By Marcus Harun
Seven hundred people die every year as a result of drivers who run red lights, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and state lawmakers are proposing a new way to catch red light runners?cameras.
Red light cameras take photos of a vehicle?s license plate if it runs a red light and then mails out a ticket to the owner of the vehicle.
Connecticut has no red light cameras, but legislators introduced four bills to legalize them so far this year.
In states where these cameras are already in use, accidents were reduced by 24 percent, according to The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
?It will help prevent accidents, encourage better driving behavior, [and] make people more cognizant of where red lights are,? State Sen. Martin Looney said.
If the proposals are passed, municipalities with populations of more than 48,000 will have the choice to install the cameras at prominent intersections.
State Rep. Roland Lemar said the cameras will make the roads safer for pedestrians.
?Every year in New Haven, I hear of a young student or a cyclist or someone crossing the street on their way to work who gets hit by a red light runner,? Rep. Lemar said. ?It happens all the time in new haven and all the time in our state.?
Supporters and critics of the proposal spoke out at the state transportation committee public hearing last Monday.
?Some case studies found that [cameras make intersections] more dangerous by increasing the number of rear end collisions,? said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. Drivers may stop very sharply once they see a camera and then create an accident, he said.
State Rep. Antonio Guerrera suggested creating a task force to study the benefits and draw backs of red light cameras. Legislators have not made a final decision on the proposal so far.