Officials have spent decades attempting to increase safety and reduce motor vehicle collisions in at-risk intersections. With increased signage and improved lighting city officials hope to get closer to these goals. Recent years have seen the increased usage of red-light cameras that snap an immediate photograph as soon as a vehicle enters the intersection after the light has turned red.
After years of testing, the United States installed their first red-light cameras in New York City in 1993 even though they had been in worldwide use for decades. Over the years, the technology has been adopted by numerous states to varying levels of success and controversy. In 2021, however, the Hawaii state Department of Transportation (DOT) had planned to commence a red-light camera program. Even though the program was designed to encourage safe driving habits, the camera system has created public outcry.
What is the controversy?
For the initial phase of the pilot program, the DOT identified 14 intersections around urban Honolulu, but that list has since been shortened to 10 areas. When the traffic signal turns red, it will trigger the camera system to take a picture of any vehicle that has breached the intersection. The way the system was built, however, is causing concern. Traffic citations will be sent to the vehicle owner based on the license plates rather than an attempt at identifying the actual driver of the car or truck. In this way, owners will be responsible for traffic violations made by friends, family or anyone who has borrowed the car – even for a short trip to the grocery store. Additionally, the system will not take into account a vehicle that has been stolen or recently sold if there’s a paperwork snafu.
Fortunately, the public will have time to get used to the new system before citations are regularly issued. The intersections will contain signs signaling drivers to the presence of cameras and the system will only issue warnings for the first month they are operational.