The title is something that came to mind while I was typing this post. Recently in the news we’ve seen headlines such as this:
Red-Light Safety Cameras Reducing Crashes in Florida, Report Shows
Crashes in Bradenton decline with red-light cameras, officials say
After hearing so many wonderful things about automated for-profit law enforcement devices reducing crashes in the news, I couldn’t wait to read the report (click for PDF version downloaded on 1-9-13). I downloaded it from the Dept. of Highway Safety’s (DHSMV) website expecting to find something similar to their annual Traffic Crash Facts, where they categorize all crashes in Florida in a variety of ways, to include what causes them (red light violations have usually accounted for about 2~3% on average, well below other moving violations).
Imagine my disappointment when the “report” turned out to be 4 pages with no actual crash data. It turns out 20 to 30% of the 73 agencies that participated, which under Florida’s camera law (s. 316.0083) MUST submit the required data did not submit any crash data. What have they got to hide???
I spent several hours and went over this survey. My findings are here. My findings encompass about 9 pages, so as usual it’s not for the short-attention span crowd. The 9 pages include all of the original survey’s text.
In as much of a summary as possible, here are the main problems with the DHSMV survey:
- You would think a “report” dealing with red light violations would list how many crashes there were before and after use. It’s kind of like the celebrities you see for the diet programs. How effective would they be if you saw no “before” or “after” photo, but just relied upon someone else (who got a lot of money to do so) saying they had lost weight?
- In the part where crashes are mentioned, it turns out there is no data for between 20 and 30 percent of the agencies that responded. The law says agencies using automated for-profit devices MUST submit data. Of course, there is no penalty for failing to do so… if only the automated devices worked the same way.
- The law only allows certain (trained) people to issue the notice of violations and regular tickets. The survey showed many agencies allow the vendor to do so, or unspecified “others”. This brings to mind the TV commercial of many years ago where an obviously inept gas station worker was asking if he could fix the transmission on a customer’s car. The point was, do you want someone that has not been properly trained doing this work? Not that training guarantees integrity when dealing with automated for-profit law enforcement, as the example I mentioned in my review was the Tampa officer that guessed at a tag and the wrong person was ticketed.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the next headline read:
Camera law means you are guilty until proven innocent
Actual crash data shows no change in crashes caused by red light violations after camera use
While those are two we’ll likely never see, the tide appears to be turning. Two I did read this week were:
Still no go on cameras
Jury still out on red-light cameras
Both expressed reservations about automated for-profit law enforcement. The former, from the Panama City Beach News-Herald went so far as to suggest proper yellow light timing. The latter, from the Venice Gondolier Sun, questioned the safety aspect as it relates to revenue.
A device ban bill has been filed by Rep. Campbell from Miami. Legislative session begins in less than 2 months, so we will see how it goes again.