The SafeLight Program using red light cameras started in 2006 in Dallas, Texas. Red light cameras watch high-risk intersections with a history of traffic accidents and photograph cars running red lights. The owners are then tracked down through the license plate numbers and fined through the mail.
For the first thirty days, the City of Dallas issued warning citations to red-light runners caught on the cameras. Up to sixty intersections in Dallas will be monitored by the cameras.
How the SafeLight Program Works
The system operates as follows:
- Radar detection equipment monitors traffic. When the signal turns red, the camera system is activated by any vehicle illegally running a red-light.
- Two pictures are taken by the cameras. The first picture shows that the front of the vehicle is not yet into the intersection while the light has already turned red. The second picture then shows the vehicle continuing through the intersection and includes the license plate.
- The camera records the date, time of day and time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal.
- Those who enter the intersection prior to the light turning red, but who, for whatever reason, are trapped in the intersection when the light changes, do not trigger the camera and will not receive a citation.
Several cities in Texas have already set up red light camera systems. Denton claims a decrease in traffic accidents at those red lights with cameras installed.
The SafeLight Program aims to prevent accidents, injuries, and deaths. In the United States, 218,000 traffic collisions occur due to people running red lights. Nearly 900 people are killed annually.
The red light cameras are automated, so they will reduce manpower used writing traffic citations.
The revenue these cameras will bring in is significant. The only people who will be charged are those who are breaking the law, so it's fair. This money can be used for other public safety ventures, such as hiring more police officers. Dallas is number one in the nation in crime.
To a lot of people, this looks like a money-making venture. Dallas expects the city to make $12 million from the cameras this year.
The penalties differ from camera and cop. If a police officer stops a red light runner and writes a ticket, the fine is criminal and goes on the insurance record of the offender. If the camera issues the citation, the fine is civil and no insurance penalty occurs.
Invasion of privacy (“Big Brother”) is an issue. Many critics cite the “slippery slope” argument: If a city has the right to watch us and photograph us as we drive through red lights, then why not cameras everywhere, watching us in our daily lives, citing us for anything that is or might ever be an infraction?
Where It Stands
- Senate Bill 125, filed 29 Nov 2006 by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), removes a city's financial incentive to run the cameras by sending money made by the system to the state to be used in a emergency and trauma fund, minus the expenses associated with running the red light camera system, which include costs of hardware, software, paperwork, human labor, and review of disputed cases by police and courts.
- House Bill 55, filed 13 Nov 2006 by Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock), prohibits a city from installing red-light cameras on highways that fall under a city's jurisdiction. Since highways are typically the busiest roads, highways show the most potential as money-makers under the red light camera system. Again, this removes much of the financial incentive for a city to install red light cameras.
The City of Dallas intends to fight the attempts by legislators to send the money from the SafeLight Program to the State of Texas.