Skip

Thank God for Police hypocrisy
April 9, 2002 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Thank God for Police hypocrisy for keeping me so amused. Seriously though, this is one of the best articles I've read in a long time. It's a five part series regarding the controversy of redlight cameras, and the evidence that those that administer them are in it for the $$$. For one, they seem to be placed on high-traffic / short yellow light intersections instead of the high-accident intersections. Oh, and it's made D.C. alone over $15 million in two years. Read it to find out how the researchers stretched numbers to get " tiny 3 percent increase in rear-enders" from a 767% increase.
posted by LuxFX (35 comments total)

 
As a pedestrian and cyclist i could care less what the police motives are. Redlight running is basically random attempted murder and the motive for the perp is to save 2 or 3 minutes. Think about that calculus next time your feeling impatient while driving.

The fines are too light and repeat offenders should first lose their licesne then lose their liberty. This is not a trivial problem. In North America we tolerate an annual traffic death toll that rivals the loss of life of American soldiers in Vietnam. Everybody I have ever talked to about this knew people who were killed in traffic accidents. I knew 5.

Where I live, Mississauga - a suburb of Toronto, there are spots where I prefer to jaywalk rather than cross at the lights because when I jaywalk across a road I can actually predict what drivers will do. At the intersections I no longer can.

You can quibble about the implementation but don't try and tell someone who has been hit by cars (twice so far as a cyclist and three rear enders as a driver) that there is not a problem.
posted by srboisvert at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert -- where do you live so I can remember not to move there or run any red lights when I visit?
posted by uftheory at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert: Where I live, Mississauga - a suburb of Toronto...
uftheory: srboisvert -- where do you live...?

Short attention span, plague of the 21st century.

</offtopic>
posted by Danelope at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2002


We had a big scandal here with them in San Diego. Lockheed martin installed the cameras and took a percentage of each ticket. The sensors on the cameras were independently audited and it turned out that many were set to give people tickets who should not have gotten one. San Diego suspended all camera enforcement, threw out hundreds of pending tickets and now there is a class action suit against the city to get everyone a refund.
posted by keithl at 11:19 AM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert, did you read the whole article?

first, it mentions that 4/5 of all red light runners do so less than a second after the light changes. I don't know about you, but when I bike I don't hop out into the middle of the road less than a second after the light changes.

second, it mentions that intersections without a redlight camera improved as much or more than intersections without one, indicating no statistical evidence of improvement.

third, it mentions that the redlight cameras were placed in high traffic intersections with a short yellow sequence and a downhill grade, not intersections with more accidents.

fourth, it mentions that there are indications that much of the improvement shown at intersections were because the fines more than doubled, to $270 per offense, not exactly a light fine, and it does seem to do some good.

and that's just what I could remember off the top of my head. the bottom line from the article is, the police aren't concerned about the safety as much as the money, and that means they are as much against you as they are against the cars.
posted by LuxFX at 11:26 AM on April 9, 2002


those that administer them [the cameras] are in it for the $$$

*dies of shock*
posted by gd779 at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert, that's funny. You didn't bother to read the whole article, and I didn't bother to read your whole comment.
posted by uftheory at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2002


second, it mentions that intersections without a redlight camera improved as much or more than intersections without one, indicating no statistical evidence of improvement.

The threat of parking tickets is the same as red light cameras, IMHO. If you are likely to break the law, these fines won't stop you because accountability is so low. If you are on the fringe, you will probably look for a proper spot or stop at each light properly.

All in all, I believe that if the money is being handled properly and going toward significant improvement of our roads, more power to the fines. OTOH, if much of the cash is going toward independent companies and red tape, perhaps these should be removed. Any evidence of mishandling these funds?
posted by BlueTrain at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2002


second, it mentions that intersections without a redlight camera improved as much or more than intersections without one, indicating no statistical evidence of improvement.

