Gridlock Guy: Red light cameras can be effective if used properly

Last week the effectiveness of red-light cameras was put through the AJC’s Truth-O-Meter. It was an interesting read examining the data of intersections in Roswell that have had the controversial cameras since 2007.

I know I might not be popular with readers who dislike the red-light cameras, but I’m all for them. I think that if used properly, they can reduce serious collisions, increase revenue for local jurisdictions and make our roads safer. The problem is, they aren’t being used the way they should.

Think about this: do police departments ever announce where DUI checkpoints will be? Does the Georgia State Patrol alert drivers where speed traps will be set up on the interstates? Of course not, it would defeat the purpose of them.

If people knew where DUI checkpoints and speed traps were located, they would avoid those areas. The key to these law enforcement activities is that the general public doesn’t know where they will be. The unknown locations, in theory, act as a deterrent.

Why then, are red light cameras stationary? Why are they only at certain intersections? A quick check on the Internet and you can see where every red light camera is in the metro Atlanta area.

In order for red-light cameras to be effective, drivers have to assume that any intersection that they drive through might have a camera monitoring traffic. Take the one in Roswell, for example. It is common knowledge that there are only two red-light cameras in the city. One at Ga. 9 and Holcomb Bridge Road and one at Ga. 9 at Mansell Road.

Are these the only two intersections in Roswell where drivers run red lights? Definitely not, but these are the only two intersections where there are red-light cameras. Don’t you think the program would better if drivers didn’t know where the cameras would be?

I would even install “dummy” cameras at various intersections to help increase the program’s impact.

Personally speaking, I have never received a ticket for running a red-light. But I witness first hand the need for the red-light cameras. If the City of Atlanta put a red-light camera at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Deering Road we could eliminate the Federal budget deficit, fully fund the HOPE scholarship program for the next 30 years and build a brand new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

I drive through the intersection every day, and every day I see someone run the light there. Every day. It’s the most dangerous intersection that I have ever seen. A red light camera at this intersection would both generate revenue and make the intersection safer. After a few months, you could move the camera to another dangerous intersection. After issuing a few hundred tickets, drivers through that section of town might finally realize that running the red light isn’t worth it.

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