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Officials Say Red Light Cameras Are About Safety, Not Revenue

by | Feb 16, 2012 1:58pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, New Haven, Legal, Transportation

Lawmakers and local officials claim their desire to allow municipalities to install red light cameras at intersections is all about safety. A banner they hung behind them at a Capitol press conference Thursday gave a different message.

The giant backdrop to the press conference was paid for by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, a group which is in part funded by a company that installs these cameras. After the lengthy press conference a Capitol insider observed that if the lobbyists stay at arm’s length this year the bill, which has yet to be drafted, has a chance of passing.

The bill, which has yet to be drafted, would allow communities with populations over 48,000 to install red light cameras a handful of intersections. New Haven in particular has been pushing hard for its passage.

“It’s not about revenues, it’s about saving lives,” Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, said.

He said the company, American Traffic Solutions, which is the largest vendor of these red light cameras, have the right to recoup their costs, but “as legislators in this building we have not looked at it in that sense.”

“We’re not trying to look at it as a profit here, as a business. We’re trying to say that this is about saving lives,” Guerrera said. “Unfortunately these cameras cost money, and it costs them money to run it.”

He said the legislation will be looking at creating a flat fee to reimburse the vendor for installing the cameras, which cost between $75,000 to $100,000 per camera. But he said that’s an issue that’s up for debate and will be decided after the public hearing process.

Guerrera, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee, said the committee is looking at placing a $50 to $75 fine on violators who run red lights.

So if it’s not about revenue why levy a fine at all?

“A warning that carries no other consequences will probably be thrown in the trash,” Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said. “The reality is this is about deterrents.”

He said the idea of the cameras is to encourage better behavior amongst drivers.

“The presence of these cameras will effect good behavior,” Looney said. “I’m sure over time there will be declining revenues from the cameras as it becomes known they are in place.”

Guerrera said they want to keep the fine down to something similar to a parking fine. It will not be the type of moving violation that requires a court appearance, Looney said.

The tickets could be appealed at the municipal level and the violation would be viewed by a police officer.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he supports the use of this technology.

Malloy said in January that he’s not “particularly tied to what the penalty is” but believes the technology available in red light cameras will help change behaviors.

He doesn’t know exactly how the legislation will be framed, but he said in order to overcome some of the objections to them, the tickets issued using the technology may not carry points or would come with a lesser fine.

“I do not believe we should be fighting bad behavior with one arm tied behind our backs, so availing ourselves of technologies that will help us ultimately correct those behaviors is highly appropriate,” Malloy said.

Last year the bill called for a pilot to be established in communities with populations over 60,000. This year the bill will allow for smaller communities to participate in the program too.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson said he heard a lot about red light cameras during his last campaign.

“Residents from every neighborhood said you’ve got to do something about traffic,” he said. What residents told him was: “It’s dangerous to us, it’s dangerous to our families, it’s dangerous to our communities, and it’s dangerous to my business.”

He said residents are now meeting on a monthly basis to talk about traffic calming solutions. He said having red light cameras is just one more tool he can add to that kit.

He said with 240 miles of road, 85 signalized intersections, and 106 sworn police officers, it’s impossible for the town to police every intersection all the time.

The New Haven community has been leading the fight for red light cameras for years.

New Haven Alderman Justin Elicker, frustrated at the questions he was hearing from the media about revenues, reiterated that it’s all about safety.

“We need a deterrent. The deterrent is financial and the distraction that this is about making money for a business or making money for our cities is unfortunate,” Elicker said. “This is about making our neighborhoods safe.”

This year, New Haven is being joined by Hartford in its push for the cameras.

Angel Arce whose father Angel Arce Torres was run over on Park Street in 2008 said it was cameras in the area which helped catch the man that paralyzed his father. Torres died a year later from his injuries. The incident made national news when the video was released, which showed none of the onlookers willing to help him immediately after he was hit.

He said he supports red light cameras because he believes it will help change the behavior of drivers.