Still, that's the intended effect -- drivers aren't going to look for a camera before they run a red light. They have to assume one is there at every intersection.
posted by jtripp at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2002


yes jtripp, but there was no indication that even the possibility of the presence of the cameras influenced the improvement. in fact one experiment used outside cities as the control groups -- cities where intersections would definately not have cameras, and there was still improvement.
posted by LuxFX at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2002


First off, ufttheory and LuxFx, I read the article. (I didn't mean my response as a personal attack of you Lux just that this is an issue that gets me more steamed than anything else since it has had a direct immpact (pun intended) on my life)

Secondly, when I read the article I saw it as just another 'Lets toss the baby out with the bathwater " style libertarian screed that plays fast and loss with the facts to push an agenda that appear to be pro-red light running and speeding or at the least anti-enforcement of traffic laws.

Lets address the issues point by point.

The author has a problem with the fact that city contracts out enforcment. Big whoop. It's either on-duty cops or off-duty cops. That is really local politics issue having to do with accounting and cost effectiveness only.

Their cars are equiped with stereos. Oh my god! Call in a special investigator!

It is less labour intensive, letting the police ticket people that they normally wouldn't bother to pull over. Good!

Tickets (that are sent out) are only 72% accurate. Notice the lack of information on the number hand issued citations that are tossed out of court. My guess is that it would also be far from perfect.

The author contradicts himself by mentioning the administrative ineffectiveness and cost of police review of issued tickents and complaining that a private company has the power to issue tickets. Which is it? Probably whichever suits his point in that particular paragraph.

Then he complains that one fourth of DC got ticketed. How many of them were breaking the law? My guess is close to one fourth. The fact that speeding and red light running is common doesn't surprise me.

80% enter the intersection 1 second after the light turns red. That means that they had between 4 and 6 seconds to make their decision and they made the wrong one! 4 seconds is an eternity to make a driving decision. Particularly if you are not speeding.

It is all just quibbling about implementation details and whining about the enforcement of commonly broken laws. Maybe there might be some valid points in there but you have dig through the crap to find them and the article is incredibly bad and has more fallacies per page then I have seen in a while.
posted by srboisvert at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2002


I guess it was costing them too much to position a fat cop with a radar gun behind the billboard at the bottom of the hill....
posted by mrmanley at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2002


Since this system has its problems, I certainly hope that there's another way to enforce traffic laws. So many people run red lights around here that frankly it scares the pants off me. The other day I committed the cardinal sin of slowing down at a yellow light, coming to a stop just as the light turned red and two drivers behind me drove up on the grass around my car to run the red light. I suppose many of you may think it's a pet peeve, but to me driver's liscence = social contract. I obey traffic laws and I expect other drivers to do the same. grumble grumble
posted by kittyloop at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2002


first, it mentions that 4/5 of all red light runners do so less than a second after the light changes.

Then four out of five of them should be shot fucking dead on the spot. There is NO excuse for running a red light. There's a fucking lifetime of opportunity to stop when the light goes yellow.

Yellow does not mean "pick up speed and beat the read." It means that unless you're damn near over the line, you should be stopping.

Red does not mean "if no one has actually accelerated into the intersection yet, I can go through."

America slaughters the population of a small city every year through wholly unnecessary traffic fatalities. A large portion of those deaths can be attributed to assholes who run red lights.

Grrr.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2002


As for red-light cameras and photo-radar: I'm all for them. I drive legally, so they will never have a picture of me.

I value my life above your desire to save a few seconds by blowing through the yellow -- let alone red -- lights. Put a camera on every corner and let the cops nail your ass to the wall, I say. The only impact it will have on my life is that I'll be safer.

I value my life above your desire to do whatever speed you want on the highways. Just like you, I hate driving 60 in an area that could easily handly 90. But unlike you, I understand that my safety is orders of magnitude higher when all of us are travelling the same speed, so I stick to the limit.

Put a photo-radar camera up and let the copys nail your ass to the wall, I say. The only impact it will have on my life is that I'll be safer.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert, the author suggests that increasing amber times is a more effective safety measure than red light cams. He also notes that red light cams are often not posted at high-accident sites. How do you refute those claims?
posted by uftheory at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2002


Then four out of five of them should be shot fucking dead on the spot.

