Lingamfelter Legislation Wrong on Intersection Safety Cameras


    ( – promoted by lowkell)

    Last week, a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates’ Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee approved legislation introduced by Del. Scott Lingamfelter to halt increased use of red light cameras across the Commonwealth.  That legislation is expected to be voted on shortly by the full committee, focusing public debate on the utility of the cameras.

    Clearly, Del. Lingamfelter is a skeptic, but the reality is, there are good reasons to support deployment of red light cameras at some intersections, especially when considering their role in improving and maintaining public safety by reducing collisions and changing driver behavior.

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light running is the leading cause of urban crashes; in 2009, nearly 700 people were killed and over 100,000 people injured in crashes that involved red light-running.  Furthermore, IIHS data shows that about half of all deaths that result from accidents involving red light running are those of pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by

    those running red lights.   Additional IIHS data demonstrates that 27 percent of car crash deaths in 2009 were the result of side-impact crashes, the most dangerous of crashes and the ones red light cameras were designed to reduce.

    As early as 2006, the Federal Highway Administration reported that the use of red light cameras resulted in a 25 percent decrease in those perilous side-impact crashes, with a 16 percent reduction in injury stemming from them.  Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Tony Zucaro of the Virginia Beach Police Department says that his city has seen reductions in violations as high as 73 percent in some intersections thanks to camera installation and use.  Representatives of Chesapeake, Alexandria, Fairfax County, the Virginia Municipal League, Nationwide Insurance and the AAA Clubs of Virginia testified against Del. Lingamfelter’s bill, along with opponents of the legislation from Virginia Beach, like Zucaro.

    The reality is that red light cameras enjoy popular support, nationwide and in Virginia because they do help save lives.  IIHS data from 2003 shows that that 84 percent of Fairfax residents supported right light camera deployment; a much more recent 2009 Public Opinion Strategies Poll however found that 69 percent of Americans back the use of red light cameras at the most dangerous intersections.

    There are legitimate reasons why local officials should not be blocked from installing red light cameras, as the city of Falls Church recently has done along Route 7 (Broad Street).  According to Falls Church councilmember Robin Gardner, “What I’ve seen at the intersections in question is that they’ve been a help in the past and they’ll be a help now” (the cameras are a pure public safety measure, and not designed to add to Falls Church’s revenue stream).  Delegates should be sure to review the facts and hear folks like her and Deputy Chief Zucaro out before casting a vote on Del. Lingamfelter’s legislation– hamstringing local officials where public safety is concerned is risky business.


    • I have to say, I HATE red light camera!  And it isn’t personal — I’ve never rec’d a ticket from one.  Just that I dislike the idea that there is no real way to challenge a red light camera in court, especially given our bias towards technology.  I also hate using fines as a revenue source.

      But I’ve read that if we set up the lights to give long moments between the red light changing one way and the green light changing the other, we get the same dramatic reduction in accidents, but without the potential violation of civil liberty.  I know that many of the lights in NoVa are set up (or are being set up) to do this, but not all of them are.

    • ValerieInRke

      “Red light cameras really don’t make sense for Roanoke,” said City Manager Chris Morrill at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

      Red light cameras placed at vehicular intersections record drivers who fail to stop for red lights. The driver then receives a traffic ticket through the mail. Studies vary on the expensive cameras. Some say they are prone to error. Drivers call them “revenue generators” for municipalities.

    • blue bronc

      The red light cameras tend to change the side hit, T bone, crashes which can be very traumatic, to rear end crashes.  The number of those go up with red light cameras. I have to wing it here, I am on the road and don’t have my regular resources. The dollar amount of insurance and repair work goes up with red light cameras. People will hit the brakes rather than risk a traffic violation ticket.

      One part of the reduction in fatalities is there are known dangerous intersections. The cameras are only one tactic to reduce collisions at those intersections. Changing light timing can have the same effect. Increase yellow, remove right or left turns, change the pattern or put in barriers/islands, all can do the same to reduce the deadliest intersections.

      The very fact that the governments rely on for profit companies who get a take of the income generated by the cameras makes the use unacceptable to me. Local governments facing a very difficult revenue shortfall because of the Bush recession see the profit of cameras as an easy way to bring in the green. The same as a low speed zone in a highway rated at twenty or thirty miles per hour faster than the speed trap, makes money for the government.

      If an intersection can be identified as a “killer” and none of the passive changes work to reduce the deadly crashes, than put in a camera. But, cameras placed in intersections with no problems other than short yellow or short turn lights are there only to make money and should not be allowed.  

    • As the Post ( points out today, Red Light camera’s increase safety.  A few years ago I led a letter writing campaign to bring back red light camera’s.  I appreciate the concerns about government intrusion, but in our experience, these increase safety and the intrusion is pretty minor – if you don’t break the law, you don’t get a ticket.  And safety, especially pedestrian safety, is the number one concern.  We have far too many pedestrian deaths in VA and need to do more on multiple levels to address those.  Given the constrained resources of local government, and the ever increasing expectations from the G.A. for what we have to pay for, local government has to find creative ways to use resources efficiently.  Police officers are an important, but very expensive resource.  Deploying them in the most cost and safety effective way is essential to managing an overall local budget.  As the GA keeps finding new things to require or push down to localities, local governments are forced to conciser every possible efficiency in how they manage and protect their community.  These camera’s are one of those tools.  They may not make sense for every local government, but the G.A. doesn’t need to get in the middle of it.  Given all the other obligations the G.A. is happy to ask local government to pay for, the lights should be a choice they can leave to the locals as well.  And locals should use them responsibly.  They are a safety tool, not a revenue tool.

    • you can buy a clear cover for your license plate that will not prevent humans from viewing it at all but will make it impossible to make out for a traffic camera with a glare… are those illegal in the US?