Cheap Comparison Quotes Free and Customized

Mobile Red Light Cameras an Expensive Surprise for Drivers

redtrafficDrivers who live in cities with speed or red light cameras know the drill. They’ve learned — sometimes the hard way — where all of the cameras are positioned, and they’ve gotten in the habit of slowing down and obeying signals on photo-enforced thoroughfares.

But some cities are making it a bit trickier for drivers who think they’ve got this whole camera thing figured out.

Their latest weapon is the mobile speed camera — automated cameras mounted on parked vehicles, often without an officer present to operate them. These mobile units move from location to location, based on local enforcement needs. Many of these vehicles are marked, but some are not.

The purpose of these vehicles is to catch drivers who or speeding or running red lights in locations that lack fixed cameras.

Mobile speed cameras have been used most notably across in the United Kingdom, although they have been popping up in U.S. cities including New York, Dayton, Ohio; and Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Red light cameras used as a deterrent

Mobile enforcement units have come under fire as yet another form of “Big Brother” enforcement and a way for cities to make money. But proponents praise these programs as a clever safety tool and an effective deterrent against hazardous driving.

“This is the ideal kind of enforcement, where you make people aware that photo enforcement is being used, but drivers don’t always know where the cameras are positioned,” says Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “That encourages them to slow down and obey the speed limit everywhere in the city.”

New Orleans is one of the most recent cities to implement its own fleet of mobile traffic safety camera vehicles. The city added 10 of these vehicles in 2017 to ticket drivers who speed and run red lights. The vehicles are marked with municipal logos to look similar to New Orleans Police Department vehicles, although there have been reports of some unmarked enforcement vehicles. There is signage about 300 feet in front of each traffic unit.

To supplement the rollout, the city also expanded its existing traffic camera safety program to include 45 permanently fixed cameras.

The mobile traffic units may be deployed at one location for several hours or a full day, depending on the police department’s judgment and enforcement requirements.

Citations range from $75 for going 1 to 9 mph over the speed limit, to $235 for exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph or more. Tickets for running a red light are $135.

City officials estimated that the camera program would generate $5 million in municipal revenues.

The city has touted the benefits of automated traffic enforcement. According to the city’s website, more than 80 percent of individuals who receive a traffic camera citation and pay it do not get another citation.

Officials cite demand for red light cameras

redlightThe city also claims that it receives “daily requests to install new traffic safety cameras from residents and neighborhoods in response to speeding.”

Rader says the feedback his organization receives about traffic enforcement cameras echoes that sentiment.

“Something we hear from communities across the country is that community residents recognize the safety benefits of these cameras,” he says. “And when you’re walking, bicycling or sending your kids off to school, camera programs like this can give parents, especially, peace of mind that drivers are being discouraged from speeding in their neighborhoods.”

Rio Rancho, which uses both mobile and fixed camera units, defends the automated traffic enforcement as a safer alternative to traditional traffic law enforcement, which it calls “intensive and high risk.”

“When officers observe a violation, it is not always possible to safely stop the violator. It’s also impossible for police departments to monitor the roadways on a round-the-clock basis,” the site states.

Automated traffic enforcement has been both a source of controversy and a subject of praise.

Critics have questioned the legality of these programs and accuse the cities that use them of being financially motivated.

The constitutionality of various types of automated enforcement laws has been challenged in many jurisdictions, but few challenges have been successful, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Where red light cameras are against the law

Several states have outlawed cameras altogether.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 10 states prohibit localities from using red light cameras, speed cameras or both.

As of April 2018, there were 422 communities with red light camera programs and 143 communities with speed camera programs.

Arizona was the first state to adopt mobile cameras on its highways in October 2008, but also became the first to discontinue the program after activists complained that the cameras intruded on privacy and were put in place to make money.

In 2009, the operator of a van carrying a mobile speed camera was shot to death on the side of the freeway. The victim’s family filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

In 2017, Louisiana lawmakers attempted to outlaw all traffic enforcement cameras, but their plan was defeated in a 14-1 vote by the Louisiana House Transportation Committee.

Louisiana state Rep. Paul Hollis claimed that polls showed heavy opposition to traffic cameras and criticized the cameras as a revenue scheme.

“They are about one thing; they are about money. Nothing more,” Hollis told the committee.

Rader says there’s a simple way to keep cities from making money on speeding tickets.

“If you’re philosophically opposed to sending revenue to the city, don’t break the law,” he says.

Proponents of automated enforcement see mobile cameras as another weapon in law enforcement’s battle against dangerous driving. Bringing mobile camera units into the mix provides another element of safety, Rader says.

“It’s a way to expand an existing program and make it more effective,” he says.

Although there are no available figures on mobile speed-camera enforcement specifically, the best-controlled studies suggest injury crash reductions are likely to be in the range of 20 percent to 25 percent at fixed camera sites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing a 2008 study.

“Speeding is one of the most persistent road safety programs that we have. And it leads to the deaths of thousands of Americans every year,” Rader says. “If we could make speed cameras a counter measure that is used everywhere across the country, you could save a lot of lives.”