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(23) Archived Comments

posted by: one-mans-voice | February 16, 2012  2:34pm

When Politicians, like professional athletes, say it isn’t about the money, it is ALWAYS about the money.

posted by: hartfordresident | February 16, 2012  3:42pm

These are a great idea. They issue what are basically parking tickets. How in the world can this be controversial. If you currently park in the intersection sightline, you are endangering people by blocking the view of the intersection, and you should get a parking ticket. Same goes for running a red light and mowing people down, which happens almost every day.

posted by: robn | February 16, 2012  5:01pm

A better solution would be for the The Leg to allow cities of a certain size to keep traffic fines. That revenue will be an incentive for cities to enforce traffic laws. If there’s a worry that it will allow cities to abuse drivers for revenue (speed traps), then create a streamlined process for appeal to higher authority.

posted by: hartfordresident | February 16, 2012  5:24pm

What’s wrong with “Abusing” drivers who speed, robn?

If you speed you should get a ticket, no questions or rebuttals.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | February 16, 2012  5:32pm

“Giving money and power to the government is like giving car keys and whisky to teenage boys.”
“When politics are used to allocate resources, the resources all end up being allocated to politics.”
“Politics is the business of getting power and privilege without possessing merit.  A politician is anyone who asks individuals to surrender part of their liberty—their power and privilege—to State, Masses, Mankind, Planet Earth, or whatever.  This state, those masses, that mankind, and the planet will then be run by ... politicians.”
“God has no role to play in politics except to make sure politicians go where they belong.  To hell.”
“Politicians are interested in people.  Not that this is always a virtue.  Fleas are interested in dogs.”
P.J. O’Rourke

posted by: NOW What? | February 16, 2012  5:49pm

This issue is not as simple or as “cut and dried” as one might think.

If getting caught by a camera running a red light doesn’t carry as hefty a punishment as when being caught doing so by a police officer - and is only seen as being akin to a “parking ticket” - then what good is it?

And whether or not the use of such cameras (in spite of their outrageously high expense) actually “saves lives” is VERY debatable - in fact, many locales elsewhere that have installed them and turned them on over the past one or two years have actually seen INCREASES in traffic accidents, and many *others* have had to turn them OFF after paying to have them installed due to constitutional issues and voters’ concerns over privacy and the devices’ accuracy.

This may not be about “money” (except to the companies that manufacture, install and operate the cameras and related equipment and software) but cities, towns and/or the State may easily find themselves shelling out TONS of money for this stuff without seeing ANY results in the real world whatsoever.

Finally, why should only the most populous municipalities be allowed to have them installed?

If people REALLY want to “save lives” then install the cameras but make the punishment for violations the same as they’d be if one had been caught by a police officer (i.e. points on license plus hefty fine etc.), revise speed limits so that they’re consistently reasonable and then ENFORCE them consistently, and stop allowing police to issue “warnings” for moving violations.

posted by: Tod | February 16, 2012  7:03pm

This is totally untrue. The contractor requires that the timing of the yellow lights be reduced, thus drivers are not used to the shortened time and more tickets and accidents occur!

posted by: ... | February 16, 2012  7:37pm


Trust me Tod, as someone who’s drive across this state multiple times, the timing on the yellow lights already vary town to town and street-corner to street-corner. If anything could be solved from that issue, it would be a state-wide mandated time-frame. But maybe we should consider what driving school teaches us. Yellow lights are to ‘caution’ and thus slow down to, not fly on through before the red light.

posted by: DenialDave | February 16, 2012  9:31pm

Anyone that says it’s not about the revenue and “its’ all about safety” is either lying or incredibly uneducated about what is going on regarding these cameras across the nation.

It only takes a quick Google search to find hundreds of articles and posts about cities that wish they hadn’t gotten involved with red-light cameras. Type in “American Traffic Solutions” and “lawsuit” and you will get roughly 81,000 Google hits.

Type in ATS and Houston, and you will find that the citizens (the taxpayers) there are going to pay $4.8 million to rid themselves of the cameras. Cities and states across the nation have - and are - banning the cameras, and in other countries, they are even blowing them up.

Google “Cameragate” and “Bellingham” and read the article about our little town of Bellingham, and how our electeds lined up one-after-another and said “it’s all about safety”, and then refused to answer questions when we uncovered documents through Public Disclosure that proved it was ALWAYS about the money and that their science was flawed and their data lacked real substance.

