Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Experience With Tampa's Red Light Cameras

Over the years, the Indiana General Assembly has toyed with the idea of authorizing local communities to adopt red light cameras, those eyes at the intersection which capture the image of a vehicle that run a red light.  Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, our legislature has not gone down that path despite the substantial contributions red light camera companies have contributed to politicians in the hopes of their cause gaining favor.

Florida though has authorized local government to adopt red light cameras.  In Tampa, the program splits the money between city, state and, of course, the private company, American Traffic Solutions, which runs the program.  Although red light cameras are not wildly popular here, their use has been expanded and this summer ATS contract was extended.

In communities that have red light cameras, numerous stories have been done by local media about the "short yellow light" that snares drivers into committing violations.   Some stories have exposed red light camera companies for deliberately shortening those yellow lights resulting in more tickets and revenue for the private companies.

But having experienced traffic and red light traffic cameras in Tampa, I'm convinced that the yellow light controversy is a magician's misdirection. The problem isn't the length of the yellow lights. The problem is the length of the green and red lights.

Tampa has the longest traffic lights of any community I have ever visited.  You hit a red light, even on a major road, you can end up waiting three minutes for the light to turn.  If you want to make a left hand turn, you might have to wait four minutes.  The average Tampa traffic light is probably twice as long as Indianapolis'. 

Tampa stop lights are also not timed as Indianapolis' lights are in many place.  Thus, even though driving on a major road in Tampa, you might clear a light, drive a tenth of a mile and hit another light.

I think the reason people were (and still are) running stop lights in Tampa is driver frustration. Drivers here  know if they hit a light it will delay their trip not by a minute, but several minutes due to Tampa's lengthy traffic lights.  Let's say you're late for work.  You are about to hit a light which will cost you 75 seconds on your trip.  But let's say instead you know if you hit the light it will delay you another three minutes, 180 seconds  Which light are you more likely to run?  Clearly the latter.

One has to wonder whether Tampa would have had a problem with people running red lights if the city had simply shortened traffic lights and timed those lights?


Anonymous said...

Red light cameras are all about crony capitalism and not at all about safety. By scaring drivers into slamming on the brakes, they actually increase the number of total injuries. And since they are administered by bloodsucking companies like ACS, guess who gets all the excess revenue? Hint: it's not the municipalities who let them get installed. See http://www.virginiadot.org/vtrc/main/online_reports/pdf/05-r21.pdf for an excellent report.

GeorgeNJ said...

I like your fresh perspective "Long red lights give drivers incentive to run red lights."

You might add speeding as well.

There is another fresh perspective on the subject of red light cameras and it's found on You Tube under the title "#FINNLINE SOLUTION".

The FinnLine describes the underlying problem and offers a solution.

The FinnLine "TAKE THIS TO COURT" argument found on Face Book shows how the government forces us to guess at the yellow light is what makes red light cameras so profitable and it nothing more than ENTRAPMENT.

Wait until the lawyers wake up to the Finnline arguments. That will be the end of Red Light Cameras.

GeorgeNJ said...


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