POLL: Should SeaTac continue its Red Light Traffic camera program?

There is some controversy brewing in SeaTac over Red Light Cameras, and we’d like to take our Readers collective pulse on this issue – please take a moment to vote in our Poll below:

Do you think the City of SeaTac should continue its automated Red Light Traffic camera program?

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One Response to “POLL: Should SeaTac continue its Red Light Traffic camera program?”
  1. Roger Kadeg says:

    Following is a copy of my comments submitted to the City Council re: red light cameras

    Dear Council members:

    It has come to my attention that you are considering the introduction (actually reintroduction) of red light cameras for traffic enforcement in our city. Although I have never been “flashed” or cited by one of these devices, I am strongly opposed to their use or introduction into our city. My reasons are as follows:

    a.) They radically alter driving behavior at intersections, and are actually unsafe in many situations. While never cited, I have had to jam on my brakes on several occasions to avoid a citation when moving traffic in front of me suddenly stopped or slowed – and I had a “stale” green light or new yellow light (Rainer Ave. So. to Southbound 405 ramp). Similarly, I have had to hit the brakes hard to avoid colliding with a car that suddenly stopped in front of me. Alternately, I have had to “race” through an intersection when in it and then briefly stalled by suddenly slowed or stopped traffic, or consider stopping on a still green light!

    b.) Many/most of the resulting citations are for rolling right turns – not through intersection travel. I am also “afraid” to make a legal right turn in some cases, backing up traffic as I am uncertain what the camera will do
    c.) The only individuals guaranteed to make money are the third party vendors. It is clear by past behavior that their only interest is selling their system and maintaining a steady revenue stream. They have proven untrustworthy.

    d.) In many instances, the introduction of red light cameras has resulted in a net revenue loss to the cities. Income is NOT guaranteed.

    e.) The potential for increased court activity and litigation is significant.

    f.) A great deal of maintenance, record keeping and reporting is required under federal and state statutes. Who will do this, and how much does it cost?

    g.) Of great importance, wherever they have been installed, red light cameras have created contentious debate and controversy. They are despised by many and seen as “big brother” or a loss of freedom. The last thing we need in the city are additional issues that create more controversy or division.

    h.) As the locals become used to these devices, they may either avoid intersections where they are located, or alter driving behavior as noted above. However, the high non-resident traffic created by the Port facilities will not be familiar with these devices or their timing. It is highly likely the city will wind up citing more non-residents than residents. Ask anyone who has been so cited – do they come back to that city (unless forced) or leave with a positive impression? As we have been trying to get new businesses to relocate here, and develop incentives for individuals to stay (and spend their dollars here), the introduction of red light cameras will have the opposite chilling effect, and create the exact opposite reputation of the city that we desire to create. When people say SeaTac, do we want the response to be “avoid that place where I got the camera ticket”?

    i.) For some of the above reasons, I am aware that at least one camera (188th and International Blvd.) was previously removed. Why is this under reconsideration now?

    Following are some supporting facts to consider:
    1.) According to a study cited in the Orange County register (05/20/08), in this California county, 80 percent of the issued citations from their red light cameras went to vehicles making right turns on red (i.e. a rolling right), NOT through the intersection. As was noted, this action is hardly a pressing safety issue, and had the action been observed by an officer, it is highly unlikely a citation would have been issued. The human judgment element has been eliminated. It was quite clear the main intent was to issue $400 citations for a minor infraction – i.e. to generate revenue.

    2.) Another reviewer in the same county timed the duration of the yellow lights. It was discovered that for non-photo enforced lights, the duration was quite variable, but at a minimum five to six seconds, some more. For the photo enforced lights, the timing was consistent for all intersections at three seconds – half the typical duration [irrespective of speed limit and federal standards]. At specific high traffic camera enforced intersections it was virtually impossible to make turns at certain periods of the day without an unknowing driver becoming gridlocked into a citation. Note that these systems are supplied/maintained by a private 3rd party, with every incentive to identify/create? as many violations as possible. (Even if they do not receive a percentage of the fine, to keep their revenue they must demonstrate they are producing tickets)
    3.) Allstate insurance company, citing a 2012 study in the Kansas City Star, noted that red light cameras have made drivers more cautious, but at the same time, the incidence of rear-end collisions has increased at intersections that use traffic enforcement cameras.

