To the editor:
The Salem City Council is considering a new measure for our city. It is known as the Red Light Camera Bill and is being sold as a way to make our roads safer.
These cameras would be installed on traffic lights at five designated intersections around Salem. Red-light cameras take pictures of cars that proceed through an intersection after a yellow light changes to red. A computer-generated ticket is then sent by mail to the offender.
No one condones running red lights. It can be dangerous and sometimes deadly. Proponents of red-light cameras claim that accidents will be reduced at intersections where this technology is employed.
However, after some online research, I have found much evidence to the contrary.
Here are some examples:
Washington, D.C., via Washington Post: Reports showed an overall increase in accidents at red-light camera intersections of 107 percent.
Portland, Ore., via KATU News: Reviewed city statistics and found a 140 percent increase in rear-end crashes at red-light camera intersections.
Fort Collins, Colo., via The Coloradoan: Has experienced an 83 percent increase in the number of accidents since red-light cameras were installed.
Oceanside, Calif., via North County Times: This report showed an 800 percent increase in rear-end accidents with red-light cameras.
It has also been demonstrated that some cities with red-light cameras have shortened the timing of yellow lights, resulting in increased violations. These intersections are sometimes referred to as "ticket traps" or "accident hot spots."
Based on the data gathered from the aforementioned cities, if red-light cameras are supposed to increase safety, we would be much better off without them.
The City of Salem would impose a fine of up to $100 for running a red light. Initially, this penalty would not trigger a surcharge on the motorist's auto insurance, but just wait a few years and a multiyear surcharge is sure to follow.
Some unfortunate motorists will be photographed attempting to get through such an intersection by virtue of being just a little too late to escape before the camera reacts. Others will see the yellow light and jump on the brakes to avoid a violation, but instead will find that the vehicle behind them is now inside their trunk!
In the state of Massachusetts, the participants of a funeral procession are usually conceded the right of way through a traffic intersection even if the traffic light is red. Can the families and friends of such an event expect to be served with a "procession of tickets" soon after their loved one is interred because they legally drove through a red light at such an intersection?
A half to one full day of missed work will probably be necessary for those who would be inclined to fight off this alleged "violation."
One city councilor said that he seldom hears complaints from his constituents about an epidemic of motorists running red lights. So why the pressure to get this bill passed?
The city says it plans to shore up public safety with the proceeds of this initiative, but this looks suspiciously like a new tax.
Are motorists not put upon enough as it is?
What with car insurance, excise taxes, repairs and now astronomically high gas prices, will we see a new levy, as well? Is this an example of governmental compassion in these troubled economic times?
A cynic might conclude that red-light cameras are as much about collecting revenue as they are about safety. I would be inclined to agree!
House Bill 1799, the Red Light Camera Bill, is being shepherded through the Legislature by our own state representative, John Keenan. It is hoped by supporters that this bill will be implemented throughout the state, but failing that, Mr. Keenan is attempting to make this measure a law in Salem under the "home rule" provision.
If you are concerned, as am I, about putting a stop to this, please contact your ward councilor, Mayor Kim Driscoll and Keenan before we are all saddled with a bad idea and a brand-new tax! We can stop this bill if we are determined, vocal and visible at City Hall when the bill is brought forward for a vote.
Information for this letter was obtained from www.motorists.org/press/revenue-drives-red-light-cameras-not-safety, which can be viewed for additional information online.
R. Scott Hiltunen