Miner Editorial | Red light cameras or not, something has to be done
In 2014, 36,675 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S., and 2.3 million were injured in US traffic accidents in 2013. Just last year in Kingman, there were 1,111 traffic crashes that resulted in citations from the Kingman Police Department. There were also 27 citations for failure to stop at a red light, and 125 citations for an illegal right turn or failure to obey a traffic control device on the Stockton Hill Road corridor.
The City of Kingman has a traffic problem, and something has to be done about it.
One of the proposed ideas before City Council is installing red light traffic cameras.
Kingman isn’t alone in this idea. Over 438 communities in 23 states, including 36 of the 50 most populous U.S. cities, have enacted red light and speed camera programs in an effort to enforce traffic laws at intersections and to reduce accidents.
The public safety rationale for the programs is straightforward and is based on a key prediction of Becker’s seminal work on the deterrence of crime. Drivers who run a red light at a red light camera intersection will receive a ticket with near certainty, a dramatic increase in the probability of being caught relative to no camera.
This higher probability of getting caught will, in theory, lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles running a red light and thereby fewer collisions involving vehicles entering the intersection at the same time from different roadways.
Red light cameras may have a noticeable impact on reducing the frequency of red light running violations; however, their effect on the overall safety at intersections is still up for debate. While there is a reduction in angle and left-turn crashes, various impact evaluation studies of red light cameras showed an increase of rear-end collisions.
Red light traffic camera programs have a statistically and economically significant effect on reducing traffic accidents, injuries and deaths. One frequently cited recent study concludes that vehicular deaths increase by 30 percent in the absence of red light camera programs.
A common pattern observed in city RLC programs is that the number of tickets issued peaks in the first year of the program and then falls precipitously in subsequent years. An unusual feature of red light camera programs that differs from many other crime policies is that crime prevention is not an end in itself, but rather viewed as a mechanism to accomplish a broader policy goal.
The assumption is that by incentivizing fewer drivers to run red lights there will be a reduction in the total number of accidents. Despite clear evidence that installing a red light camera reduces the number of vehicles running a red light, the predicted relationship between the number of vehicles running red lights and the total number of accidents is unclear.
A red light camera does provide incentive to stop at a red light, however, that incentive also means stopping at a red light even when doing so may involve a rapid and potentially dangerous deceleration of the vehicle. Vehicles suddenly attempting to stop could increase the number of accidents.
In 2017, a bill banning red-light photo-enforcement cameras throughout the entire state made its way to the Arizona Senate. Supporters such as Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, call photo-enforcement cameras a modern “tyranny” and a “police state tactic.” Grantham told his colleagues the ban was necessary because automated traffic enforcement violated basic constitutional protections ensuring people face their accusers. He and other Republican lawmakers said cameras were little more than a naked attempt for cities to squeeze revenue.
During the most recent legislative session, Grantham again proposed this bill.
There have been multiple attempts to ban photo radar and red light cameras in recent years in the Legislature, but they mainly failed. The Legislature did ban the use of photo enforcement on state highways in 2016, and voters in Tucson banned photo radar by a wide margin in 2015 and other cities have also stopped using it in recent years.
At the May 15 council meeting, the Kingman Police Department plans on presenting more findings and details as well as answer questions from the public. Our questions are: How long will these cameras be implemented? Will they work for that period of time, and will it be worth the cost incurred? What if the Arizona State Senate does pass some of the bills banning or enforcing of these cameras throughout the state? Have all other city options been exhausted?
The Daily Miner Editorial Board supports the rationale behind these cameras being installed. With the amount of accidents on Stockton Hill Road alone, measures have to be taken to protect the citizenry. Having too many questions about the purposes behind this push from law enforcement does make it hard to support this solution.
Kingman does have a traffic problem, but we just aren’t sure red light cameras are the way to solve it.
However, something needs to be done.