Those intersection "confirmation lights" around town may not be doing the job you think they do. They, and their cousins, the "red-light cameras," be on the way out if what's currently happening in Texas is any indication. reports this week that a bill to ban red-light cameras has passed the Texas legislature and is on it's way to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

The city of Bismarck installed a number of the 'blue lights" around the city last year. Now, the lights in Bismarck are not really cameras. They are in fact "confirmation lights," designed to alert nearby police that someone has run a red light (some cities in Minnesota have adopted similar systems).

Still, the lights serve basically the same supposed purpose: to nab drivers who run red lights.

Despite what the City of Bismarck may say, there is little evidence that such devices in fact enhance safety. They do generate revenue, but that's not the same thing. 

Studies in New Mexico and Pennsylvania indicate the presence of the lights and/or cameras do little to enhance safety.

As the National Motorists Association notes, there are effective ways to streamline intersection traffic and enhance safety; most of these tactics involve adjustment of timing and duration of traffic lights.

The problem is in the assumption that increased safety and enhanced revenue go hand-in-hand. They don't.

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