As many police departments across the nation have had their budgets stretched thin, many turn to technology such as red light cameras. Such cameras deter speeding and running red lights by taking a photograph of the license plate (and driver in some cases). The owner of the offending vehicle is later mailed a ticket.
Such cameras have often found themselves at the center of controversy. Camera critics claim that they are an invasion of privacy and allow manufacturers of the cameras to profit from lawbreakers. However, proponents claim that the cameras greatly reduce the liklihood of serious car accidents by essentially forcing drivers to follow the law.
As a result of the controversy, some Ohio lawmakers want to ban red light cameras in Cleveland and in several other towns and cities across the state. Legislation was recently introduced that prohibits communities, highway patrol officers and counties from using the cameras as a means of enforcing traffic laws.
In Cleveland, which has had cameras installed on its most crash-prone intersections for the past seven years, it is difficult to say whether they have had an impact on safety. Although the number of tickets increases, the city did not conduct an assessment measuring the camera's effects on the driving habits before and after the cameras were installed.
Although the cameras' effect on safety has not been measured, the city recently announced its plan to install traffic cameras at 26 additional intersections and to double the number of speed cameras in certain neighborhoods. Of course, if the legislature acts to ban the cameras, this gesture would be moot.
Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Do traffic cameras create safer streets? Cleveland councilman plans to find out," John Horton, May 30, 2013