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Red Light Camera Tickets Create Large Revenues for Municipalities, Private Firms

It's no secret that traffic tickets of all sorts result in increased revenues for states around the country. Many believe that instances of traffic law enforcement such as parking and red light tickets are used to increase a state's revenue. Particularly frustrating to many are the red light ticket cameras that allow authorities to hand down fines to motorists even though no one is present to witness the alleged infraction. "Revenue seems to be driving the red light camera rage," Eric Skrum, Communications Director for the National Motorists Association, said. "If cities were truly concerned about intersection safety, their engineers would be applying sound engineering practices that improve compliance with traffic laws and traffic signals while reducing accidents rather than installing ticket cameras." Red light ticket cameras are big business. According to the Weekly Standard, the city of Chicago made $64 million from such cameras in 2009. In fact, the industry is so large that defense contractor Lockheed Martin sold its red light camera division to Affiliated Computer Services in 2001 for $800 million. These numbers are staggering to attempt to comprehend but what can be an even more frustrating number for motorists is $446, which according to MSNBC is the average fine in Los Angeles. While it may appear that bureaucrats in city halls and governor's mansions may be rolling in green from these red light tickets, much of the proceeds go to the private companies that are contracted to operate the cameras. Indeed, the city of Oxnard, California, pays Redflex Traffic Systems more than $30,000 each month to operate its red light cameras, a fee that is ultimately paid by citizens, either through traffic tickets or through taxes. These contracts with red light camera operators can be so expensive and binding that cities can't even get out of them without paying millions of dollars. Such is the case in Houston, where the city must use its red light cameras even though its citizens voted to turn them off. If the city had followed the popular will, it would have owed $20 million to American Traffic Solutions for violating its contract. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how these traffic fines are used by officials, one can be sure that it is revenue coming directly out of the pockets of citizens.
Posted in Government, Red Light
Jul 27th, 2011