No one likes red-light runners, but the question of how to stop them is a vexing one. For every clear case of blowing through a red light, there are probably a dozen others that are right on the edge. And it never seems that there’s ever a cop around to catch clear cases of running a red light. So what to do?
Many municipalities have begun installing red-light cameras in an attempt to crack down on red-light running. But once the money from ticket revenue starts rolling in, it quickly becomes addictive and can lead to municipalities abusing those cameras to maximize their income.
Illinois has become notorious for its red-light cameras, with governments throughout the state collecting over $110 million annually from red-light cameras. In a state whose governments are increasingly strapped for cash, that money can be a vital lifeline, but it can also lead to abuses.
There have been numerous allegations of politicians taking bribes from red-light camera companies, as revenue from fines also accrues to the companies. That can lead to abuses such as shortening yellow light times to ensnare more drivers, slowing down ticket mailing times to rack up additional penalties and interest, or other ways to make more money.
But that obviously doesn’t do anything for safety, particularly the shorter yellow light times. That has been demonstrated time and again to lead to more accidents as drivers suddenly find themselves facing a red light that they hadn’t been expecting, resulting in sudden braking and rear-end collisions.
As with any government solution, the cure is almost worse than the disease. While no one wants to see scofflaws getting away with running red lights and nearly causing accidents, no one wants to see more intrusion of cameras, shorter yellow lights, and politicians lining their pockets to put cameras up at every intersection. There’s a solution out there somewhere, but the current status quo just isn’t cutting it.