Your View: Times’ coverage of red-light cameras was flawed


To the editor:
Regarding the article Red-light cameras get green light, (July 7, 2011), I find this lead story on page one to be either lazy journalism at best or, at worst, a biased cheer by the Times in favor of the citys new traffic camera plans. The only local source quoted in the article was a senior city police spokesman. 
Would it surprise any of us that our local police department is in favor of these measures that expand authority and revenue? 
And, it is reprehensible for the Times not to question the following statement by the police official: A lot of people anticipate these cameras as revenue generators, but theres not a single [department program] that depends on revenue from the cameras. 
Ive read that the cameras will generate a half-million dollars in fines annually, and its meaningless to me that no police departments allegedly are dependent upon that significant revenue windfall.
Furthermore, the article should have offered more than the singular local police views on this matter. It is a disservice not to bother canvassing other local officials, political leaders, community representatives or average residents, for instance, in covering an important and controversial issue such as this one.
It gets worse, though. The article extensively cites several studies based upon nationwide survey samplings. However, you did not cite our very own Virginia Department of Transportation-sponsored study, The Impact of Red Light Cameras on Crashes in Virginia (2007). That recent study surveyed data in six jurisdictions: Arlington County, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Vienna and Alexandria. It is astonishing that your paper would omit this critical factor and information from the story.
The findings of that VDOT report essentially found the benefits of the red-light cameras to be quite mixed. The study found, for instance, that some intersections suffered more crashes after cameras were installed, owing to increased rear-end accidents caused by skittish drivers. The report noted that findings varied by jurisdiction and by intersection.  My reading is that the detailed study found the question of whether the cameras are a good thing to be inconclusive. 
For a more fair-and-balanced view than we were offered by your article, I recommend that your readers take a look at this 2007 study by the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research: