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Former State Prosecutor and Criminal Trial Attorney

Former State Prosecutor

Former Atlantic County Prosecutor

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Experienced for over 30 years

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Are red light cameras safety measures or money makers in disguise?

Technological advances that help to increase safety on America’s roadways are continuously being implemented. The latest and greatest involves automated traffic enforcement known as red light cameras. Some argue, however, that the use of red light cameras is not to make roads safer but to line the pockets of the private companies that run them. Others even argue they are unconstitutional.

What is a red light camera?

A red light camera is a type of traffic enforcement device that takes a photo of a vehicle when it proceeds through an intersection. The camera is typically encased in a protective box located on the top of an intersection pole.

The camera takes a photo of the vehicle automatically if it proceeds through the intersection after the light has turned red. Law enforcement officials review the photo and if they find a traffic light violation, will thereafter mail the citation to the vehicle owner. The vehicle owner is then responsible for paying the ticket.

Questionable red light camera objectives

Law enforcement officials and proponents of red light cameras say they help to prevent auto accidents by compelling drivers to slow down.

However, opponents of these “big brother devices,” as they are called, argue that red light cameras are simply money makers disguised as auto safety devices. The profits to be made from manufacturing and managing these devices is evident in the millions of dollars spent every year in various states by pro-camera lobbyists to get them installed.

And, based on the data, opponents may be right. Some information suggested that the devices have not decreased auto accidents at all. Rear-end collisions, for instance, were found to increase as a result of drivers breaking to avoid the ticket.

Further, many have been found to fail or provide inaccurate results. In North Carolina, a local television news station covered a story about the devices. They approached officials who agreed to examine the cameras. The results revealed that one camera at a particular location falsely photographed at least 31 violations.

Constitutional argument

Many have even argued that these red light cameras are simply unconstitutional. In recent years, one senator from Iowa introduced a bill to ban the cameras arguing due process violations.

The 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibit a person from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Among many reasons, some say that the cameras improperly presume guilt by capturing a photo of the vehicle instead of the person driving the vehicle who commits the infraction.

Others conclude that the cameras are an invasion of privacy-also unconstitutional.

Despite the potential for constitutional violations, plenty of states have approved the use of the cameras. Currently 24 states, including New Jersey, currently have red light cameras in operation. Nine states have passed laws prohibiting the devices.

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