Go to BhamCamScam.com and read the 115 pages of recently released emails between American Traffic Solutions and the City of Bellingham – then ask yourself if you want to risk your community’s tax dollars getting in bed with folks that would try to manipulate the press and community like they did us (our proof is in black and white for all to see).

They are installing at least one camera in our city where there are no red-light running collisions (we had to pay for our own investigation). How can it not be about the money, when you’re installing a camera at an intersection that has no red-light running collisions? Read the full engineering report at BhamCamScam.com, and you will find that not only are there no collisions (in five years and roughly 3.65 million drivers), REAL traffic engineers believe the camera will actually INCREASE collisions. Is it okay with you that they risk the lives of your family, your children, your friends and city’s visitors – to make a buck?

Your article states “Legislators gathered Thursday to express support for the cameras at a press conference organized by the National Coalition for Safer Roads. The NCSR is funded, in part, by red light camera manufacturer American Traffic Solutions…” Can the author of this article share how much a “part” ATS funds The National Coalition of Safer Roads? Is there anyone without his or her hand in the cookie jar that funds this “safety coalition”?

The media and citizens of Connecticut need to get their heads out of the sand and get busy with some real homework, before you are stuck like us (our cameras aren’t installed yet, but, though our city leaders realize the mistake in signing the contract, they are now too scared to try and back out of the contract).

Educate your electeds if they don’t know better, and ask questions and demand answers if you think they are pulling the wool over your eyes. It’s not too late. Wake up, speak up! Learn from the mistakes numerous cities across this great nation have made.

Too many cities have been hoodwinked by these easily disproved safety claims and PR stunts. Do your homework before its too late!!! Contact BhamCamScam for more information and follow us on Twitter. You should also check out the National Motorist Association website. Good research is available on the web.

posted by: Noteworthy | February 16, 2012  10:09pm

It’s always about the money. It’s very disrespectful to pretend it’s not and to be taking the money from those who will share in the bounty is all the evidence one needs. And by the way, you don’t need to have a cop at every intersection - but you do have to have your cops doing traffic enforcement. Cops are not handing out traffic tickets. When was the last time a Hamden cop gave out a ticket for somebody speeding or running a light? New Haven doesn’t hand out many either.

posted by: David Streever | February 17, 2012  10:21am

You should read the bill proposed—every copy I’ve seen actually requires the yellow light to be signalized to a state standard.

Folks, you don’t have to like it—but this is about safety. How much money is Justin Elicker getting for being there? None. Tony Guerrera, Martin Looney? None. Myself? None.

Right now, if a pedestrian makes a mistake, they risk their life. If a driver makes a mistake, they risk a pedestrians life. Any which way you slice it, the pedestrian is in danger.

Should the penalty for a mistake be death? No. The sheer quantity of red light running—sit at Trumbull & Orange around rush hour and tell me you don’t count 40 cars—says that there is a real problem with people not obeying the law.

The problem is that those people are not risking their own life, and they are not penalized, so they have no incentive to start behaving.

Cars are safer than ever—for the occupant. They are more dangerous now than at any other time in their history for people outside of them.

The argument that if this was “not about the money” the cameras would issue no ticket at all is ludicrous. While we are at it, let us eliminate the penalty for all crimes and make EVERY ticket 0! How bizarre would that be? The truth is that people just don’t want to pay for their every day violation of the law.

The arguments coming out against these cameras make it clear that a lot of people feel the right to run red lights when it is convenient. That is why we need a hands off system like this.

I think the ticket should be $450 for running a red light—$700 even? That would actually deter and change behavior.

Ideally, we make it so people start treating yellow lights as what they are again—indications to slow down and stop if safe. A yellow light is treated like a speed up, and a red light is treated like a stop sign.

A $50 fine is not going to change that, I’m afraid.

posted by: juli | February 17, 2012  11:05am

i think the fine should be exactly the same as if a cop pulled you over for this same infraction.

posted by: hartfordresident | February 17, 2012  11:54am

The fine needs to be exactly the same as the police officer fine.

Doing otherwise is just plain stupid.

posted by: Scott2014 | February 17, 2012  12:03pm

This is partly about safety but this is really about income. If not, then donate the money to a charity instead of the town. This income is going to come in and be relied upon for some project/issue. What happens when the number of tickets decline? The town is going to need to replace that income somehow. The politicans are going to raise the fee to replace the “lost” income. So guess what - It becomes about money. There is no way around it. That is what goverment is, a black hole for money.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | February 17, 2012  12:21pm

Wake up people.No big deal.I got this the other day and spray all of my car plates with it.

