Americans show lukewarm support for red-light cameras
But Enthusiasm Varies Widely Depending On Where You Live
Fifty-six percent of respondents in a survey of 1,000 people said they support the use of the cameras and believe they enhance traffic safety. But 52 percent of the same respondents said they oppose the use of speed cameras.
The mixed results come as the country, as a whole, has cooled on the use of automated traffic cameras to penalize motorists and a debate on their relative value heats up.
Over the past 30 months, more than 70 municipalities have stopped using red-light cameras, according to figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The number of communities using them peaked at 540 in October 2012. Today, the number stands at 461. The number of speed-camera programs grew from 112 to 140 in the same time period, but has recently started to falter.
At the same time, scrutiny of the cameras has increased. Recent studies indicate the safety benefits of red-light cameras may be marginal at best: they're effective at decreasing the number of right-angle crashes, but they increase the number of rear-end accidents. Critics of both red-light and speed cameras argue they're more about generating revenue for cash-strapped municipalities than traffic safety.
Cameras have faced legislative and judicial challenges in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere over the past six months.
"The landscape of jurisdictions using automated cameras for traffic citations is changing constantly, due to decisions by courts, voters, legislators and city halls," said Stephanie Rahlfs, attorney editor at FindLaw.com, a legal information website which conducted the survey.
The survey, shows women are more likely to support both types of automated enforcement than men. Sixty-one percent of women say they support red-light cameras, while 51 percent of men said the same. Fifty-three percent of women offered support to speed cameras, while only 43 percent of men supported their use.
Geographic differences showed even greater divergence. Respondents in the Northeast showed the greatest enthusiasm for traffic cameras, with 62 percent supporting speed cameras and 65 percent offering support to red-light cameras. By contrast, automated enforcement faced its highest opposition in the Midwest, where only 33 percent of respondents said they supported speed cameras and 49 percent supported red-light cameras.
The survey has a margin of error of plus-minus 3 percent.
Americans may be telling pollsters they have middling support for automated enforcement, but the results stand in contrast to the ones delivered in voting booths across the country. Both in the most recent elections and throughout history, voters have resoundingly rejected traffic-camera enforcement.
In four ballot measures last November, voters disapproved of automated enforcement by roughly a 3-to-1 margin. In Cleveland, 78 percent of voters approved a measure that prohibited automated enforcement unless a police officer also witnessed the violation.
Over the past 25 years, voters have rejected automated-camera use in 31 of 34 referendums.
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