In the same week a federal jury convicted a Chicago transportation official of taking bribes from a leading manufacturer of red-light cameras, council members in another prominent American city are raising questions about the equipment's effectiveness in improving traffic safety.
By: Pete Bigelow
Several city council members in Tampa said this week they felt duped by promises that red-light cameras would reduce traffic crashes. That's not happening. Instead, crashes at 23 intersections where cameras are installed in the city have increased between 40 and 51 percent, two separate analyses found.
"We were told this would help and stop crashes and it's not," Tampa councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin tells WTSP-TV. "I look at these numbers and I don't see the value to our tax dollars."
Her comments came following a contentious meeting about the red-light cameras. Last month, a study compiled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles showed crashes increased 14.6 percent at intersections after cameras were installed.
Council chairman Frank Reddick said he planned to introduce a motion to negotiate or rescind the city's contract with American Traffic Solutions when it comes up for renewal in April. If Tampa abandoned its red-light camera program, it would join a growing list of municipalities across America dropping automated enforcement.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 439 red-light camera programs are currently administered in the US. That's a 18.7 percent decrease since a peak of 540 in October 2012. Cities are dropping cameras for assorted reasons – voters have rejected them, often claiming the cameras are nothing more than revenue generators that don't promote safety. Other critics have argued they violate due-process rights. Research has shown cameras decrease some types of crashes while increasing others.
Scandals have also taken their toll on automated enforcement. In the latest developments, John Bills, former deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, was convicted on 20 counts in federal court Tuesday, including bribery, extortion, and mail and wire fraud for his part in steering city contracts worth $124 million USD (approximately $167 million CAD) to traffic-camera provider Redflex in exchange for $750,000 USD (approximately $1.01 million CAD) in cash, meals, hotel stays, rental cars and golf outings, according to his indictment.