Automated Enforcement: Safety or Revenue?

703px-Red-light-camera-springfield-ohio

Red light cameras and other forms of automated traffic law enforcement continue to generate controversy. This week, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said that he is in favor of banning such devices and a bill was introduced in the Colorado legislature to ban photo enforcement. On the other hand, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found strong public support for camera enforcement in cities with such programs. Much of the debate in Iowa and elsewhere stems from disagreement over whether such enforcement enhances traffic safety or merely produces revenue in the form of fines. Privacy is also a big concern and some who object on these grounds also see a very disturbing trend towards privatization of law enforcement. US PIRG released a report in October which outlines some of the pitfalls in privatization, including conflicts of interest, political clout of vendors and possible intrusion in setting transportation policy.