Forgive us this bout of schadenfreude but we forever soured on the concept of red-light cameras as a result of what happened about 10 years ago here in San Diego.
The long story short is that it was discovered that not only was the company contracted to set up and operate the cameras getting a cut of the action on each ticket instead of a flat fee, they were actually shortening the yellow light duration at the red-light intersections. You read that correctly. These bastards were actually creating a dangerous and unsafe situation in order to collect more revenue.
To be fair to everyone involved, we cannot recall if these changes to the yellow light duration were done with the knowledge and consent of the city. If anyone does, please chime-in in the comment section.
And now it seems that whatever dubious safety claims can be made by red-light advocates, they are losing the battle to the almighty dollar as more and more cities are finding out that the red-light scameras just don't make enough money and as such are discontinuing them.
While the state collects millions of dollars from red-light cameras at intersections, a few California cities are starting to question whether the safety benefits are worth the high cost to their own coffers.
Loma Linda is the latest city to drop their red-light camera program. "Ding dong, the witch is dead," Mayor Rhodes Rigsby told the Redlands Daily Facts after the city ended use of the cameras. Rhodes has been a vocal opponent of the program, calling on San Bernardino and Los Angeles to follow this lead.
Over the last five years, Loma Linda brought in around $200,000 from the project, the paper reported. But the bulk of the ticket fines went to the state or to Redflex, the Australia-based company that operates the cameras. "For that $200,000, we took $15 million out of the local economy" in ticket fines, the Daily Facts quoted Rigsby as saying.
Loma Linda joins the cities of Whittier, Anaheim in turning off their cameras as well as Union City near San Jose, Yucaipa and Costa Mesa, Cupertino, Compton, El Monte, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Indian Wells, Irvine, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Paramount, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Roseville, San Carlos, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa and Upland as cities that have rejected implementation of the program.
Studies in Arizona [PDF], New Mexico [PDF], and Canada [PDF] have gone further, finding that red-light cameras can actually cause accidents because drivers often stop abruptly to avoid a ticket, leading to rear end collisions.
Back in Loma Linda, similar statistics proved the demise of the program. Eighty percent of the traffic tickets produced by the cameras were for legal right turns on red.
"I believe these red-light cameras are ways for city governments to legally extort money from their citizens," Mayor Rigsby told KABC.
We've seen safety studies both touting as well as calling into doubt the merits of red-light cameras but these latest actions and the rationale given for them have revealed that red light scameras were never really about safety in the first place.
We can only hope red light cameras receive a similar fate here in San Diego as the city pressed forward with the program after a scandal that should have killed it dead in its tracks.