The unintended consequences of red light cameras


My daily commute to work doesn’t feature the many of the world’s best drivers. In fact, I almost never get mad anymore when someone tries a stupid maneuver around me because I have come to expect it. Why get mad if you know that it’s coming?

Sometimes one of the more hazardous events that happen during my commute is stopping at a red light. People don’t always pay quite enough attention to see the two ton chunk of steel stopping in front of them and close calls are a little less rare than they should be. It’s not as though it’s an everyday experience by any stretch, but it is something I keep in mind while driving, especially along this route. I remember one morning not too long ago, I checked my rearview mirror while braking for a red light. I saw a car not slowing down at all coming from behind. I was about a half of a second away from punching the gas pedal to avoid a collision before she swerved out of the way and continued through the intersection. I like some excitement in my life, but not that kind of excitement.

Several months later, I noticed a bright flash in my mirror while driving to work one morning. They installed a red light camera at one of the intersections. Not long after, they installed another one about a half mile down the road.

If you think that made me happy, WRONG! Why would I be happy about something that increases my chances of getting rear-ended at a red light?

Knowing that there are red light cameras at certain intersections, I noticed that my first reaction to an amber light changed from checking behind me to hitting the brakes—sometimes harder than I usually would. Glancing at my mirror became an afterthought.

Sudden stops and inattentive drivers are two perfect ingredients for accidents. The red light cameras absolutely increase the chances that someone will make a sudden stop, and while it is true that those familiar with the intersection will be conscious of this, drivers who are new to the road won’t necessarily be aware of this new hazard. It is one of those situations with unintended negative consequences.

So thanks, guys, for making my commute just a bit more worrisome. Enjoy the money you’re making off your safety de-enhancement.

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Reminds me of something I wrote here: Traffic control definitely shouldn’t be the domain of the State!

Driving in Mexico is an adventure. I did see cops: one went ripping past us on the highway; another was directing traffic at a busy intersection around 9 am. For the rest of the time there are no rules. Hermisillo at night was unreal. Granted, we had American plates and that was a green light for everyone to cut us off and treat us horrifically, but without the rule of force, it was an absolute free for all. Amazingly, we had no issues. Somehow, despite a virtually lawless society, everyone managed to get along and we didn’t even see evidence… Read more »