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Smile, cameras improve safety

So red light cameras can have redeeming qualities, after all.

While too many communities install them to be money-makers, Granite City has turned the cameras into an effective public safety tool. The secret to the city’s success is interjecting human judgment in a very transparent process. Rather than use the cameras for a $100 “gotcha,” Granite City has a police officer review the videos to decide whether a violation merits a ticket.

Videos are posted on Facebook showing drivers running red lights. After watching those videos, no one would dispute that the drivers deserved their tickets. As an added benefit, the videos apparently have made people more aware of their own driving. They are slowing down, even though speeding is not a violation the city tickets.

The police say that the intersection of 27th Street and Madison Avenue used to be the site of frequent serious traffic accidents, but since the cameras’ installation in 2010 there have just been a handful of accidents.

Police departments in other communities can learn from Granite City’s example. Used carefully, red light cameras can be an effective and efficient law enforcement tool.