Kinda like the woman who doesn't deserve legal representation because we all know she HAS to be guilty, right? I'm certainly glad you aren't in charge, five fresh fish, because it appears to me that you seem to want a LOT of people dead.

America slaughters the population of a small city every year through wholly unnecessary traffic fatalities. A large portion of those deaths can be attributed to assholes who run red lights.

Citation? Or is this another "fact" pulled from out the arse to prove a hyperbolic point?

Truth is, there are good reasons to run red lights. For instance, if your car does not have ABS and you're driving on a rainy/icy/snowy day, if you decide that stopping for yellow is the right thing to do, your car may not think so and slide through anyway. Pedestrians have the right of way and I feel for them; however, they should be as cautious as drivers instead of being arrogant bastards to know that a car MUST stop.

Also, what I said above...are there any examples of mishandling these funds? If not, more power to these devices.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert, the author suggests that increasing amber times is a more effective safety measure than red light cams. He also notes that red light cams are often not posted at high-accident sites. How do you refute those claims?


Easily. the authors claims are far from facts. They are speculation. I speculate that increasing the duration of yellow lights will only produce a temporary increase in driver safety until they figure out that the yellow are longer. They they will take even longer than 4 to 6 seconds to decide to stop. Not only that more people will choose to run the light because, goddamit, now they have to wait another couple of seconds longer!

As for having the lights at high-accident intersections I am all for it. I would like them in all intersections. However, this author selectively picks and chooses what city data to use to bolster his point even going as far Australia (like driving is the same when you are upside down!) . Do all cities avoid the dangerous intersections? In Toronto they targeted the problem intersections where possible. Note that the author doesn't even go into the possible reason why they might not have cameras at the high accident intersections. One reason could be that there is no space for them. Many of the systems run out of parked vans or cars and unless there is spot to park them the system could actually make the intersection more dangerous.
posted by srboisvert at 1:51 PM on April 9, 2002


Attacking automated red light cameras is not defending red light running. There are important legal arguments against red light cameras, one of them being that American jurisprudence includes the right to confront your accuser in court. How the hell do you do that here?
posted by NortonDC at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2002


America slaughters the population of a small city every year through wholly unnecessary traffic fatalities. A large portion of those deaths can be attributed to assholes who run red lights.

Citation? Or is this another "fact" pulled from out the arse to prove a hyperbolic point?


Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Fatality Facts (pdf).

41,821 killed in 2000. Number 1 cause of death between the 1 and 34 yrs old. Ouch.

Q&A: RED LIGHT CAMERAS

Each year more than 800 people die and an estimated 200,000-plus are injured in crashes that involve red light running. More than half of the deaths are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.

Running red lights and other traffic controls like stop and yield signs is the most frequent type of police-reported urban crash, Institute research shows. Researchers studied police reports of crashes on public roads in four urban areas during 1990 and 1991. Of 13 crash types researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of all crashes. Among crashes involving running traffic controls, 24 percent involved running red lights. The same study shows that motorists are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red light running than in other types of crashes. Occupant injuries occurred in 45 percent of the red light running crashes studied, compared with 30 percent for other crash types


These numbers were amazingly easy to find bluetrain. No arse-pulling involved. I don't know if 42k is enough to be classed as a small city but it is a large number considering all the saftey improvements in cars now and the widespread use of seatbelts. I can only shudder to think how many people were seriously injured if almost 42k were killed. That number must be huge!
posted by srboisvert at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert, your statistics are for motor vehicle fatalities in general. There is no mention of drug or alcohol abuse, no mention of where the majority of these accidents take place. Simply put, they are a meaningless statistic. Further, 42,000 deaths, out of 280,000,000 citizens in our nation, total to .0015%, hardly a significant percentage. The reason 42,000 comes up in many conversations is because a majority of those are alcohol-related, I believe.

Point being, five fresh fish's statement was completely without merit. Look at it again. He said:

America slaughters the population of a small city every year through wholly unnecessary traffic fatalities. A large portion of those deaths can be attributed to assholes who run red lights. (emphasis mine)

Find me a statistic that can prove this statement, or anything even close. Out of the arse, I think so.
posted by BlueTrain at 2:35 PM on April 9, 2002


Blue train ..I thought I did..

