- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2010


Northern Virginia’s streets are set to become more dangerous as a new law takes effect enhancing the profitability of red-light-camera schemes. The robotic ticket machines are already flashing in Arlington and Alexandria, but Arlington next month will become the first northern jurisdiction to issue tickets. Based on the program’s dismal results from 1999 to 2005, there will be more people, not fewer, in area hospitals and more cars in body shops.

Take the intersection of Lee Highway and Lynn Street, where a machine once again will send traffic citations through the mail. According to the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC), the total number of accidents jumped by a third when the camera went live a decade ago - including a 21 percent increase in right-angle collisions. They weren’t just fender-benders, either, as the number of injuries climbed 14 percent.

That intersection was one of the better performers. Adding the rest of Arlington’s camera-monitored intersections, rear-end accidents soared 139 percent overall. Red-light-running crashes jumped 159 percent. Red-light-running crashes involving an injury increased 65 percent. Angle crashes increased 53 percent. All types of injury crashes increased 89 percent. Total crashes increased 65 percent. There was no decrease in any type of accident studied. VTRC’s analysis took advantage of the most sophisticated techniques to adjust for the influence of all relevant factors, including traffic volume. Over the same period, accidents at camera-free control intersections dropped.

A spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department said that though she was not familiar with the VTRC report, “other studies” have shown decreases in accidents.

No doubt those “studies” were provided by the Arizona-based private vendor American Traffic Solutions, which stands to make millions on this contract. Arlington’s first three years of photo ticketing generated 70,050 tickets worth $3,525,250. Since then, technology has advanced to the point where ticketing vehicles making safe right-hand turns on red provides significant new revenue potential. Other cities are counting on short yellow times to deliver big green. Alexandria, for example, dropped the yellow time at South Patrick and Gibbon streets from 4 seconds to 3 seconds with criminal disregard for the negative effect that change will have on safety.

Virginians can take comfort in knowing that traffic tickets in the Old Dominion are only valid if properly served, which means they can toss mailed citations in the garbage without consequence. If ticket revenue dwindles from Virginians ignoring unserved tickets, it will send a signal to politicians to stop putting their reckless greed above safety.

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