Friday, February 3, 2012

Traffic Enforcement Cameras Spur A Visceral Reaction

Yesterday USA Today had an interesting story about the public policy debate over the use of automated traffic enforcement camera systems. In some places the public backlash over these systems has led to laws banning their use while in other places, legislative bodies have specifically sanctioned their use. 
Interest in traffic camera legislation has spiked in recent years as the devices have become more commonplace, Teigen said. A handful of cities began testing cameras in pilot programs 20 years ago, but by 2000 just 25 had installed permanent red-light cameras. Over the past decade, however, that number has surged — to 550 in 2011. 
Still, about 20 states, including Iowa, have no laws on the books concerning cameras at all, generally leaving their use to the discretion of local communities. Amid that ambiguity, eight Iowa cities now use red-light cameras, speeding cameras or both, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
I find it kind of interesting that the public's reaction to these devices is as all over the map as the actual use of the cameras themselves. I think that deep down, opponents of the devices feel that their use is unsportsmanlike. There are also concerns about the motivations of the government entities that install them being more concerned about profit than safety. It is never a good idea to introduce a profit motive into enforcing laws.

Do you have these devices in your community? What has been the public's reaction to them?


  1. I think they have good uses, but they can seriously be abused. If they are not calibrated often enough they can catch people turning on a red even though it is legal. Other times they can be too slow to react letting too many people get through a light. I have witnessed it both ways here in Oregon.

  2. Chrissy, Thanks for your thoughts on this!

  3. I'm working on PhD dissertation and the title is about the effectiveness of traffic enforcement camera on safety. public reaction is so important to consider since they are a major part of this operation.

  4. Mansour, I think one of the biggest problems with the implementation of these systems is the entities failed to win public support prior to implementation. That makes the public that much more suspicious of the government's motives.


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