What Are the Pros and Cons of Red Light Cameras?

Vehicle accidents and pedestrian fatalities are often reduced in areas with red-light cameras. Also, red-light cameras often reduce the number of traffic violations in a community. A key drawback is that communities sometimes prioritize revenue-generation over improved public safety when installing red-light cameras.

From a safety standpoint, the premise of red-light cameras is that they minimize the number of drivers who run through red lights. As a result, other drivers and pedestrians are in a safer position. In some cases, drivers are less likely to get traffic tickets because they are wary of the red-light cameras as opposed to taking their chances with getting caught by a traffic police officer. The ticket revenue generated by the cameras is also useful in community development.

When community leaders focus on revenue goals with red-light cameras, they may overlook the data on safety specific to a particular interaction. Sometimes, communities actually experience a net loss from red-light cameras because the installation and technology expenses are greater than the revenue generated from tickets. The cameras also draw flack from some community members and legal professionals who believe their use is unconstitutional because they violate the "innocent until proven guilty" principle. Another criticism is that it is often out-of-town or out-of-state companies who garner much of the money generated from tickets.