Red light cameras: an unlikely deterrent with great potential

BY SURJIT SINGH FLORA

In an era when politicians from all levels of government waste no time in passing any tax, toll or fee that slowly drains the wallets of working-class people, we are being introduced to the latest scheme to collect money – this time from drivers that disobey traffic lights.

We are told that drivers running red lights are the cause of collisions and are responsible for traffic fatalities of motorists and pedestrians alike. It is easy to believe that introducing red light cameras could contribute to safer intersections while allowing police to deploy their resources elsewhere and to greater effect.

We could all be forgiven for believing that the installation of more red-light cameras could mean safer intersections. But before we buy into this concept, let’s examine the numbers. According to Constable Clinton Stibbe, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, there were 77 collision fatalities at intersections in 2016, 15 involved pedestrians and four resulting fatalities.

Mid-block collisions involving pedestrians were more lethal, with 19 deaths in 2016. Constable Stibbe rightly points out that fatalities can’t be the only factor when looking at any approach to make our intersections and roads safe, and I agree with him. It’s just that I am not convinced that installing red light cameras at intersections will make them safer.

In the past, the Brampton Guardian reported on redlight cameras, saying the bulk of those tickets — 145 — were issued to Peel Regional Police employees, which is about 41.5 per cent. The biggest offenders were Brampton Transit bus drivers, who racked up 121 tickets in the past four years (since 2014). I’ve seen police officers park anywhere they desired to, without giving signals, going through the redlights.

Even worse, if they are making a left-hand turn and leftturn vehicle lane is backed up, they will drive up the middle lane and turn on the EMG lights before making the turn. Worse, they always park at the handicap spot. If a police officer is not going to follow the traffic rules and the law, then what are we to accept from the citizens? No one drives through an intersection with the goal of having a collision.

Bad, thoughtless or careless drivers always believe they can beat the light, or that the car about to make a right or left turn will do so after they clear the intersection, or they don’t believe the pedestrian will suddenly try to dash across the road against the walk signal. Will red light cameras be enough of a deterrent to reduce collisions at intersections? I doubt it.

What they will do is record infractions and make it possible to levy fines against the culprits. They won’t likely prevent the collision or fatality, but they will record it. In this sense, they resemble more of a cash grab then an effective deterrent. They do nothing to reduce the instances of mid-block pedestrian deaths, which would seem to be a much larger problem if the statistics I have been given are correct.

Both Brampton and Mississauga keep installing more and more of these redlight cameras because they see the money is coming. They need to be completely honest about why they are pushing for them.

They will catch people running the light, they will provide evidence for the police in the event of a collision or pedestrian death, and they will make it possible for a fine to be levied against the driver. But they won’t un-collide a collision, and I believe they will do little to reduce collisions before the fact, and nothing to reduce mid-block pedestrian deaths. They are likely to raise substantial dollars for hungry municipal coffers.

If Mississauga Brampton and Toronto is going to raise money off of anyone, why not motorists violating a law? I get it. I just object to the concept of red-light cameras being sold as more of a deterrent then they actually are.

I believe two things will come out of this program: we will ultimately be disappointed in the lack of results, and by the time we know how ineffective a deterrent red-light cameras are, the city will be too dependent on the revenue to move to a more effective strategy. The recent installation at five sites throughout Mississauga are part of the revenue – but it is unlikely that they will be the last.

About the author

Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora
editor@asiametro.ca

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