As of August 11 the intersections in our city that currently have red light cameras will also now have the ability to issue tickets for speeding through them on green lights.
Could we frame this discussion as a speeders tax or a fee-to-speed? Perhaps.
But either way let's not fool ourselves; these cameras are only marginally effective at making our roads safer. As soon as drivers learn where these cameras are they slow down temporarily and then they defiantly speed up again as soon as they're out of range. So, yes, these cameras probably do make specific intersections safer. But on the other hand I suspect the gains might be lost if drivers are dangerously slamming on their brakes to avoid having their picture taken as soon as they catch a glimpse of the camera as they speed by. I suppose the data will bear out the fact of the matter. My mind will remain open.
Also, while the focus on catching speeders does give us a good feeling of accomplishment, the question remains; how do we address the other major factors such as distracted and impaired driving? I hear Police ride the bus in some cities and call in distracted drivers they see through the window as they cruise around the city. But that's a whole other topic.
One thing that has worked well is installing timers at many intersections around our city. I really like how I can see from a distance that I have enough time to safely slow down and stop. So I'd like to put it forward that, if we must have speed-on-green cameras then we should use the money to pay for things like timers at intersections and other things that improve traffic safety.
I also wonder if we should be having the conversation about timing traffic lights better? "Red-Light-Deer" is a social media meme which is growing in popularity. So the bigger picture question here is how can we make traffic flow better in our city?
Lastly, another discussion that we should be having is how to improve safety in our school zones. Since we know that traffic cameras only temporarily slow drivers down and we also know that many drivers are unwilling to temporarily slow down near schools, it seems like there is an obvious solution to the problem, let's put traffic cameras in school zones. Can we do that? Call it a cash grab, sure, just please don't run my kids over. The scariest thing to a parent is a speeding car in school zone!
With all of that said, the reality is that we can't legislate the sort of cultural change that needs to happen. I recently became a defensive driving instructor and this is something that I talk about a lot. People need to obey the rules of the road not because they're afraid of getting a ticket but because they care about their own safety and respect the safety and well-being of everyone else in their community. This is the ultimate way to be proactive when it comes to road safety. It starts with you and the attitude that you choose to have when you get behind the wheel.