Traffic cameras have become a hot issue on the campaign trail and have even drawn federal scrutiny in a trend reflecting the populist outrage of this political season, reports the New York Times. The issue has bubbled up in places like Cleveland, where a man seeking a spot on the Cuyahoga County Council has proclaimed his opposition to traffic cameras. Indeed, the outrage over the cameras echoes the general concerns about government that have fueled protests movements like the Tea Party.
But the protests also underscore the sting many Americans feel in these economic times at having to pay fines for traffic infractions that, in some cases, they had no idea they committed. Nearly 550 local governments use traffic cameras, according to experts studying the issue. But 14 states and 11 cities – including Arlington, Tex.; Anchorage; and Cincinnati – have banned or restricted the use of the devices. The effectiveness of traffic cameras is a matter of debate. A study by the Federal Highway Administration found that while the more dangerous broadside collisions were reduced by 25 percent at intersections with traffic lights that had a camera, there was also a 15 percent increase in rear-end collisions, possibly caused by drivers slamming on their brakes at the sight of the devices.