Automated Traffic Enforcement Is Indirect Taxation

Most people I talk too don’t like taxes and would oppose any increase in taxes. Recognizing that, local governments across the country have country have come up with a clever way to tax you under the guise of “public safety:” Automated Traffic Photo Enforcement.  This automated enforcement includes photo radar devices and red light photo devices.  On its face, stopping people from speeding or running red lights seems like a plausible public safety concern.  However, you don’t have to dig far to discover that these schemes have nothing to do with public safety.

For example, governments have shortened the duration of the yellow lights at some intersections with red light cameras so that driving behavior that would be okay at other intersections results in a violation at these intersections with “modified” light timing.

Studies have shown no measurable decrease in accidents due to photo enforcement programs and sometimes these automated enforcement systems increase accidents.

Governments make deals with the companies that manufacture and operate photo enforcement systems (Redflex and ATS) to ensure adequate revenue for the companies , who receive a significant percentage of every ticket.  These deals can involve allowing the manufacturer to relocate the photo enforcement system to another area if the ticket volume is insufficient.

Much like the speed traps manned by live police, photo enforcement systems are often placed in areas where the speed limit abruptly drops for no apparent reason and the unwitting driver is flashed for simply maintain his or her speed on a road that has not changed.  Confusing intersections are also a popular location of photo enforcement systems to trip up unfamiliar drivers.

The scam is so bad that a former judge from Missouri, Attorney Michael Carter, is seeking to ban red light cameras in his state. Carter explains, “[Politicians] are afraid to go on the record and vote taxes up… but [they] can couch this in a way where it comes across as public safety.”  In a letter to Missouri’s Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, Carter wrote, “It is a money grab from our citizens/voters like none I’ve ever seen before – under the guise of safety.”

In reality, even though governments erect these photo enforcement devices to generate revenue, the typical result is the government loses money while the companies that manufacture and operate the devices make lots of money.  Eventually, the contracts between the governments and the manufacturers expire and the government does not renew.