Despite continued growth in “red light cameras,” opposition has cropped up in state legislatures from Hawaii to Virginia, says the Christian Science Monitor. The ticketing shutterbugs can be attractive revenue generators for local governments and the private companies that make, sell, and maintain them. The cameras raise privacy concerns. “The opposition to red-light cameras isn’t that they’re not useful, but the problem is they’re too useful,” says Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “This is part of a trend where [lawmakers] are seeing there’s a political advantage to not living in a police state.”
At least 140 communities use the cameras. They’re a popular way to reduce side-impact or T-bone collisions and discourage red-light runners, particularly on packed urban crossroads. More than 300,000 red-light violations were issued in New York in 2003, and traffic deaths dropped in the city from 701 in 1990 to 344 13 years later. Despite the cameras’ impact, a growing number of lawmakers say the devices put states on the wrong road. In the past few weeks, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Indiana have banned or limited their use, after failed attempts to introduce the cameras to Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, and West Virginia last year.