Red light cameras

You’ve probably seen those red light cameras. You know, the ones that take pictures of cars that run red lights, and send the owner a ticket in the mail. But have you ever wondered how they work? Here’s the scoop, courtesy of  USA Today:

  • There are sensors embedded in the road. They detect your car moving toward the intersection, calculate your speed, and decide whether or not you’re going to run the red light.
  • If you’re pegged as a red-light-runner, a signal is sent to the overhead cameras. One camera records 12 seconds of video - 6 seconds before you run the red light, and 6 seconds after. Another camera photographs your license plate, and another takes a picture of you, the red-light-running driver.
  • Finally, supervisors check the images to make sure they’ve got clear shots. Then they turn the photos over to the city, which then sends the car’s owner a very expensive ticket.
  • Not only do these cameras nab over 4-thousand red light-runners a day in the U.S. alone – or 1-point-5 million tickets a year. But intersections aren’t the only places traffic cameras are being used to catch violators. In Arizona, 6 cameras have been set up to catch speeders on the highways – but only those who are going at least 76 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone. And on the first day, they sent out 3-thousand violations!
  • Here’s the upside: The Federal Highway Administration says traffic cameras have reduced front and side crashes by 25 percent. But ironically, they actually increased one type of accident. Rear-end crashes increased by 15 percent – because other drivers don’t expect the car in front of them to stop!
  • Here’s something you may not know about red-light cameras: The company that makes the cameras gets a piece of every traffic fine. So, if the average ticket is $180 dollars, and the company collects $40 bucks from that - at 1-point-5 million tickets, that’s about $60 million dollars a year! Don’t you wish you’d invented the red-light cam?

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