With the main goal being public safety and not revenue building, it simply doesn't make sense to keep citizens guessing about your intent, Vaitheeswaran says. When public outreach is front of mind in photo enforcement programs, these programs increase their chances of success. And in this game, where motorists learn to stop at red lights, thus saving lives and preventing injuries, everyone emerges a winner.
Ronnie Garrett served as the editorial director of Law Enforcement Technology for 12 years before leaving to start a photography business. Reach her at www.garrettncostudios.com.
Photo enforcement: 10 facts in a flash
• OTHER MEASURES can do the same thing. Putting speed signs signaling motorist speeds or raising yellow light times reduces speeding and red light running, but studies show this affect may not be permanent. Once motorists get used to a longer yellow light, they may run through them. If they see a sign posting their speed day after day, they may stop slowing for it. A singular approach does not work as well as a varied approach that addresses the many reasons for speeding or running red lights, reports Dr. Bryan Porter, a behavioral psychologist and associate professor at Old Dominion University.
• TWENTY-FIVE STATES allow photo enforcement. Wisconsin and Nevada have banned it, and Hawaii eliminated its photo enforcement programs.
• WARNING PERIODS and signs are important educational tools that help inform the public of photo enforcement programs and the dangers of aggressive driving. In California a 30-day warning period is required by law. "Communities should require an advanced warning program and conspicuous signage as part of a broad-based educational campaign — or risk losing in the court of public opinion. And that could mean losing your program," reports Leslie Blakely, executive director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running (NCSRLR).
• SIGNAGE NOTIFYING motorists of enforced areas by the photo enforcement intersection and throughout the community, can produce a halo effect where red light running at all intersections decreases as people modify their driving behavior and become more cautious as they approach intersections.
• THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION recommends a full engineering study be conducted before adding a photo enforcement program. Red light running is a complex behavior that needs to be addressed through engineering, enforcement and education, reports the NCSRLR.
• A RED LIGHT-RUNNING ticket does not increase motorists' insurance costs. Nor do red light tickets add points to a driver's license; most states do not report these citations to insurance companies.
• IT DOES NOT take weeks to get citations to motorists. Technology and systems exist that mail the citation within days.
• PRIVATE COMPANIES do not receive a kickback for every ticket issued. Private contractors are compensated by a flat fee recommended by the National Committee on Traffic Laws and Ordinances. In every city violations have dropped dramatically, meaning revenue may only increase for a short time after cameras are installed.
• PHOTO ENFORCEMENT for red light running increases officer safety by taking officers out of harm's way. To ticket a red light runner, officers must put their squad car into an intersection and take a chance of getting hit themselves.
• RED LIGHT RUNNERS can still have their day in court. Motorists have three options: To pay the ticket; to contest it and ask for a court hearing' or to contest their case in writing just as they could with any other traffic ticket.