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Old 2009-02-14
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Exclamation Bernie Madoff & Red-Light Cameras

NMA Article: Bernie Madoff & Red-Light Cameras

By James Baxter, NMA President

For ten years there were credible investigators and investors telling federal regulatory agencies that Bernard Madoff could not be doing what he claimed to be doing, and that in all probability that he was running a Ponzi scheme.

The federal agencies either ignored these accusations or made superficial forays into Mr. Madoff’s affairs and accepted his explanations for his claimed prowess as an investor and money manager, serving the famous and wealthy.

I feel their pain.

For ten years we have been telling anyone who would listen that the ticket camera industry is a scam, that traffic signal management is a disaster, and the combination of the two is culminating in a huge rip off of the driving public. Furthermore, that government greed and the private sector profit motive have teamed up to make our roads less safe by increasing accidents at controlled intersections.

Like Bernie Madoff, these governments and corporations denied our claims and trotted out supposed studies that show ticket cameras are reducing accidents.

In every instance where a relatively unbiased third party investigated these “studies” they found fraud, manipulation, and outright misrepresentation of the data.  The real results verified our claims; Ticket cameras increase intersection traffic accidents. 

They do this in two ways: First, they cause motorists to take unexpected measures, usually abrupt braking, to avoid a traffic ticket. Second, they discourage making improvements to traffic signals, and their operation, if those improvements will reduce revenue generation from the cameras.

When finally embarrassed to take action, the federal government (the same agency that had been promoting ticket cameras) gathered up a collection of mostly shady or self-serving reports from the same governments already caught cooking the books and reported that overall, ticket cameras improved highway safety (like Bernie Madoff was running a legitimate business).

When told of flaws and omissions in the underlying studies the response was usually silence. (For example, a frequently-cited study from Virginia attributed significant reductions to red light violations and subsequent safety improvements to a ticket camera installation, but “forgot” to mention the improvements occurred after yellow light durations were increased.)

Every independent study of red light ticket cameras has found that they increase intersection accidents. Every study by an institution or government with a vested interest in promoting ticket cameras has been rife with inconsistencies, untenable assumptions, and/or outright manipulation to generate pre-ordained results. And, in the latter case they have almost always been caught in the act! Never-the-less the ruse continues. 

Local officials claim the cameras are going up to improve safety and catch dangerous red light runners.  If outside restraints — say mandated minimum yellow light standards — significantly reduce revenue generation, the cameras come down, safety be damned! (Apparently.)

The overriding question is how many times does it have to be proven that ticket cameras do not improve traffic safety, that they are in fact a detriment to traffic safety, and the only reason governments are installing these systems is to generate revenue from entrapped motorists?

When will the press finally catch on?

When will state legislators eliminate the authority that allows local units of government to install and exploit ticket cameras? 

Bernie Madoff has been found out, how about turning a little attention to the ticket camera scam, ten years is long enough to ignore this crime.

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Bernie Madoff & Red-Light Cameras

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© 2008 NMA
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