"Of 13 crash types researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of all crashes. "

Wouldn't 22 percent constitute a large portion? I am not sure what you want... a direct statistic showing the number of fatalities that are due to single cause red light running? You are asking for the impossible.

Five's statement was hyperbolic with its profantity the idea that 'America slaughters' but was not without a substantial grain of the truth. The sad fact is that as a continent we are remarkably complacent about automotive deaths.

As for you claim that 42,000 deaths are not significant..well there isn't much that needs to be said about that..
posted by srboisvert at 2:46 PM on April 9, 2002


Wouldn't 22 percent constitute a large portion?

A large portion of crashes, but it does not mention the amount of fatalities linked to these crashes. My guess is that these crashes were bumper touches that are usually under 15 mph and don't involve any major injuries or deaths.

As for you claim that 42,000 deaths are not significant..well there isn't much that needs to be said about that..

Significant to THIS discussion. You want to talk about alcohol-related fatalities, then the number becomes rather important.
posted by BlueTrain at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2002


Let's run through these numbers properly:

Of 13 crash types researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of all crashes. Among crashes involving running traffic controls, 24 percent involved running red lights. The same study shows that motorists are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red light running than in other types of crashes. Occupant injuries occurred in 45 percent of the red light running crashes studied, compared with 30 percent for other crash types.

22% x 24% = 5.2% of all crashes result from red-light-running.
Of this 5.2%, 45% result in injury.
=> 5.2% x 45% = 2.4% of all crashes are red-light-running crashes resulting in injury.

Another way to look at it: srboisvert tells us "Each year more than 800 people die and an estimated 200,000-plus are injured in crashes that involve red light running." Considering that 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2000, this means that 1.9% of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2000 resulted from red-light-running crashes.

As for the term "large portion", it really doesn't have a precise definition, but I'd probably put it at >5%, just as a matter of common sense. I would say that a small portion of motor vehicle deaths are caused by red-light-running.

Of course, this doesn't in any way detract from the fact that we're talking about actual people dying, and death is something we'd probably like to prevent as a matter of public policy. I just want to be sure that, if we're going to argue about numbers, we're all on the same page regarding said numbers.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert - I strongly agree with your first comment.

LuxFX - You mean they put cameras where people are most likely to run a red light? Surely not.

Orange light DOES NOT mean "go very fast".
posted by krisjohn at 4:44 PM on April 9, 2002


So glad you can recognize hyperbole when it bitchslaps you across the face, BlueTrain.

My reading of the Lux's statement "4/5 of all red light runners do so less than a second after the light changes" is that he is excusing the red light runners: if you get hit because you entered the green intersection immediately, instead of waiting a second, it's your fault, not the red-light runner's.

I'm calling bullshit to that.

You want to make exceptions. No. "If your car does not have ABS [sic] and you're driving on a rainy/icy/snowy day" then slow down, dammit.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:54 PM on April 9, 2002


We should just construct steel walls covered in bright orange nerf-like material at every intersection that move up into place across the road just as the light turns red.
posted by Poagao at 7:58 PM on April 9, 2002


I'd like to see some numbers on red light running and yellow light times (I looked, but didn't find anything), because I think they would show that the author does have a point about that at least. If I see a yellow light I stop unless I am so close to it that I would actually loose control to do so. On dry streets I never run a red. Stopping so suddenly is not safe at all, but yellows are so short at several of the intersections in my town (intersections on streets with 45+ MPH speed limits) that any other decision would lead to running the red about 40% of the time, becoming one of the "in the first second" people, and I cannot afford a ticket. If it's raining, I take longer to stop, and I often end up running reds anyway, as the choice is often either that or loose control of the car. There are some intersections I won't drive the speed limit through, because I know I won't be able to stop if the light changes, but people from out of town who don't know the lights wouldn't know to be that careful.

