20110818 redstoptrafficlight
A traffic light controls the flow of vehicles and pedestrians April 20, 2005 near downtown Chicago, Ill. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Houston is poised to become the latest big city to shut down red light cameras. Of course the costly tickets that come along with them aren't very popular among drivers, but advocates say they save lives.

From the transportation nation project at WNYC, Andrea Bernstein reports.

Andrea Bernstein: Earlier this summer, Los Angeles turned off its red light cameras. The tickets, which cost almost $500, provoked outrage. And it turned out that under California law, L.A. couldn't really enforce the tickets and was losing money.

Houston's next. Last November, voters there chose to shut down the cameras. That led to a complicated legal battle with the private contractor. Now the mayor, Annise Parker, says its time to heed the will of the voters.

Annise Parker: I'm very clear the cameras are going to go off. I'm also very clear I believe in red light cameras; I think the vote was a mistake.

But Houston and L.A. don't make a trend, according to Anne Fleming. She's a V.P. at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She says fewer than 10 percent of some 540 localities with the cameras have voted them out.

Anne Fleming: The opponents of red light cameras are extremely vocal. They have decided that the people getting the tickets are the victims, not the people who are killed in red light-running crashes.

One study shows when the traffic light cameras go dark, even more drivers run red lights then before they had the cameras in the first place.

I'm Andrea Bernstein for Marketplace.