Do red light cameras improve traffic safety in Pennsylvania?

It is easy for the public to assume that technology solves problems. We see technological devices as advancements that can make our lives easier and safer. But does a device being used at some Philadelphia stop lights truly make the community safer?

Red light cameras are undoubtedly a controversial law enforcement tool here in the state, as well as in other areas of the country where they are used. The controversy of the cameras and the supposed proof that they do not prevent motor vehicle accidents has inspired various states to prohibit their use. Should Pennsylvania become one of those anti-camera states?

The cameras have been in use in Philadelphia since 2005 and work to supposedly create safer roads. When a driver goes through a red light, the camera snaps a shot of the vehicle in order for authorities to then know whom to cite for the alleged traffic violation. Red light cameras ideally would make drivers drive more carefully in order to avoid a fine. That careful driving would result in fewer car accidents.

But there are very passionate opponents against the use and expansion of red light cameras in Pennsylvania. They point to studies that suggest the cameras do little to prevent crashes. In fact, they argue that the numbers show an increase in car accidents in many areas where the cameras are used. If those numbers are true, then the main benefit of the cameras rewards law enforcement and the camera manufacturers. Since the introduction of the cameras to Philadelphia, supposed traffic offenders have paid more than $45 million in fines.

Officials throughout the state, including in Pittsburg, are contemplating adding red light cameras to new locations. Would further use of the cameras mean more revenue for the government, improved traffic safety or both? This debate is sure to get heated before a decision is made to expand or continue the devices’ use.

Make your opinion known. What do you think about red light cameras? Do they make you feel safer at intersections?

Source: Pittsburg Post-Gazette, “Stop the red-light cameras: They raise money but do not improve traffic safety,” James C. Walker, June 25, 2012

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