How red light cameras decrease safety, waste fuel and generally frustrate us

Red light cameras. Don't you hate them?
It seems too often drivers are given the option of slamming on their brakes and being rear-ended or getting a fat, incontestable fine in the mail. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if green lights lasted long enough for at least half-a-dozen of the waiting vehicles to go through the intersection, but time after time – at least, in this writer's town – if you're third in line, you better have Tesla Roadster-like acceleration or forget about it.

When installed – which is often accompanied with assurances that they are actually safety devices, not the money-trees-for-cash-strapped-municipalities they so closely resemble – they also have an overlooked environmental impact.

Traffic that has a smooth flow with minimal stop-and-go choppiness is more efficient than traffic that is affected by intersections with lights programmed for maximum revenue potential. Indeed, there's a solid argument to be made that every stop sign and red light, that could instead safely be a roundabout, is a thoughtless submission to the oil industry.

So how do cameras affect traffic flow? According to a new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, yellow light durations are often being dictated by red light camera companies. Instead of giving drivers a little extra time to get through intersections, contract clauses are explicitly preventing municipalities from making adjustments for safety, traffic flow or any other reason other than, we suppose, revenue generation.

It all make us very (very!) angry and want to reach out to our local authorities about the situation. However, before sending a cantankerous missive and sounding like a raving lunatic, join us in a little hitting of the jump for a calming video to get in a more constructive frame of mind.

More Information