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Red light cameras invite sleaze and danger

We’ve reported allegations of bribery by companies that make and run the dreaded red-light cameras (here and here).

But the allegations now go beyond mere bribery.

An investigation by Florida’s WTSP-St. Petersburg 10 News discovered that the Florida Department of Transportation re-timed some of the state’s yellow-light intervals two years ago, ‘reducing the minimum below federal recommendations,’ according to Commentary.

The shorter yellow lights were most evident at intersections with red light cameras (RLCs).

‘While yellow light times were reduced by mere fractions of a second,’ WTSP said, ‘research indicates a half-second reduction in the interval can double the number of RLC citations — and the revenue they create.’

WTSP said ‘red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.’

Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal called red light cameras a sleazy new form of taxation. ‘When governments are engaged in sleazy new forms of taxation, sleaze happens,’ he said.

Everyone collecting money from the cameras has an interest in producing more citations. But reducing yellow light times without notifying motorists is unfair and unsafe.

A study in New Jersey, Commentary said, found that the presence of traffic light cameras increases accidents, ‘including a 20-percent rise in rear-end collisions.’ And in Florida, at least one recent traffic death was blamed on the shorter yellow-light intervals, prompting the WTSP investigation there.

As Commentary asked, Does it make any sense to incentivize government and private enterprise to make our roads more dangerous?

The full article is here.

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