City leaders have given the green light to an idea that's causing quite a debate in Lubbock, red light cameras. Specifically, placing cameras at pre-determined intersections to catch red light runners in the act.
There seems to be two real reasons why council says they want them: money and safety. I'm told red light cameras could generate $1.5 million a year. I'm also told red light cameras would make Lubbock streets safer. Which brings me to a recent kcbd.com poll. When asked the question: Do you think the installation of red light cameras will improve public safety? 61% said no, 38% said yes. Are they right?
I did some research and found mixed results. After 6 months, Plano, Texas showed a 50% increase in rear-end collisions at intersections with cameras, but a similar decrease in side angle collisions. In Washington D.C., the number of accidents went up at intersections with cameras. A report out of Denton, Texas said rear-end and total accidents dropped after just six months with cameras. But one fact was indisputable in these reports: red light cameras make money and lots of it. $5 million a year in Washington D.C.
So consider this: if we're gonna put cameras at intersections, let's put the emphasis on the safety, not the money. If the idea is to get people not to run the red light, let's put signs at intersections warning drivers about the camera. Wouldn't the simple threat of the camera make anyone think twice?
Now there will still be those that ignore the signs, and they'll be counted in millions of dollars in revenue for the city, hopefully to be used for other public safety projects. But one warning to city hall: don't get used to the money. If it's really about safety, our goal should be less money. My hope is that, over time, the city isn't making any money on red light fines.
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