June 9, 2011 -- The city of Los Angeles may soon be putting the brakes on red-light cameras, claiming the courts and drivers ignore the summonses and they don't make traffic safer.
If the cameras are shut down later this month, Los Angeles would become the latest city to unplug them.
The city's Police Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday calling for an end to the traffic cameras, claiming their costly presence does not actually make streets safer. The decision still has to be approved by the City Council, but according to Councilman Dennis Zine, the move was a right one.
"The program has many flaws," he told ABCNews.com. He said that Los Angeles loses about $1 million annually to keep the cameras up. Tickets which are issued cost drivers about $500, but for each ticket the city receives less than $150, he said.
In addition, the program is not supported by the courts, making the possibility of getting caught less threatening to motorists, and the violations do not go on drivers' records, Zine said.
"If more and more people realize there are no consequences, more and more people aren't going to pay," the councilman said, meaning the cameras will cost taxpayers even more to maintain the system.
Red Light Cameras May Get Unplugged in Los Angeles
Zine, a former traffic officer, suggested going back to traditional patrolling of traffic, with officers at intersections who immediately stop and ticket drivers who run a red light.
The issue of traffic cameras in the United States has been an increasingly contentious debate. More than 500 U.S. communities have employed the use of red-light cameras, but some have also been unplugging the cameras lately.
In November of last year, Houston residents voted for an end to the cameras. In Anaheim, Calif., that same month, residents there overwhelmingly voted against having the cameras.
But according to the National Coalition for Safer Roads, the cameras should stay. David Kelly, president and executive director for the NCSR, issued a press release today in response to the Los Angeles Pollice Commission's vote.
"Red light safety cameras are proven to change dangerous driver behavior and reduce red-light running," Kelly said. The coalition also cited a letter from the Los Angeles chief of police, which noted a 63 percent decrease in red-light collisions between January 2004 and December 2009.
The NCSR contends that the Police Commission is putting "money before safety in Los Angeles," but Zine argued that money should not be the issue.
"Traffic enforcement shouldn't be about collecting money. It should be about saving lives," Zine said.