The fight over red light cameras in Connecticut is back. State lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow any municipality with a population greater than forty-eight thousand to authorize the use of automated traffic enforcement safety devices.
More than 500 communities across the country currently use the cameras.
"The overwhelming evidence show that cameras save lives," said David Kelly of the National Coalition for Safer Roads.
According to city officials, New Haven contains the second-most number of traffic signals in New England. The city supports the idea of red light cameras and its transportation department said it sees intersections that have more frequent violators than others.
The Troubleshooters recently spotted fifteen vehicles running red lights at the intersection of North Frontage and York.
Transportation officials said cameras would enforce the law and keep police officers safe because officers have limited space to pull over violators.
"It's not simply just to go after and get the person, what we really want to do is change behavior in the city," said Jim Travers, the director of traffic and parking for New Haven's Department of Transportation.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said red light cameras violate our constitutional rights. They argue red light camera citations get issued to the vehicle's owner, not necessarily the person who was driving.
And one of the major gripes against the cameras is....they're simply not human.
"Cops do this job and cops should continue to do this job, not be replaced by machines," said Michael Riley of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.
Consider a big rig slowly moving through an intersection.
"You want to take a left hand turn. Oncoming traffic prevents you from doing that until the light turns red," Riley said. "A picture is taken and you get a ticket for $125. That's not fair."
Cameras in Chicago helped generate more than $69 million in red light citations last year. The ACLU of Connecticut said "revenues are important not only to the cities but to the private vendors that operate the camera systems."
The National Coalition for Safer Roads, which receives funding from camera manufacturer American Traffic Solutions, said the old contracts that call for a percentage of ticket revenue are being phased out.
"It is far easier to stop at a red light than it is to complain about any revenue generated by illegal acts," Kelly said. "Cameras keep us safe. Why is it that we only question revenue generated by offenders who run red lights but we don't ever think about the manufactures of other safety equipment like medians?"
Kelly said the trend for red light camera contracts are for companies to lease the equipment out for a flat fee.
The proposed red light camera bill is up for a public hearing. Still, for many pedestrians in New Haven, red light cameras could make a difference.
"Here you have students walking around constantly and it is in issue," said Yale student Nicole De Santis.
Governor Malloy's office said he supports red light cameras, but he would want to review any bill that comes to his desk. Malloy recently announced he wants to get rid of property taxes on vehicles. That could impact the bottom lines of many Connecticut cities. However, the cameras do generate revenue.