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Red Light Cameras and Car Insurance Rates

By Insurance.com Posted : 04/05/2006

Is Big Brother watching you? That's how many Americans feel about the new red light/ speeding cameras popping up all over the country. Many people feel that these cameras are violating their privacy, while others think that they are revenue boosters or simply replacing the job of their local police department. Drivers are also concerned about the increased potential of receiving a red light/speeding ticket and the effect it could have on their auto insurance rate. But no matter how you feel about these cameras, the situation is real and it could be coming to your city or town very soon!

Some of the newest cities to be inducted into the red light/speed camera club are Moultrie, Georgia, Cleveland & Akron, Ohio and Scottsdale, Arizona.

In the short time these cities have been participating in this program, they have seen positive results from their new investment. For instance, in the first month of operation, Cleveland's red light/speed cameras snagged more than 2,300 drivers, many whom lived in surrounding suburbs. In Cleveland, red light violators are charged $100 per citation while speeding ticket violators are fined anywhere from $100 to $200, depending on how fast they were driving over the legal limit.

Akron, Ohio has also seen shining results from their pilot program. In the first nineteen days of operation Akron's cameras issued over 3,000 tickets to local violators. Placed near many Akron school zones, the cameras have helped put the brakes on many lead foot drivers in the area. Originally, violators were being charged $150 per ticket, however the city is looking into reducing this fee to somewhere between $35 and $150.

How exactly do the cameras work?
First, the camera takes a picture of the car and then takes an up-close photograph of the license plate number. Once the violator's information has been captured, a ticket is issued and mailed to the registered owner.

What if you were not truly driving the car at the time of the photograph?
Some people feel that the red light/speeding cameras can result in false or unfair ticket violations if the owner of the vehicle was not truly driving at the time of the incident. To help alleviate this problem some states, such as Georgia, allow residents to contest the traffic citation if the owner wasn't driving the vehicle. Others states like to debate that the owner is responsible regardless of who is driving the vehicle.

Do the cameras really help to reduce traffic violations?
In an evaluation of camera programs in two U.S. cities - Oxnard, California and Fairfax City, Virginia - the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the violation rates dropped by about 40 percent during the first year of enforcement. The increase in driver compliance was not only limited to camera sites, it also spilled over into non-camera intersections as well. For example, crashes declined throughout Oxnard, even though only 11 of the city's 125 intersections with traffic signals were equipped with cameras.

Do the camera increase accidents?
Many city and state officials debate that the cameras do more harm than good. Recent studies at intersections monitored by cameras have shown an increased the amount of rear-end collisions. The explanation is simple. As the traffic light turns yellow many drivers are slamming on their brakes in fear of getting a ticket for running a red light. This, of course, can trigger multiple rear end collisions. Some people argue that if yellow traffic lights were timed to stay on longer and if drivers allowed for the proper distance between cars, many of these rear-end collisions could be prevented.

While other studies, such as the one conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation, have shown that even though rear-end collisions have increased, more serious side-impact crashes due to drivers running red lights have decreased.

What effect do red light/speeding camera tickets have on your car insurance premium?
According to Dave Roush, CEO of Insurance.com, the tickets are categorized as a civil penalty, so they normally don't result in points on the offender's driving license nor do they impact the driver's auto insurance rate. Roush also notes that the best defense is to always drive with caution and care. Following these measures will help you maintain a good driving record and a lower auto insurance rate.

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