John & Shari: Perhaps red light cameras are more trouble than good

Feb 3, 2022, 5:15 AM
traffic cameras...
A traffic camera in Ballard. (Photo courtesy of SDOT/Flickr)
(Photo courtesy of SDOT/Flickr)

Part of the U.S. infrastructure deal will allow the federal government to spend about $14 billion on safe roads, and some of that will include speed cameras all over the country.

“There are already a lot of speed cameras all over the state,” KIRO Newsradio host Shari Elliker said. “In the UK, there are 7,000 cameras, and people hate it. They think it’s just so much intrusion.”

“In Seattle and around, there’s a lot of enforcement cameras, but it’s sort of debatable whether or not they work,” she added. “It depends on what you look at and where you are.”

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This discussion was sparked by a Crosscut piece that asks if traffic cameras are actually reducing dangerous driving. Crosscut reports that traffic enforcement cameras in Seattle issued over 20 times more tickets than police officers in 2021. But the data on whether or not these cameras improve safety is “conflicting.” Some cities like Burien have even removed the cameras after seeing no improvements.

Shari explains that a common misconception about speed cameras is that they change a driver’s behavior — that people would get a speeding ticket or citation for a red light, and then that would inspire them to slow down next time, or make sure they stop when the light changes to yellow.

“Apparently, that’s not always the case,” she said.

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She added that some people think adding these traffic cameras is just a “money grab” since it’s an easy way for a city or jurisdiction to make money.

The good thing, Shari notes, is that when you get one of these tickets in the mail, it doesn’t go against your driving record.

“It’s just cash for whatever jurisdiction you’re driving in,” she said.

“One of the worst things is you have to pay some weird, annoying number, like $137 or $141.21,” host John Curley said.

“When you put these cameras in place, you don’t actually stop accidents because people see that there’s a red light camera so then they end up stopping because they don’t want to get caught,” he added. “Then they jam on the brakes and the person behind them slams into them.”

“The other argument is that all of this is preventable if you just go the speed limit or stop when the light turns yellow,” Shari noted.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

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John & Shari: Perhaps red light cameras are more trouble than good