Are LA’s Red Light Cameras Designed for Safety or Revenue?


Los Angeles officials estimate that 80% of red light camera tickets go not to those running through intersections but to drivers making rolling right turns, a review by the city’s Times has found. One of the most powerful selling points for photo enforcement systems, which now monitor 175 intersections in Los Angeles County and hundreds more across the United States, has been the promise of reducing collisions caused by drivers barreling through red lights. But the right-turn infraction–a less pressing safety concern–drives tickets and revenue in L.A. and at least half a dozen other cities across the county.

Some researchers and traffic engineers question the enforcement strategy. Some cities with photo enforcement opt not to target right turns. Others limit camera use for those citations. Pasadena’s senior traffic engineer said emphasizing right-turn violations would be “more for revenue generation” than safety. Federal Highway Administration research has found that cameras can reduce red light violations and broadside crashes but can also increase less serious rear-end accidents caused by people making sudden stops to avoid tickets.


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