Don't like red light cameras? You're not alone. Everyone from scientists to personal privacy advocates have called attention to the systems, which are generally run by private companies who contract with local police departments.
The good news is that in places like El Paso, the fines are considered civil violations. The bad news: they sometimes get the wrong person.
One woman told a local television station that while she drives a black four-door car, the photo enclosed with a red-light ticket showed a silver vehicle. She had to hunt down the company's contact information to get the violation expunged.
Efforts are being made by some grassroots groups to limit their spread, including in Baytown where the city's deputy manager told contractor American Traffic Solutions that the issue was likely to come up as a ballot question in May due to citizen unrest.
Groups on both sides will continue to argue about the merit of red light cameras, but drivers need to be aware that there are an increasing number of monitoring stations throughout Texas, and some jurisdictions aren't as lenient as El Paso. That means that drivers could face taking a defensive driving course
to remove points from their license.
"There's people who love them and people who hate them," said Troy Walden, a scientist at the Texas Transportation Institute, told DelawareOnline.com "But a violation is a violation."
A report issued by TTI found that crashes were reduced by between one-fifth and more than one-third, however rear-end crashes increased by the same percentage.
While some states have made the practice illegal, and many critics point to red light cameras as mere revenue generators for cities and companies, the same police in El Paso who made only their second mistake with the black four-door argue that statistics are in their favor.
More than 75,000 notices have been sent out in the past 4 years, but crashes causing serious injuries have dropped by more than one-third, similar to the TTI data, and it's also been shown that red light violations themselves are dropping. Those violations would bring in more than $5.5 million to be split between the city and the company operating the cameras.
The debate is likely to continue, and municipalities are less likely to be interested in complaints from motorists if accidents are down and the revenue generated can be used to offset less state aid while Texas legislators try to deal with deficits.
"We believe they’re a very effective education tool," said Steve Griffith, Sugar Land assistant city manager, also noting it cut down usage of city traffic patrol resources, according to UltimateFortBend. "Many motorists know we have these systems and many motorists will carefully watch their driving at an intersection even if it's monitored or not."
For those looking to practice defensive driving
, the impetus is to stop at red lights at all times. Other ways to ensure proper safety is to slow down well before the traffic light to reduce the possibility of another driver causing a rear-end collision.