Baltimore Traffic Safety News: Has Proliferation of Red-light Cameras Actually Reduced Maryland’s Automobile Accident Rate?

Anyone who drives here in Maryland has probably seen one or more of the nearly 200 red-light cameras dotting the landscape all around our roadways. The trend toward adding these monitor cameras has no doubt raised drivers’ awareness of the ever-watchful eye of government, but it also begs the question of whether the addition of these devices has really contributed to a meaningful decrease in auto, truck and motorcycle accidents over the years.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my staff represent the victims of traffic wrecks — as well as the families of those individuals killed as a result of another person’s negligence behind the wheel. As many safety experts have already stated, it is up for debate whether or not drivers and pedestrians alike have benefited in a significant way with the placement of hundreds of red-light cameras in and around the state.

According to news reports, over the past 14 years since Maryland’s state legislature has approved the use of red light cameras, dozens of these electronic monitoring devices have been hard at work issuing traffic tickets for motorists accused of running red lights throughout the state. Based on information from AAA Mid-Atlantic, those nearly 200 cameras mentioned above do not include so-called speed cameras, which are also in use around the state — AAA does not have complete totals for those kinds of cameras.

Naturally, anyone who has ever seen the aftermath of a serious car, truck or motorcycle accident knows the intrinsic benefit of reducing the number and frequency of car and trucking-related wrecks in Maryland. The question some are asking is whether or not these unmanned monitoring devices are worth the trouble that some say they experience.

Some dissenting voices belong to those who have received numerous tickets via these red-light and speeding cameras. One such individual, a 29-year-old woman, believes that once people know a camera is at a location, they are scared to be ticketed and therefore slow down and/or obey traffic signals more frequently. That driver, for instance, had reportedly received one ticket a year (four red-light camera tickets and one speed camera ticket) over the past five years.

One comment that seems to be quite common regarding these cameras is that sometimes the cameras are used in locations where the speed limit changes abruptly, or where the actual speed limit is not readily obvious to drivers. These problems, among other complaints, have served to fuel the debate over automated traffic enforcement devices for the past decade and a half.

Reducing vehicle accidents as well as pedestrian injuries is a laudable goal, and advocates of red-light and speed cameras argue that these devices do, in fact, decrease accidents and save lives. Certainly, the closed-head injuries and fatal auto injury accidents that will never happen as a result of the placement of these cameras makes having them around more palatable to some.

On the other hand, opponents maintain that speed and red-light cameras at operated in what some refer to as “questionable legal territory.” Furthermore, the fact that most all of these machines are operated by private companies makes there continued use a profitable venture for the companies that provide the service to local and state agencies.

For a look at how lucrative just one of these cameras has been, AAA Mid-Atlantic says that a speed camera located near a work zone along a stretch of the Capital Beltway has by itself issued more than 20,000 tickets in just three months. While experts agree that cameras such as the one mentioned here discourage speeding and thus make for safer travel through that area, others say the technology can be misused.

Speed camera opponents complain that a percentage of speed cameras are set up more as a revenue source than as a safety tool. Of course, in communities are being used more as a revenue generator rather than a tool for safety. The arguments run the gamut between the units being just another tool of taxation, to the legitimate argument that a machine should not be the sole witness against an individual in court, at least not to the extent that a device alone can prove a human being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Whether these cameras pose an unfair atmosphere for drivers is something that will have to be decided over time. In a complicated world, there is always room for some exception to the rule, say some. Unlike a camera, a police officer will make a judgment based on the particular situation; deciding whether or not to charge a driver with a traffic violation. The camera, on the other hand, issues tickets indiscriminately.

Red Light, Speed Cameras Remain Controversial Even as Numbers Grow,, December 15, 2011

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