October 28, 2011: Estimates show that one in five Americans has to pay to a company which installs and operates traffic signal cameras which is used to capture traffic violations. Citizen groups say that this will lead to a situation where profit is given importance than safety.
In some contracts the city has to share the revenue generated from ticketing with camera vendors. It can be either on a pay per ticket basis or on a percentage basis. For example, in Suffolk County, N.Y, the county shares half of the revenue from ticketing with the camera vendor. This report was released by the U.S. Public Interest Group on Thursday.
In another contract there are provisions that require the city to pay based on the number of tickets issued. The local government has to pay a monthly fee to the camera vendor and if the revenue does not cover the monthly fee, the payment is delayed. This provides the vendors with an opportunity to ensure a minimum number of references.
It is required that the police or the local officials should approve the camera recordings of the violations made by the drivers. The vendors can also penalize the cities for not approving enough tickets. This will result in setting up of a ticket quota which will affect the authority of the local officials to make decisions on issuing tickets.
The co-author of the report says that such contracts are focused on generating profits rather than safety. According to him cities without vendors has an opportunity to generate revenue by increasing the number of reference.
There are studies which say that drivers were injured when they applied brakes suddenly to escape being caught in cameras.
Anne Fleming, spokesperson from the Insurance Institute for Highway safety says that traffic signal cameras has helped in saving lives by preventing drivers from running signals. A study by the institute has revealed that 159 lives were saved with the use of traffic cameras. It says that 815 lives could have been saved if it was installed in more cities.
According to Kelly, former acting head of National Highway traffic Safety Administration, the installation and operation of traffic cameras by private vendors is a part of the government move to outsource government services.
Camera vendors are pushing various cities to enforce law that will authorize private vendors to install and operate traffic cameras. They even killed a bill which was to direct communities to increase the yellow light times. So is this a boon or bane to the city population?