Photo Radar red light camera license plate spray.


Or you can have a shop do this.


posted by: DenialDave | February 17, 2012  1:22pm


A state standard for yellow lights is not the issue. Longer yellow lights and all-red signals is (but there is more, like improved sight distance, intersection improvements, size of the signal heads and placement for visibility, early warning signs, etc.). If you have crashes caused by red-light running, then you need traffic engineers to study why these crashes are occurring and make appropriate remedies at each specific intersection. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and numerous other research studies point to the fact that red-light cameras should be the last resort.

According to the Federal Highway Administration: “A red-light camera must work in harmony with the traffic signal at an intersection. It is therefore essential for traffic engineers to be involved in determining whether or not the existing signal system at a particular intersection is compatible with red-light camera applications or if it needs to be modified. Research shows that yellow-interval duration is a significant factor affecting the frequency of red-light running and that increasing yellow time to meet the needs of traffic can dramatically reduce red-light running… In a similar vein, once problem intersections are identified, it is advisable that a traffic engineer be called upon to review the intersection and approach geometry, signal timing details, and other relevant engineering features to ensure that the red-light running problem is behavioral and not the result of an engineering shortcoming. Cameras should be considered/installed only after engineering solutions have been proven ineffective where there is a red-light running problem.”

But we also need to have a discussion about what “safety” is. Safety is not the same as enforcement. Red-light running is an enforcement issue. Red-light CRASHES are a safety issue – especially when they cause injury or death.

Installing red-light cameras takes lots of money from average law-abiding citizens in your city - that are trying to be good drivers but miss the light by a split second - and sends it to out-of-state corporations. Please Google “dilemma zone” and read up on it. The “dilemma zone” is when a person nears the intersection when the signal changes, and they are so close that they only have a split second to decide to stop quickly, slow down and proceed with caution, or speed up and go through the signal. These aren’t the folks that have any risk of hitting pedestrians or causing collisions (they will easily be through the intersection before peds or cross-traffic is given the green) – but these are the folks that will make up the vast majority of your tickets. This is a fact, and the companies are banking on it to make their money.

Think about it. Pick any intersection being discussed for a camera, and get the data for red-light running related collisions there (remember, collisions=safety). Then you decide whether you think the camera company would be willing to install cameras to reduce that number of collisions per year. I can tell you from my own research, the answer will be no. So will the folks in many other states and cities (LA is a great example). The camera company is not interested in your red-light running problem unless it is very lucrative for them. They will not be looking for the most dangerous intersections to install cameras; they will be looking for the ones with lots of volume and people just missing the red. These are typically intersections where adjusting the signal timing or improving the intersection would dramatically reduce red-light running. Numerous studies show that adding more yellow time can reduce red-light running by up to 90%.

And for the drivers that blatantly ignore the red light because they are speeding, drunk or just oblivious to the signal? Here is a video that ATS sent out as a PR stunt showing THEIR cameras at intersections, doing NOTHING to stop the people that are the real problem. Watch the video and note that these cherry-picked collisions aren’t folks barely running the traffic signal. In almost every case, you can see the light has been red and all other traffic is at a complete stop when the one car barrels through the intersection. This is proof of why red-cams make lots of money, but don’t stop the injury and fatal collisions as proposed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEUcBnTT0VQ.

Again, I will just end by saying discussion and research is key to getting to the truth. Don’t take my word for anything. You can choose to do this research before this bill is passed, or you can wait like we did, and be stuck with the consequences. I strongly urge you to read about issues in my home state of Washington, where numerous articles have been written by well-respected journalists, exposing the dirty side of this billion-dollar industry. The Everett Herald and Bellingham Herald are great resources.

