Red light cameras are the bane of drivers just about anywhere in the country. A red light camera takes photos of cars crossing through the intersection after the light turns red and sends the photos to the traffic enforcement department, which runs the photographed license plates and mails a ticket to the car’s owner.
Red light cameras are a controversial way of policing traffic safety and enforcing traffic laws. However, these small sentinels are now a thing of the past for people driving in Austin, the Texas capital. In 2019, Governor Abbot signed a law making red light cameras illegal. Will they come back? Maybe — let’s look at the pros and cons.
The Purpose of Red Light Cameras
Red light cameras are meant to deter people from running a red light. They’re not usually designed to be inconspicuous. Instead, the idea is for people to see the camera and slow down for a yellow light rather than speed up to beat the red light.
They’re also much less expensive than always keeping two traffic police officers at major intersections: one to spot cars running red lights and the other to follow them and give a citation.
Red light cameras remain popular in many cities nationwide. However, Texas lawmakers noted several problems with the devices.
What Kind of Problems Do Red Light Traffic Cameras Create?
One of the biggest problems created by red light cameras was an increase in rear-end accidents at intersections equipped with them. Drivers slowing down at yellow lights to avoid the ticket were hit from behind by those who hoped to beat the yellow light and avoid a citation.
Another problem with red light cameras is their use infringes on the car owner’s constitutional rights. Specifically, conservative Texas Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, the author of the red light camera dismantling bill, and other Texas Republican lawmakers feel that the cameras presume drivers’ guilt for committing the traffic infraction.
In addition, the cameras can lead to issues when lending your car to a friend. If someone permits another driver to drive the car they own and that other driver runs the red light, it can be difficult for the owner to remove the penalties for the citation from their driving record — even if their car-borrowing friend pays for the ticket.
Benefits of Red Light Traffic Cameras
Some lawmakers believe that the benefits of red light cameras in Austin outweigh the drawbacks. Between 2008 and 2019, Austin operated 10 red light cameras, bringing in a revenue of $7 million. Revenue from the traffic fines went toward creating traffic safety programs in the city and helping fund Austin-area trauma centers.
Other benefits of a red light camera deterrent include reducing the number of fatal or otherwise dangerous car accidents. T-bone collisions are one such type. In a T-bone collision, one person turning left or with a green light is struck broadside by a driver trying to beat the red light.
Injuries from a T-bone accident can be catastrophic. One driver may be hit head-on, while the other may be seriously injured because the side door of their car lacks the protection provided by other areas of the car.
Final Thoughts About Red Light Cameras in Austin, Texas
Red light cameras may no longer be present in the state’s capital, but that doesn’t mean serious traffic accidents have also ceased. Guided intersections are still some of the most dangerous parts of the road, resulting in thousands of crashes each year. If you’ve been one of these victims, an Austin car accident lawyer can help you seek damages.