Here’s some interesting news I kind of saw coming. Where I live, some traffic lights are equipped with Red Light Cameras. These cameras automatically photograph the license plate of drivers who run the red light. This seems like a great idea, but perhaps not.
These Red Light Camera equipped intersections have signs warning drivers of the camera’s presence. The general idea is this: Drivers are more careful to avoid running the red light. And, if they do…. a camera snaps their license plate and the image is sent to a server. This license plate’s text (letters and numbers) is extracted from the image using some combination of human reading, and automated optical recognition (a computer extracts characters using optical algorithms). Then… the owner of the vehicle receives a Traffic Ticket in the mail for their red light offense. Cha-ching!
Seems like a good idea because red lights are less often run, right? And, red light accidents also occur less often, right?
A recent study by the University Of South Florida College Of Public Health shows that red light cameras actually increase the number of red light accidents, and their severity. Why? Because drivers are more likely to slam on their breaks to avoid running a yellow light. I also imagine in some cases drivers are more likely to speed way up, to avoid running the red light.
So, these cameras cause an interesting phenomenon: This system of automatic red light ticketing causes people to artificially increase the importance not being in the intersection when the light turns red. I say “artificially”, because the most significant real-life priority is to avoid accidents. But, the presence of these cameras causes people to shut off the real-life priority (avoid accidents) and ignore their real-life situations (other drivers in their vicinity)…. all to avoid running the red light.
I consider cell phone related accidents very similar in nature. Drivers talking on cell phones more likely ignore their surroundings because they’ve artificially increased the importance of something else: their cell phone. This is why areas have started banning cell phone usage while driving.
Some areas, such as Florida, are now banning these red light cameras. And as reality shows, I think these cameras should be banned. But these cameras are widely used, and some areas earn sizable profits via this automated ticketing scheme. San Diego, in particular, has made $30 million in 18 months. Hopefully governments will make the right choice, and forgo the easy money – It just doesn’t seem right to profit by harming people, especially your own citizens. Right?