(See Update Below) Aurora is preparing to target 20 intersections for automated red-light cameras, sending violations in the mail to the registered owner.
Commander Joe Groom of the Aurora Police Department says the cameras will take photos of the vehicle, not the driver.
Former mayoral candidate Richard Irvin had proposed mobile cameras for high-crime areas, but then-candidate Tom Weisner was more interested in red-light cameras for how it could raise revenue.
Do you support or oppose red-light cameras in Aurora? Is it a public-safety issue or revenue-generating issue?
Is it fair to ticket the owner of a vehicle if he or she was not the driver? Will local judges convict owners without evidence of being the driver?
Nobody should be surprised the local fishwrap would endorse the idea of red-light cameras, given their track record of supporting any idea that directly or indirectly takes funds from taxpayers, but we notice their basis for their editorial has some flaws.
"In communities where cameras have been installed, red-light violations have decreased, sometimes dramatically so."
We say some communities have found the opposite to be true and some are even discontinuing them. Accidents have INCREASED, including intersection accidents as a result of people making abrupt stops to avoid a violation, regardless of the traffic flow behind them, causing more rear-end collisions.
Reports say Washington DC found injury and fatal crashes increased 81% at red-light camera intersections. Fort Collins, CO had a 83% increase in accidents despite a 64% increase in violations being issued. Virginia has been eliminating them. Florida's Attorney General issued an opinion against them.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed data with various Georgia communities with red-light cameras and found an increase with accidents, injuries and, yes, revenue. Marietta, Georgia had a 49% increase in rear-end collissions between 2004-2005. Overall accidents in one targeted intersection (Cobb Parkway and Windy Hill Road) went from 108 to 163. However, Marietta has gained $2.7 million in revenue.
In Duluth, Georgia, accidents increased 21% between March 2004 and February 2005, compared to the same period a year earlier. But, the city made $790,000 (ca-ching) with one camera. Lilburn, Georgia had a 24% increase with rear-end collisions doubling. Injuries increased 128%. Revenue was increased at an annual rate of $404,000 with one camera.
There are other examples and studies raising both doubts about how effective red-light cameras are, but more risk to public safety. Winnipeg (Canada) showed dramatic increases in accidents. Virginia showed total overall accidents increased. In a six month period in Plano, Texas, accidents increased 50%.
In Monterey, California, a police official said:
"I gave the system its due and it showed it wasn't something that would benefit the community."
A statewide audit in Califonia showed 88% of violations issued involved split-second violations rather than the more obvious violations that would be cited by a police officer. California cities from Cupertino to Fresno to Santa Rosa to Irvine have DROPPED the red-light cameras.
There are other examples, but it is not accurate to assume red-light cameras automatically insure better safety or reduced accidents. And, given the importance of public safety, we find the fishwrap's statements irresponsible.
We also note IF the purpose is for public safety, there are other steps that may also be more effective, including increasing the yellow light time and traffic countdown counters for targeted intersections.
"Red-light cameras have been upheld as constitutional by numerous courts..."
We say we would like to see the fishwrap explain their claim with facts and hope they weren't trying to mislead their readers by implying the United States Constitution has been been tested on this. There are various legal challenges in many states and a recent ruling in a North Carolina case said the red-light cameras violated that state's constitution. From due process to privacy concerns of vendors having vehicle information, red-light cameras may get a red-light for themselves in certain jurisdictions.
"...ultimately it is the owners who are responsible for their vehicles. In this way, tickets for running red lights work much the same as parking tickets, which are issued to owners even though an enforcement officer doesn't know who parked the car."
We say under the fishwrap's logic, it doesn't matter who is driving the vehicle for any violation, including speeding. We suggest if you plan to speed, borrow one of the fishwrap's vehicles and see if they object any violation being mailed to them. Parking tickets are not moving violations. Whoever wrote and approved the fishwrap's editorial should get a violation for failure to obey common sense.
"...the city says the point of the cameras isn't to make money, but to change drivers' behavior. In fact, much of the money collected will end up in the pockets of whichever company the city chooses to hire to run the program. We see any profit the city makes as an added benefit to making our streets safer to travel."
We say we aren't sure why the fishwrap believes anything a City of Aurora official says considering false statements from city officials have landed in the fishwrap's printed pages (and the fishwrap looked the other way), but any program that ends up with money in someone's private pockets should send alarm bells, given the corruption and cronyism epidemic in Illinois and Aurora.
We notice the fishwrap has no problem with the city or some crony making a profit off Aurora residents...maybe if the fishwrap really cared about the community, they would have suggested any profit offset the irresponsible tax increases they supported by Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW...MORE REVIEW NEEDED
First, remember to use extreme caution when you read the fishwrap, given their bias and allergy to facts.
Second, we see enough questions that say red-light cameras might be a great revenue generator for communities trying to indirectly tax their residents, but there's sufficient concern from communities and studies that raise concerns about the real impact on public safety.
IF the purpose is for public safety and there are clear problems with certain intersections, we first would like to see those objective evaluations, what has been tried, what is the status of yellow light timing and how the city and local hospitals are prepared for unintended consequences, such as an increase in rear-end collisions and injuries.
Those are all aside from the serious legal and ethical questions about holding an owner responsible for a driver's action and whether or not such cases would be convicted or just add to the legal system's docket of issues.
We are not in favor of anyone running red lights, but we strongly oppose taxpayer exploitation schemes and we have yet to be convinced this is not the primary purpose considering Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner's support and track record when it comes to cronyism and fleecing of Aurora's residents.