Red light cameras have been proposed as a solution to the problem of collisions caused by drivers who go through red lights. However, these cameras are controversial. In West Palm Beach, courts have consistently ruled red light cameras are not being used appropriately and are tossing tickets out of court. Palm Beach Post has a series of articles on increasing restrictions on use of red light cameras.
Although these cameras have brought in significant revenue for local municipalities, including areas in West Palm, Sun Sentinel reported in 2014 that Palm Beach County had stopped using the cameras. Palm Beach Post reported on a last-ditch effort this June to save red light cameras in Boyton Beach, although that appears to also be unsuccessful. If municipalities and camera companies cannot find a way to make judges confident the cameras meet their guidelines, the cameras may be gone for good in many local areas.
Running red lights is a serious concern. The first week in August was National Stop on Red Week to alert motorists to the dangers of running traffic signals. Red light cameras might seem like a sensible solution. But they are not the best way to solve this problem of drivers going through lights because they sometimes increase another serious type of collisions: rear-end accidents.
Rear-End Accidents and Red Light Cameras
Red light cameras have the tendency to increase the risk of rear-end accidents because they interrupt the normal flow of traffic and often force people to change the way they drive their vehicles. In West Palm Beach, people who went through a light would get a ticket in the mail. As a result, many drivers became excessively cautious to ensure they never accidentally went through a red light - or received another ticket or fine in the future.
This led to motorists slamming on the brakes if a light turned red when they were approaching the intersection, and even motorists slamming on the brakes when approaching a light which had been yellow. A driver behind may not have been aware the lead motorist was about to slam on the brakes. As a result, the rear driver might slam into the back of the other motorist.
When a motorist slams on the brakes as a light suddenly turns red, this behavior is not necessarily likely to reduce the chances of a red-light collision. There is usually a lag from the time the light turns red until other motorists at opposing streets get a green light to go. Instead, drivers pay more attention and slow down safely instead of slamming on the brakes at a red light.
Red-light cameras could perhaps have been beneficial if they only ticketed motorists who went through a light which was obviously red and had been for a while, rather than ticketing people for going through any signals, including lights just turning red. Because the cameras did not work this way, they ended up backfiring and making roads worse. One Chicago Tribune study, for example, found a 22-percent increase in rear-end crashes with no corresponding decrease in red-light collisions.
Drivers throughout West Palm Beach likely won't need to worry as much about red light cameras since many communities have moved towards no longer using them. Even so, the risk of being in rear-end car accident remains high in West Palm Beach and other Florida communities for many other reasons, including tailgaiting, distracted driving, texting while driving and other dangerous practices.