    4.) In a Florida case cited by the Tampa Bay Times, a retired insurance attorney contested a photo citation arguing the state law was unconstitutional because the cameras do not prove the identity of the driver. In a slight turn of events, the judge ruled the red light camera law “shifts the burden of proof to the Defendant and therefore does not afford due process, and is unconstitutional to the extent due process is not provided.” Thus there is significant potential that our courts could be tied up with a variety of appeals, at additional expense to the city (see item 5.)
    5.) Washington State law requires municipalities operating red light camera systems to “post an annual report of the number of traffic accidents that occurred at each location” where a camera is located, plus “the number of notices of infraction issued for each camera.” According to plaintiffs, the City of Lynnwood didn’t provide those numbers for 2 ½ years, beginning in 2013, and started posting them on the city’s website only after they filed their claim. A class action lawsuit was filed on their behalf in March, 2017, seeking more than $12 million in reimbursements to drivers. According to KIRO 7 reporters, there is a high likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail. Is the City considering the additional effort/costs to collect and maintain these records?

    6.) In a debate last May over red light cameras in the City of Arlington, TX (they have 23), it was documented that American Traffic Solutions (ATS), did not report all the violations to other cities. “Whenever the camera goes off, that is considered an event. The event is sent to the red light camera company, the red light camera company reviews the event, and they decide which events go to the city for further review. They were caught red handed not sending as many violations as they could because they wanted to give this mantra about safety that people were learning; people were changing their driving behaviors because of these cameras.” Again, consider all the potential legal ramifications of such manipulation and selective enforcement.

    7.) In 2013, the Vanguard Attorneys posted the following three cons for red light cameras: a. Municipalities install enforcement cameras with a primary focus on budgetary revenues, rather than increased public safety. b. Enforcement cameras offer greater financial benefit for out-of-state operators, like ATS, over that of local city and town governments. c. Factoring in legal fees and salaries associated with enforcing camera violations, some municipalities have realized net revenue losses stemming from these system installations.

    8.) In 2014, The Chicago Tribune reported that a former city transportation official is accused in a $2 million bribery scheme that directed a contract to Redflex. Redflex is another third party camera provider. It appears that not only for the municipalities, but especially for the vendors it is more about money rather than safety.

    9.) In a 2014 non-scientific internet poll, 78 percent of the respondents indicated that they had either slammed on their brakes to avoid a red light camera or had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of them when the driver had slammed on his brakes. Actual resulting collisions were not noted.

    10.) In New Jersey, one physicist who was “flashed” by a red-light camera did some extensive research and discovered that the set-up of the camera was in opposition to Newton’s law of motion (rate x time = distance). Under certain conditions, there was no way to avoid a citation having entered the intersection legally. Further investigation found that if one complied with the written federal standards for setting yellow lights, it too can create a condition that results in a violation. Thus, conforming to the federal standard guarantees a steady stream of drivers running red lights. It is illegal to pass and enforce such laws, and he has subsequently filed a class action lawsuit against the city. In another legal case, the state’s camera laws were put on hold for a majority of their cameras as it was discovered many of the municipalities had failed to properly conduct or maintain records of required 6 month inspections of the camera system. Revenues from these cameras may be returned ( New Jersey Star Ledger 07/12/12).

    11.) Testimony from the County Council representative from District 3, which encompasses most of the city of Arnold, MO. : “The cameras were installed there in 2005, and we have had over five years to try this experiment. And the results are very clear. In regards to changing drivers’ behavior and reducing accidents, the cameras simply do not accomplish this goal. According to a recent study by the Missouri Department of Transportation, accidents at three of the four intersections in Arnold with red light cameras have gone up — by as much as 370 percent at one intersection. The number of violations (cars running red lights) has gone up from 4,600 in 2006 to 9,440 in 2010. The only success these cameras have had is to generate revenue for the city of Arnold, at the tune of almost $2 million since the system was started. It has been proven in Arnold that red light cameras do not change driver behavior for the better, and that they actually make intersections more dangerous, not less. And with 9,440 chances to injure or kill somebody last year alone, the choice to end the red light camera program is very clear to me. If it saves one life by not implementing these dangerous cameras, the ends do justify the means.

    Thank-you for your time and consideration of my comments and this information