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Do red light cameras reduce car accidents? Sugar Land to decide

No one enjoys receiving a traffic ticket, especially when it comes in the mail unexpectedly after running afoul of a red light camera. But do they at least help cut down on the number of car accidents where they're installed? Or are they, as some contend, merely a revenue generator for law enforcement?

Voters in Sugar Land may get a chance to weigh in on that issue in November. One New Territory man has some big issues with the cameras and doesn't believe they impact the car accident rate. He recently delivered a petition with some 3,300 signatures to the City Secretary in an effort to get the question of whether the city should have red light cameras onto the ballot. 2,835 verified signatures of Sugar Land voters are needed for the ballot initiative.

The city claims that a number of studies have been performed since 2009 showing that red light cameras do indeed cut down on car accidents. At the nine Sugar Land intersections that have the cameras, the city says traffic crashes are down 58 percent.

"Red light cameras are a revenue scam," counters the New Territory activist. "They have nothing to do with safety. It is disturbing that the city keeps touting this as a safety issue. There is no real proof that red light cameras save lives and reduce accidents," he alleged.

He also has issues with the legality of the tickets. For one, the ticket is issued to the owner of the car, not necessarily the driver. He also claims that some 60 percent of those ticketed aren't actually receiving them after running red lights, but for rolling stops or right turns. Finally, he argues. the yellow lights are too short to allow drivers to safely stop, essentially forcing them into a ticket whether they stop short or keep going.

Those may be fair criticisms, but those seeking to ban red light cameras will need to come up with evidence that any problems outweigh the reduction in car wrecks the city says it can demonstrate.

"Red light cameras encourage motorists to stop at red lights, which save lives," says a city spokesperson. "(They) also allow police officers to focus on other important efforts, such as special teams that focus on burglaries and other areas of emphasis."

Do you think red light cameras are an effective way to cut down on car accidents in Sugar Land?

Source: Fort Bend Southwest Star, "Petition submitted to put Sugar Land's red light camera issue to a vote," Betsy Dolan, April 24, 2013

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