speed and red-light cameras. Information gleaned by the driving group AAA reveals that the District has raised nearly $42 million just over the past 23 months by fines collected through camera use.

One camera alone issued 116,734 tickets over that period and fined motorists $11.6 million.

Source: Washington Post, “Single District speed camera: 116, 734 tickets worth $11.6 million,” Ashley Halsey III, Oct. 23, 2012