Grand Jury Finds Money, Not Safety, Motivation for Red Light Cameras

Aug 2, 14 by Jorian Goes

Grand Jury Finds Money, Not Safety, Motivation for Red Light Cameras

Another California grand jury finds has found that the number of accidents at an intersection increased after red light cameras were installed.

This time it was a grand jury in Marysville, California. A 12-person Yuba County grand jury issued a scathing report on Marysville’s redlight camera program. The attack on the red light cameras took up over a quarter of the 2013–2014 grand jury’s annual report, meticulously detailing the ways in which city officials and the RedFlex Traffic Systems have been stretching the truth.

The Phoenix-based red light camera contractor RedfFlex operates cameras at five intersections in Marysville. The cameras are set up to automatically take a picture when a car goes through a red light. The $479 tickets are mailed to drivers. The grand jury found that red light cameras are one of the biggest money-makers for the city, coming in behind vehicle and property taxes.

Supporters of red light camera tout increased safety as support. But the Yuba County grand jury found that the city failed to produce accident data that would support this safety argument.

Of particular interest to the grand jury was the fact that at all but two intersections with cameras, the length of the yellow warning light was set at the legal minimum. Opponents of red light cameras often allege that the operator and the city do this to catch more violations.

At intersections where the yellow light was longer than the minimum, most of the tickets were issued to drivers turning right on red, which is generally not considered dangerous. Thus, the grand jury concluded that the program did not increase safety—just money.

In order to justify the red light cameras, the report alleged, the city stretched the truth, and cited conflicting and irrelevant data: “It appears that overall, statements by the city of Marysville officials to support effects of red light cameras on safety sometimes reference citywide collision figures and sometimes reference collision figures at red light camera intersections, use data that cannot be substantiated, provide conflicting figures, and omit reference to data that do not support the assertion of safety improvement,” the report stated.

The grand jury, then, had to piece together the information itself, as much of the data was purged. It found that the red light cameras did the opposite of what city officials had alleged—the cameras seemed to make the city’s roads more dangerous.

“A review of the figure from the 2011 Marysville Police Department Annual Report shows a citywide steep decline in injury accident data from 2002 through 2005, prior to implementation of the red light camera program,” the report stated. “In contrast, a citywide increase in injury accidents begins in 2005, the year the red light camera program began.”

The grand jury recommended that the city install right-turn arrows and increase the time of the yellow signal by one second. It also recommended removing some of the cameras and not installing any more cameras.