US House Appropriations Committee Grills DC Over Cameras
Kansas Congressman grills District of Columbia mayor over his lucrative red light camera program.

Rep. Todd TiahrtA U.S. House Subcommittee on District of Columbia Appropriations grilled Mayor Anthony Williams over his lucrative red light camera and speed camera program on April 6. To date, the system has issued $177 million worth of citations, but one member of Congress is questioning the evidence that the devices have done anything to improve safety.

"Virginia did a study," said Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas). "They found that -- in the intersections where they had them, they noticed there was an increase in rear-end accidents. People panic, and when they see the camera, they notice it at the box up there and they put on the brakes and rear-end accidents (happen)."

The study conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Transportation, found in January 2005 that the state's camera system caused an increase in the number of injury causing accidents of between 7 and 24 percent. Washington, DC's chief financial officer responded that the red light cameras generate $20 million annually. Mayor Anthony Williams then interrupted to say, "I know people kind of smirk when I say this, but it really is intended as a safety program."

Unconvinced, Tiahrt explained his advice to Kansans interested in learning more about the nation's capital.

"When visitors come, I recommend they don't drive in the city, but use the mass transit system," Tiahrt said. "Because there's an impression that one of the greatest sources of revenue is parking tickets, and the other is that there are intersections lying in wait for you with these cameras."