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 can 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 speed way up, to avoid running the red light.
These cameras are an interesting phenomenon: Automatic red light ticketing can cause drivers to artificially increase the importance of not being in the intersection when the light turns red. I say “artificially”, because it can cause people to shut off a real-life priority (avoid accident) and ignore a real-life situation (other driver in their vicinity)…. to avoid the automatic ticket.
I consider cell phone related accidents similar. Drivers talking on cell phones may more likely ignore their surroundings because they’ve artificially increased the importance of something else: their cell phone. This is why some areas have started banning cell phone usage while driving.