Keep the red light cameras


Savannah Whitmer

Though red light cameras may become a thing of the past, The red Ledger’s Matthew Norwood argues that they should be kept.

Matthew Norwood, Staff Reporter

The state of Texas could be on the verge of shutting down red light cameras in their entirety, making them illegal. These cameras have been a staple of law enforcement protection against traffic violations for decades and are responsible for a decrease of 29 percent in traffic infractions across the area. Nevertheless, states are aiming to stop the program in its tracks because of its unintended financial consequences.

A large part of the reason for this bill is due to budget constraints. The city of Dallas’ budget has been in decline and the city’s administration plans to cut public safety to fill this shortfall. Cameras are expensive to run, and the city is scrambling to to find ways to make up an almost four million dollar deficit. Essentially what is happening is the city is prioritizing budget concerns over safety concerns.

This issue isn’t just in our own state, either. Across the nation, cities are removing these lights to make up for their cost. They have been in effect for years, but weren’t seriously successful until advancements in cameras made them viable for tracking those who run lights.

Whereas it makes sense to focus on economic productivity, this should never be done in compromise with public safety. The stats shouldn’t be disregarded, and on top of last year’s 29 percent decrease in red light crimes, from 2007 – 2011 casualties from red lights dropped by 22 percent as red light camera prevalence increased 135 percent. Two hundred fewer people died last year than four years previous, saving over one billion dollars in damages and giving serious credence to their usefulness.

By advocating finances over safety, the city and state will create a bad precedence for future prioritization. By valuing money over lives, the government has become more than just a representative of the people and has lost view of its own purpose. Debt is not always a bad thing, as shown by a lack of correlation in national debt and GDP per capita over the last ten years. Cities should be able to find somewhere else to cut a budget rather than things which compromise public safety, and Texas’ huge financial support of the arts and natural resource development gives it a place to cut costs.

Not only that, but earlier statistics pointing out the money saved by preventing loss of life means there is no long term financial reason to eliminate the cameras anyway. The billion dollars saved over the previous five years re-compensate nicely for the four million deficit the city is in. That money will not go directly back to the city, but will go into the city’s economy which will make it healthier and end up with more taxable income in the end anyway.

The financial reasons given to eliminate red light cameras don’t hold up when looking at long-term benefits, and the red lights do too much to save public safety to warrant their removal.