Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cooper City Red Light Cameras, and more...

On this coming Tuesday's commission agenda, your Mayor has placed on the agenda the issue of Red Light Camera's in Cooper City. The issue was previously raised by Lisa Mallozzi, and at that time it was apparently a 'done deal' with a full presentation by ATS, a well known vendor who is not thought of to be an 'above the board' vendor. The issue is a discussion regarding "Implementation of Red Light Camera Program (please read the attached information in the previous link) in compliance with recently adopted State Law". Unfortunately, the state law has not been made law and implemented, and may even be possibly veto'd by the Governor. I hope so!

This issue is one of the worst issues that could be thrust upon our residents and business owners. Many other cities have placed a halt on the red light camera issue based upon many factors, includint the fact that the red light cameras are a severe detriment to the safety of the public at large, the very core of what government is implemented to protect! There are many issues regarding this item, that we must address before even thinking about implementing this program, but five minutes won't allow us to address it in a clear, concise and detailed manner. I believe that the 'deal' has already been done.

Other cities decided to hold off because of questions about how their plans correspond with legislation approved last week by state lawmakers. Cities will now receive less money than planned because the Legislature requires that fines be divided with the state. The Legislature also bars cities from sharing revenue with camera vendors in exchange for using their equipment.

This is the very reason why the Legislature and our Mayor want to implement this program...money. Your hard earned money. Let's be very clear...this issue has absoultely nothing to do with safety, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, they are being dishonest with you. There are no studies that show red light cameras as being effective in increasing safety. In fact, every study available shows exactly the opposite. They are a detriment to the safety of motorists.

In fact, a Miami-Dade County judge ruled that one city couldn't use red-light cameras to issue fines without a police officer present. Again, let me emphasise, all studies on the issue show that red light camera's don't work. In fact, they increase the amount of crashes and injuries as driver's attempt to abruptly stop at camera spying intersections. As one report stated "Running a red light can cause severe traffic crashes especially when one vehicle runs into the side of another. Red light cameras photograph violators who are sent traffic tickets by mail. Intuitively, cameras appear to be a good idea. However, comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, providing a safety argument not to install them."

"This paper explains red light running trends in Florida; effective solutions to reduce red light running; findings from major camera evaluations; examples of flawed evaluations; the automobile insurance financial interest in cameras; and the increased likelihood of even higher crash and injury rates if cameras are used in Florida due to the high percent of elderly drivers and passengers. The theory behind red light cameras as potentially effective is that they rely on deterring red light running primarily through punishment of a specific driving behavior and secondarily by changing drivers’ experience. Because the rigorous and robust studies conclude that cameras are associated with increased crashes and costs, any economic analysis of cameras should include these newly generated costs to the public.

Indirect costs to the public are usually not considered in the calculation of total revenues and profits generated from red light cameras. Florida should be cautious in using traffic safety information from the automobile insurance industry. Insurance financial goals are to increase their revenues and profits, which do not necessarily include reducing traffic crashes, injuries or fatalities. Also, public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that enhance revenues for government and private interests at the risk of public safety." (Florida Public Health Review, 2008; 5: 1-7)

The National Motorists Association (NMA) represents driver interests and opposes cameras. In addition to concluding cameras do not improve safety, the NMA is concerned that local governments will not use effective methods to reduce red light running when earning money from cameras. For example, lengthening yellow light timings at traffic signals is effective in reducing red light running (NMA, 2008). theNewspaper.com, 2006). The majority of the red light running safety issue can be resolved through inexpensive engineering remedies that address the timing of yellow lights. In Cooper City, the average yelow light is three seconds or less.

Increases in crashes can raise the risk rating of drivers in a community, which can lead to disproportionately higher automobile insurance premiums, and, subsequently, rising profits for insurers. The Greensboro evaluation was conducted by the Urban Transit Institute at the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University using 57 months of data (Burkey & Obeng, 2004). The study concluded that in many ways “the evidence points toward the installation of RLCs [red light cameras] as a detriment to safety.” Cameras were associated with:
• A significant increase (40%) in accident rates;
• A significant increase (40-50%) in possible injury crashes;
• No decrease in severe crashes.

The Virginia Transportation Research Council (Garber, Miller, Abel, Eslambolchi & Korukonda, 2007) analyzed camera programs in five jurisdictions using seven years of data. The study concluded their findings “cannot be used to justify the widespread installation of cameras because they are not universally effective.” They used a comprehensive statistical method of analysis (i.e., Empirical Bayes) that found cameras were associated with:
• A significant increase (29%) in total crashes;
• A significant increase (20%) in angle crashes;
• A significant increase (42%) in rear-end crashes, which did not decrease over time;
• A significant increase in injury crashes (18%), with the impact on injury severity
reported as “too close to call”;
• Increases in crash costs.

A study conducted for the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario by Synectics
Transportation Consultants (2003) evaluated two interventions (cameras and stepped-up police enforcement) in six jurisdictions following a public information campaign. Camera intersections had a:
• 16% increase in crashes, compared to an 8% increase at comparison intersections;
• 2% increase in injury or fatal crashes, compared to 10% and 12% decreases
respectively at stepped-up police enforcement and comparison intersections.

The public health policy implications using red light cameras are shocking. Automobile insurance companies can profit if camera tickets are moving violations that add points to a driver’s license. Moving violation tickets allow insurers to charge higher premiums while incurring no additional cost.

Cameras could create an even larger increase in crashes and injuries in Florida since the state has the highest percent of elderly population in the U.S. The elderly have slower average reaction times and may be less likely to stop abruptly as other drivers do so at camera intersections.

The theory behind red light cameras as potentially effective is that they rely on deterring red light running primarily through punishment of a specific driving behavior and secondarily by changing drivers’ experience. There are already laws on the books addressing this issue. By definition, the punishable behavior and resulting potentially harmful action will already have taken place when a ticket is issued. In other words, the crash, injury, and mortality risks do not change immediately, if at all.

In contrast, the engineering solutions such as lengthening yellow lights show immediate reductions in red light running and potential crashes. Thus, even if red light cameras could be effective in the long run, which is debatable, they are associated with an added cost, consisting of fines, crashes and injuries that could have been avoided by using traffic engineering solutions, which are effective in both the short term and the long run.

Further, red light cameras are an inefficient means to raise revenue for local and state governments and can disadvantage the state’s economy. This occurs from the significant amount of funds, paid by local drivers, that ultimately accrues to private special interests from camera use.

Cooper City should be very cautious in using traffic safety information from the automobile insurance industry. Insurance financial goals are to increase their revenues and profits, which do not necessarily include reducing traffic crashes, injuries or fatalities. Also, public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that are a detriment to the safety of the public.

The problem herein is, we all know it's not about your safety, it's about revenues, and the city making more money at all costs...more than likely to pay for a new city hall, and pay for a high priced lawyer to prosectute red light runners, although we have plenty of money in the bank to already pay for that new city hall that Commissioner's Neal De Jesus, Jamie Curran and mayor Debby Eisinger so desperately want!

Please come to the commission meeting on Tueday and voice your objection to this detriment of your safety. One more thought...George Orwell was right.

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