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Friday, Oct 20, 2017
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Letter of the Day

Measuring the effectiveness of red-light cameras

Regarding “Faceoff Red-light cameras” (March 17):

Congratulations to Tribune editors for coming up with this great debate format from within your own staff. And this opening topic is very important, as well as very timely. However, I think this first debate was easily won by Tom Jackson, arguing on behalf of the red-light cameras. And his cause was confirmed by Joe Henderson’s concession that the cameras had reduced fatalities at monitored intersections by 49 percent. Everything after that seemed to fall into a secondary category of arguments. Lives have been saved — families are intact — loved ones are not lying dead at an intersection because someone thought their time was more valuable than the life they took. All other arguments — especially about “profits” — became minor by comparison.

Increases in rear-end collisions may have increased by 35 percent (another Henderson fact), but bumpers, fenders and trunk decks can be repaired. And although these collisions can cause injuries to backs and necks, they seldom end a life. Ticket and fine the tailgaters more heavily than the red-light runners; let them watch their insurance premiums rise, and this issue too will begin to resolve itself.

Jackson offered concessions regarding the onerous appeal process as well as where fine-tuning regulations could reduce the outrage of “unfairness,” as the laws allowing these cameras have been inconsistent or vague regarding the length of the yellow light. And Henderson offered several good suggestions to tweak the entire process. But in the end, the only meaningful measuring parameter is lives saved, and the red-light cameras win this one hands down.

I was disappointed that neither raised the economic argument of how important in the future the increased use of technology will be in reducing manpower requirements for law enforcement agencies. These efforts are called “increases in productivity” and are the only way to generate more “output” without increasing costs. These technological advances have kept our country ahead of, or at least competitive with, the rest of the world and are just as significant in a city police department as in a large industrial company. They also happen to be the only non-inflationary way to provide wage and salary increases to a workforce.

With a few “tweaks,” red-light cameras installed at any accident-prone intersection can become an even greater win-win for drivers and taxpayers.

Hats off to both in this initial Faceoff!

William L. Gross


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