The city of Toronto could generate more than $2-million in revenue if it increased the effectiveness of its red light camera program, according to the auditor general.
The red light camera project was initiated in 1998 as a pilot program “aimed at improving safety for all road users by reducing red light running at intersections,” according to the city of Toronto’s website.
Currently there are 87 cameras that are rotated among 114 intersections. Motorists do not know which intersections have the active cameras and which have no camera.
The province of Ontario increased the fine for red-light running from $180 to $325 in January, 2010. The government determined the seriousness of red-light running and concluded a penalty increase was warranted.
Is this red light camera program about the money or about the safety?
Statistics from a 2006 study show that the rear-end collision rate fell at intersections with red light cameras while the rate increased at non-camera intersections. “Data compiled by the city from 37 intersections monitored by red light cameras show a dramatic difference in rear-end collisions between locations with cameras and those without,” a report in the Toronto Star said.
Red light running is a very dangerous offence. The resulting t-bone crashes often prove fatal and are almost always serious.
Two leading causes of red light running are driver distraction and impatience.
In the driver distraction cases, the cameras have little, if any, effect on driver behaviour. It is simply a case of the driver not even realizing what they are doing and, as such, any deterrent is not applicable regardless of how severe. These careless drivers don’t even realize they are going through a red light, never mind if there is a camera to catch them at it!
For impatient motorists, this infraction is simply one of selfishness. The red light they are about to encounter is an inconvenience, and if they can just get through it without crashing or being ticketed, all will be well in their world.
The time saved by running a red light is minimal, yet the risk is monstrous. Almost all red lights take less than a minute to change back to green with the majority lasting only 30 to 45 seconds.
Many times I have witnessed a red light runner scoot through an intersection, only for them to get caught at the next red light. More often than not, I usually catch up to the red light runner at the next few lights. Even if that motorist got the next series of green lights, they may have saved 30 or 40 seconds. Is that worth risking someone’s life for?
The good news is that the $325 fine seems to be having some effect. And the statistics appear to back this up.
The bad news is, since the authorities rely on taking a picture of the rear licence plate of the offending vehicle, it is the owner who will receive the ticket. For this reason, demerits points can not be added to the fine as it would be unfair to hit the owner for demerit points if they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the infraction.
At least with the fine, the owner can recoup the cost of the infraction from the actual driver. It is the responsibility of the owner to know who is driving their vehicle for legal reasons and, as such, they should know.
This actually may be one of those win-win situations, if the city increases the effectiveness of their red light camera program.
A win for all motorists is that there seem to be fewer crashes at intersections with cameras. Any time collisions can be reduced, we all win.
It is also a win for the city, as revenues can increase.
The only losers are those who run the red lights. If they survive crossing through the intersection without killing or being killed, they will receive a hefty fine in the mail.