In a recent blog I wrote that the public dislikes red-light and speed-enforcement cameras, but apparently that's just not so (actually, my point was that the public didn't like the idea of using such technology to raise revenue, and the solution I offered was for people to stop speeding and running red lights).
But that aside, this USA Today article published some real numbers regarding the public's perception of cameras and other traffic-enforcement policies. A recent survey by the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota found that the public actually doesn't hate this technology as much as expected.
Apparently, 64 percent of Americans support the use of automated speed enforcement using cameras and radar systems. I think that's pretty high, really. (P.S. I'm not sure if it's relevant or not that this study focuses on "rural" safety and not "urban" safety. I would think the number would be lower for city dwellers who drive in a lot more traffic and probably go through a lot more lights, but I've been wrong before.)
This study also surveyed the public's perception of things like alcohol ignition interlocks, mandatory helmet laws, sobriety checkpoints and seat belt laws, and found generally high approval ratings for such policies.
And I'm not the only one surprised by these numbers:
"We were surprised by the level of support for these strategies," says Lee Munnich, director of the center, established by the 2005 federal transportation act and sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration to research rural road safety. "In many states, it's been difficult to get legislators to pass some of the tougher restrictions."
But, there is still a significant amount of resistance on the part of many states. According to this article, there are a number of states restricting the use of cameras:
At least six states — Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia — prohibit camera enforcement, according to Anne Teigen, a transportation policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures; Nevada exempts cameras operated by an officer or installed in a police vehicle or facility. Arkansas, New Jersey and Wisconsin prohibit speed cameras. Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana and Tennessee are considering bans on camera enforcement, she says.
Perhaps legislators in these states should start listening to their constituents. Plus, enforcing a lot of these policies does bring in additional revenue and who can argue against more money?