Bellingham, WA

posted by: HenryNJ | February 17, 2012  4:20pm

The cameras (indirectly) block emergency vehicles - because cars stopped at a camera hesitate to get out of the way! Other side effects: Rearenders, local $$$ sent to Oz, AZ or Goldman-Sachs, where it won’t come back, and tourists and shoppers driven away.
Worse, a false expectation of safety, because cameras can’t stop the real late runners, who cause the accidents. (If cameras worked, camera sellers wouldn’t have the crash videos they supply to the media.)
Want safety, no side effects?
To cut car/pedestrian accidents, train your kids not to step out just ‘cuz the walk sign came on.
To cut nuisance running (a fraction of a second late), lengthen the yellows. It’s cheap to do so can be done all over town.
The dangerous real late (multiple seconds) runs won’t be stopped by the mere presence of a camera, because the runner won’t know (a tourist) or won’t remember (a distracted or impaired “local”) that there’s a camera up ahead.  They’re not doing it on purpose! To cut these real late runs, improve the visual cues that say, “Intersection ahead.” Florida’s DOT found that better pavement markings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signal lights bigger, add backboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the corner. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for the cross streets.
Who needs cameras and their side effects?

posted by: NOW What? | February 17, 2012  8:00pm

“DenialDave” is right, folks. In all regards. Red light “runners” are statistically very rare, and those that do it deliberately do so even WITH cameras installed because they’re either drunk, on drugs, mentally unstable or just plain being knowingly reckless. For these very few drivers, the only way to stop them is with BOTH cameras installed and *very* high fines and points against one’s license. The problem is that the statistical frequency of red light running-caused crashes is so low and the cost to install the cameras and operate the necessary computer system(s) to make use of them etc. is SO high that you really have to question the rationality of the idea. The only situations in which the installation of such cameras has proven to be of any real safety and financial benefit is when and where they’ve been installed to meet MULTIPLE needs, not just to catch red light runners. Specifically, they make sense only when they’re used to catch red light runners, and monitor the area a) by centrally located police for potentially criminal behavior and b) by centrally located traffic monitors/engineers who can in turn adjust intersection lights etc. to minimize traffic congestion and maximize traffic flow safely. This of course is VERY different than what’s being proposed for CT right now.

posted by: RogerJ | February 17, 2012  8:14pm

DenialDave really knows his stuff. His story is more compelling than Christine Stuart’s coverage of this PR campaign. Don’t blame our fellow drivers for RRR’ing; blame the traffic engineers for allowing the shortening of yellow light times.  Want to reduce redlight running? by half?  Just add between 5/10’s to 7/10’s of a second to the bare minimum time which most cities employ.  Guaranteed.  Also, guaranteed is that revenue will drop along with the profit motive to get involved with these devices.  My own home town added 7/10’s of a second to just one yellow light.  45% reduction and over 60% reduction to straight through violations.  Unfortunately, the city leaders were upset at this reduction.  Thank goodness they are still able to bank on the slow speed right turn violations to put a little jingle in their pocket.

posted by: Fisherman | February 17, 2012  11:07pm

Call it WHAT IT IS… “Money Grab”.
Democrats looking for another pool of money.

What about “Presumed Ownership”?  Why on earth would I pay a penelty, if I’m not driving my car at the time of the infraction?

And you think that insurance companies are not going to raise your premium?

Time to Wake Up, Democrats. Even you can’t be so stupid as to believe that this is about “Public Safety”.

posted by: lkulmann | February 18, 2012  2:25pm

Let’s try not to fight the fact that we must move into the 21st century. Embrace it. Try to imagine creative ways to power street lights, cameras and all of the ‘green’ ideas that the ‘modern’ world is talking about (and doing). C’mon CT…jump in, the waters fine…

posted by: NOW What? | February 19, 2012  7:10pm

lkulmann - This is not a matter of becoming willing to adopt modern technology; people are clearly not afraid of technology. It’s a matter of developing and implementing methods by which driver, cyclist and pedestrian safety and driver rule and law adherence would all be TRULY improved in ways that are genuinely practical, affordable, effective, fair and equitable but which do not erode the right of due process or other constitutional and legal rights. Unfortunately, many if not most intersection camera installations do not accomplish this.

posted by: SocialButterfly | February 20, 2012  1:11pm

The only time I have ever been pulled over by an officer was due to a very-short, yellow interval duration light at an intersection—but the officer took this into consideration, and spared me a red-light violation citation,  I would have received, automatically, with red-light-camera.

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