Deadly Red Light Cameras Returning to Virginia

Red light cameras are about to return to Virginia, and the City of Fairfax wants to be the first with a shiny, new automated ticketing system. Now is your chance to send a message to all the greedy municipalities in the Commonwealth that we will not sit back and let this happen without a fight. Come and speak out at the next Fairfax City Council meeting.

What: Protest/Literature distribution at Fairfax city council meeting.
When: January 13, 2009 at 7pm
Where: Fairfax City Hall Annex, 10455 Armstrong Street
Google map

Fairfax city council resolution in PDF

Here’s the background on scameras in Virginia. Certain municipalities had the legal authority to use red light cameras in Virginia from 1995 to 2005. They were installed in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Vienna, Newport News and Virginia Beach. The Virginia Department of Transportation in 2007 reported the following effects after an exhaustive study of the first five of those cities:

  • Rear end accidents increased 42%
  • Angle accidents increased 20%
  • Injury accidents increased 18%
  • The total number of accidents increased 29%

Get a copy of the study

The General Assembly at first refused to reauthorize red light cameras in 2005, killing the deadly program — but not for long. Over the course of two years, furious lobbying from the insurance industry (photo tickets carry license points and higher insurance rates in states like California and Arizona) and greedy municipalities led to the adoption of the current reauthorizing statute. Despite the demonstrated failure of this Big Brother program as a safety measure, now any city with a population above 10,000 can have cameras.

The first time around, we didn’t have the data about camera enforcement because the concept was new and untested. Now it’s beyond dispute: this stuff is dangerous. In 2005, The Washington Post found accidents DOUBLED at District intersections with cameras installed. VDOT found massive increases in accidents everywhere (except Fairfax City, perhaps the reason they want to be first — it alone reported a single-digit reduction). View all of the independent studies on the issue.

There is an alternative. In Fairfax County, only one intersection with a red light camera experienced a drop in accidents: Route 50 and Fair Ridge. The full story will be revealed in a separate post, but the basic gist is that VDOT shortened the yellow timing just before the camera was activated. After the camera had been operational for a while, VDOT increased the duration of the yellow light, back to where it should have been, from 4 seconds to 5.5 seconds. On the very next day, reports show that violations plunged 94% and did not return. Of course, that massive statistical drop was used to help make the cameras look like an amazing success. But we know the truth now. Cameras did nothing; timing did everything. There is an alternative that is more effective and that doesn’t undermine the Constitution or invade privacy. The problem is, the real safety solution doesn’t help balance the budget.

Let’s inform the city council that we know their contract with Australian Redflex Traffic Systems is illegal. The proposal includes a “cost neutrality” provision that violates the Virginia reauthorization law requiring flat-rate compensation for the private company in charge of issuing tickets. The question was just litigated at the appellate level in California.

The facts are on our side, but it will take more than facts to stop a city council intent on balancing its budget at the cost of public safety and freedom. Let’s be there January 13 to let them know we’re on to their scheme. The lie that these things are about safety has been exposed.

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10 Responses to Deadly Red Light Cameras Returning to Virginia

  1. RPr says:

    all they want to do is take your money

  2. James Howard says:

    How can I link to this page so I can send it to my parents in Fairfax?

  3. Susan Garfield says:

    Haha I love how you said Deadly Red light cameras. This is sooo true!

  4. Brendan says:

    This is all so much hot air if you don’t show up. This is democracy.

  5. K D... says:

    One of the things you may find helpful is to work on connecting the MONEY dots on what an effective solution can be to your traffic woes. Here in Philadelphia we have been tracking crashes on a police web site that allows our citizens to look up police reports. Each lookup gets us a months worth of crashes, in one police district on one street. So in 5 districts within one year we have tracked over 1700 crashes in which police and emergency were called to the rescue.

    Cities are cash strapped these days. Our research shows that traffic calming installations reduce crashes by 80% when they are installed by experienced traffic engineers that have a record of success in other munincipalities.

    We are gathering petitions now from our neighbors to push our elected officials towards these green, money saving traffic calming solutions. Take 80% of the 1700 + crashes last year and we shave 1400 calls to police and emergency personel… leaving our police to pay attention to other “real” crime…. Start taking photos of the aftermath of crashes, and see how many officers are tied up on the clean up. Start looking at the numbers.

    Insurance companies pay lobbyist to go to our elected officials, but in order to fight this, it will have to be a grass roots effort in motion to combat the interests of insurance companies, and whoever else is making money by coming up with solutions that keep the crashes happening.

    It really is up to the citizens.

    If we citizens don’t get involved, they will keep chipping away at us with higher taxes, higher insurance rates…

    How is our “consumer” economy going to bounce back if we are losing jobs, AND getting charged more for necessary services, taxes, insurance, utilities and more???

  6. K D... says:

    Keep in mind that the 1700 crashes are on only 5 streets in the entire city of Philadelphia…

    80% of all the crash numbers would be a staggering savings of manpower and resources.

    And that kind of reduction should be worth something in a city with some of the highest auto insurance costs in the country.

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