Statement of Judith Lee Stone
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson|
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Before the Indiana Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee
In Support of Senate Bill 3
Automated Traffic Law Enforcement Systems
January 28, 2003
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), a nonprofit coalition of consumer, safety, health, law enforcement, and insurance companies and organizations, urges the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee to favorably report SB 3, which allows a local authority to make the determination of whether to use automated traffic law enforcement systems.
Red light running is a serious traffic problem in Indiana. According to the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 7,000 "failure to obey a traffic light or signal" violations were issued in 1999. A study by Purdue University's Center for the Advancement of Transportation Safety found that at a high traffic volume intersection, there were 30 red light running violations in 45 minutes. In fact, red light running is one of the leading causes of crashes nationally. Each year there are approximately 200,000 crashes caused by red light running, resulting in about 1,000 deaths and 150,000 injuries.
Red light running violations have been reduced in numerous states throughout the country through the use of automated enforcement technology. In Fairfax, Virginia, San Francisco, California and Oxnard, California, violations have been reduced by more than 40 percent. The Charlotte, North Carolina program cut violations by more than 70 percent in the first year, and crashes dropped by more than 10 percent citywide, demonstrating that these systems have a positive community-wide impact.
Red light cameras effectively reduce the number of crashes involving injuries. A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study in Oxnard, California found a 29 percent reduction in injury crashes. This study also found that the number of front-into-side injury crashes - the collision type most closely associated with red light running - decreased by 68 percent after red light cameras were introduced.
The public overwhelmingly supports states taking strong action against red light running violations. The Purdue University study found that 96 percent of drivers think red light running is dangerous, two-thirds said it is a problem in Indiana, and 56 percent say they see red light violations at least a few times a week. One in four indicated that within the past 24 hours of driving, they observed someone running a red light. Three national Lou Harris public opinion
polls commissioned by Advocates (1998, 1999, 2001) all found that two-thirds of the public support state adoption of laws that would permit cities to install cameras at intersections. A
Recent Insurance Research Council (IRC) poll revealed the same level of support. Additionally, an April 2001 survey of 10 cities by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that favorable opinions about red light camera use exceeded 70 percent in communities both with and without photo enforcement programs. In fact, the communities with systems in place even had slightly higher approval ratings.
Despite the lifesaving benefits and public support, oftentimes the debate has boiled down to misinterpreted "constitutional rights" vs. public safety. Arguments about privacy and constitutionality are specious, in that the Constitution gives us a reasonable expectation of privacy, which does not apply to public roads. Additionally, the great majority of jurisdictions using automated enforcement systems capture only the license plate of the offender, not the driver's image or the interior of the car. In this respect, a photograph is less invasive than a police officer pulling someone over because the officer would see both the person and some of the interior of the car. Cameras take a picture of all violators. There is no subjectivity or privacy violation; it's very clear -- whoever crosses the intersection after the light turns red will receive a citation.
The right to "confront one's accuser," another lost liberty according to opponents, which is embodied in the Sixth Amendment, has never meant the right to confront an arresting officer or someone issuing a ticket. The right is preserved in court, where all ticketed individuals can go if they disagree.
By obtaining a driver's license, an individual agrees to abide by certain rules, one of which is to obey traffic signals. The use of cameras is just one way to enforce this law and is a supplement to ongoing police enforcement. The sole purpose of the automated enforcement systems is to serve as a deterrent, and the ultimate goal for communities using them is to have no citations at all. Currently, more than 70 communities, ranging from Los Angeles to New York City, employ these systems in hopes of achieving this goal.
In conclusion, Senate Bill 3 will put the decision of whether to use automated traffic law enforcement systems into the hands of local communities. If enacted, this law will protect lives, improve safety on Indiana's roads, and save taxpayers money.
Thank you for your consideration.