Red-light camera operators are the tow-truck drivers and repossession kings of today's drone-flying, surveillance-obsessed world. Camera companies place tiny, cheap lenses on traffic lights, wait for you to inch too far into an intersection, and cackle into the sky as they and the cities that hire
But there is at least one thing those
Today, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) — an Arizona company that operates most of the red-light cams in Florida — released a compilation of the worst red-light-running incidents in Florida this year. And the results are equal parts amusing and gasp-inducing: People stand helpless in crosswalks as cars sail through intersections, nearly clipping them, while other vehicles charge right past stop lights and into moving traffic. Cars crumple like old Miller Lite cans.
According to ATS, nine of the 14 crashes shown in this video occurred in Miami-Dade County.
Anyone who drives regularly in the state will also spot a classic Florida driving trope in action: the speeding, multilane crosser, who bravely assumes he or she can careen across three lanes of traffic at twice the speed limit and emerge unscathed. The Sunshine State is full of these folks. Watch the clip at the 19-second mark to see why we need a few hundred fewer of them.
But before you start to feel all warm and fuzzy about ATS after watching the video: The company was nailed with a class-action lawsuit in 2014 for issuing illegal citations to motorists, and there's conflicting evidence that red-light cameras are a good idea.
Sure, drivers will hem and haw about any system that gives them tickets. But government-backed research doesn't make a crystal-clear case for the cameras either. While cities that install stoplight cams do usually see a decrease in the sort of right-angle, T-bone crashes that come when people run red lights, the cities also often see an equal or similar increase in rear-end collisions because drivers now jam on their brakes to avoid that hundred-dollar camera ticket.
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T-bone crashes, however, are far deadlier than rear-end collisions, which means the surveillance systems actually seem to do some good.
But the issue gets a heck of a lot muddier when the camera contractors come into play. Cities have repeatedly been dinged for relying on red-light violations to boost city revenues rather than simply cut down on road deaths. The cameras have also been enforced inconsistently: From 2008 to 2010, cities issued "code violations" instead of tickets for red-light infractions, which residents said was a way to leech extra cash from drivers. In 2014, ATS was sued for issuing its own citations instead of letting local cops handle the tickets.
So the debate is sure to rage on. The moral, however, is this: Don't run red lights.