By now, most Ohio drivers have noticed the flash of a red light camera or even received tickets after being caught by one. The presence of these cameras inspires mixed reactions among drivers in areas like Lucas County: some people believe that the cameras play a crucial role in reducing injuries and deaths arising from intersection accidents, while others believe that the cameras just provide an easy way for the state to generate revenue.
These viewpoints came to a head last year when a bill seeking to mostly ban red light cameras from the state was introduced. This year, Ohio lawmakers will have to consider this issue and, potentially, a second bill that would change regulations to red light camera installation.
Rationale behind red light cameras
The statistics that support the use of red light cameras are compelling. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that, in 2008 alone, more than 2.3 million intersection-related crashes occurred. These accidents hurt more than 700,000 people and killed more than 7,000. Although speeding and red light running may not have been factors in every one of these crashes, these two driving behaviors are known to increase the risk of accidents in intersections.
National studies have indicated that red light cameras can be a serious deterrent against these traffic violations. Within Ohio, this also appears to be the case. Ohio’s Toledo Blade reports the following figures on red light cameras and citations:
- Since the installation of red light cameras in 2003, crashes in Dayton have been halved, according to city officials
- In 2012, Dayton issued more than $3.7 million in fines.
- The same year, Springfield issued more than 6,000 citations with the help of red light cameras.
The observed reduction in Dayton car accidents may reflect the financial toll of red light citations being sufficient to deter dangerous driving behaviors. However, critics worry that these cameras violate drivers’ rights to due process, which is why House Bill 69, which would only permit cameras in school zones with law enforcement authorities present, was introduced last year.
Potential changes to Ohio policy
In light of the safety benefits that traffic cameras can offer, the bill to ban these cameras has been met with some protest. As a compromise, one senator plans to introduce legislation that would better regulate red light camera use, according to the Toledo Blade. This second bill would require that the public be informed of camera installation, that local authorities review any citations issued and that people be given the chance to contest their citations. This would protect right to due process more than the current system, in which private companies send citations by mail.
How the legislature deals with these proposed changes remains to be seen. If the bill to reduce the use of red light cameras passes, it may save Ohioans the initial financial cost of citations. At the same time, if intersection accidents increase, the change may have a steep cost in terms of injury, loss of life and the financial cost of the accidents.
Even if the legislature decides to keep red light cameras, the risk of accidents is still real for Ohio drivers. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident and you believe that another driver was at fault, you should make sure to contact an attorney so that you can understand your options going forward.