It's not that bad on all the intersections, most have short but still decent yellow times for the speeds involved. But some are just dangerous, probably more dangerous than people running the lights every so often.
posted by Nothing at 9:10 PM on April 9, 2002


srboisvert: you idiot. You obviously didn't read the artical. The "facts" that he spits out are actual facts, backed up by statistical data provided by the government. For example, one intersection where the amber time was increased one second whent from (IIRC) 2000 tickets to 200 (it was discovered that the amber time was set wrong for that particular stop)



Another statistic is that increasing the speed limit by 15% on a highway only increased traffic speeds by 1%-2%.



You should try actualy reading the artical.
posted by delmoi at 9:26 PM on April 9, 2002


five fresh fish:

So, your solution to a "small town" worth of people being slaughtered at trafic intersections is to slaughter the population of new-york each year (red light runners) dispite the fact that only 800 people die from it?
posted by delmoi at 9:27 PM on April 9, 2002


So glad you can recognize hyperbole when it bitchslaps you across the face, BlueTrain.

So you were baiting me then. I see...my fault, I thought that you were trying to make useful comments for use in discussion.

You want to make exceptions. No.

Just like the last thread with the woman with the guy in the grill of her car. No exceptions! Execution first, discussion later! God man, it's tired. We have laws in the US. I understand you're Canadian; how's that "executions first, discussion later" motto working out for you up there?
posted by BlueTrain at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2002


>where I prefer to jaywalk rather than cross at the lights because when I jaywalk across a road I can actually predict what drivers will do

And now you understand why people prefer to run red lights in cars... they can predict what peds will do.

I *hate* people jaywalking all over the roads. I swerve not to hit them and I swear, one day a jaywalking ped is going to cause me to cause a 10 car pileup.
posted by shepd at 12:09 AM on April 10, 2002


I suggest that we reset all traffic lights so that they are synchronized to turn amber in all directions simultaneously. Won't be long before folks start slowing down for those yellow lights.....

...this would also be a boon to the airbag resetting industry and body shops nationwide (as well as emergency rooms, funeral homes, and medical equipment suppliers).

Grille-mounted rocket-propelled grenade launchers would be cool to have, too. For people running yellow and/or red lights while driving with one hand while talking on their damn cell phones.

Death should also be the penalty for stopping at a "Yield" sign, but I digress....
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:03 AM on April 10, 2002


I like the Austrian stoplight system. I've never seen (or heard of) its in use in another country.

Here, the green light starts blinking before the yellow light comes on. Also, in between changing from red to green, the yellow light comes on for a few seconds.

I have seen very few Austrian drivers run red (or even yellow) lights. Perhaps this is due more to cultural differences than to the fact that they get an extended warning that the light is about to turn red, but I'm inclined to believe it's at least a combination of the two, and that the extra warning time certainly doesn't make things any worse.

Most importantly, this discussion reminds me how much better off I am to live in a city (Vienna) with excellent public transportation that obviates the need for a car, than I was when I lived in Texas, where a car is almost a requirement.
posted by syzygy at 10:16 AM on April 10, 2002


So, your solution to a "small town" worth of people being slaughtered at trafic intersections is to slaughter the population of new-york each year (red light runners) dispite the fact that only 800 people die from it?

I'd presumed that after the first application of the solution, the number of red-light runners would dramatically decrease... but you make a good point. At least rush hour won't be so crowded any more...

Death should also be the penalty for stopping at a "Yield" sign, but I digress....

Opps. Damn. Did that the other day. Was confoosed by a weird T intersection where I, turning, was supposed to barrel 'round the corner while the straight-thru guys had to stop. Bizarre. Bullet or poison, BoP?

Austria -- what's the consequence for being caught running a red, beer-maker? Here, there really isn't a punishment. A small fine, nothing worth worrying about.

So you were baiting me then. I wasn't baiting anyone. I was blowing off steam. I'd thought the whole post was so ridiculously over-the-top that it would never be taken seriously, but I guess one's born every minute.

At least I don't fight to have people dodge responsibility for their actions.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2002


« Older Why Suicide Bombing Is Now All The Rage   |   Rio Blames It On The Simpsons. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post