ACLU-CT member Paulette Cohen testifies on red light cameras.
John Large is interviewed by John Charlton of Fox 61 News.
ACLU-CT Executive Director Andrew Schneider testifies on red light cameras.
Opponents of a bill that would allow red light cameras in Connecticut testified Monday that the cameras violate civil liberties only to generate cash for municipalities and private vendors.
Claims that red light cameras make intersections safer aren't supported by the evidence, public health expert John Large told the state legislature's Transportation Committee. On the contrary, he said,"sound scientific research consistently concludes that these cameras are associated with significant increases in crashes and injuries," mainly because drivers stop short at lights with cameras.
Large is a member of a team of researchers at the University of South Florida's College of Public Health who have published four independent reports evaluating research on red light cameras. The studies that report safety benefits for red light cameras "violate basic research methods and tend to be associated with vested interests," he said.
Large testified about House Bill No. 5458 at the invitation of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. He was not paid for his testimony, and his research was completely funded by the university.
The ACLU-CT opposes red light cameras on the grounds that they threaten due process and privacy rights. Executive Director Andrew Schneider pointed out that owners would be fined for alleged violations without proof that they were the ones behind the wheel. The bill would also permit an interval of up to 60 days before the owner is notified of a citation.
"How many of us can remember what happened at the intersections we drove through yesterday, let alone two months ago?" Schneider asked the committee. A driver who was moving out of the way of an ambulance or fire truck would have to remember what happened, prove it and take a day off from work to challenge the ticket, he said.
Several members of the ACLU of Connecticut also testified, including Paulette Cohen of New Haven, who said she was concerned about privacy and suggested to the committee that red light cameras should not be considered unless it's been proven that red light running is a serious hazard. She said that when she asked the New Haven Police Department for data about accidents caused by red light cameras, she learned that the department had no information about it.
"Raising a bill to enable red light camera installation when we don’t even know the number or percent of accidents caused by running a red light, does not meet even the minimum criteria for having a serious discussion of accident prevention versus privacy," she said.
The Transportation Committee also heard from Dennis Damon, former chairman of Joint Standing Committee on Transportation in the Maine legislature. He described how and why traffic surveillance cameras were banned in Maine.
"Privacy, free association and due process – these are the tenets we hold vital to a thriving democracy," he said, adding that while the Connecticut bill "does not alone erase those tenets, it does contribute to a surveillance state which can exist and which will erase them."
More information about the issue is available from the website of the Stop the Cameras Coalition, stopthecameras.org.