Dozens of bills are under consideration in the Tennessee state legislature that would regulate and in some cases even ban red light cameras.
The various bill sponsors have concerns about privacy, where the revenue goes, and operation by out-of-state private companies.
But police officers who see the crashes worry about the safety side of the issue and support automated enforcement.
"Other motorists have an expectation of safety, when they get into their car, that people will comply with traffic laws," Knoxville Police Captain Gordon Catlett said.
Red light cameras collect evidence for police officers to evaluate and issue citations.
"The goal of the program is to reduce traffic crashes and promote public safety, and to that end, it's been extremely effective," Catlett said.
He is Knoxville's program manager for automated enforcement.
Crash data Catlett compiled shows total crashes, rear end crashes, and t-bone crashes have all declined at Knoxville red light camera intersections every year since the program started in 2006.
"If you get someone in the habit of stopping for a red light at an intersection or thoroughfare where have automated enforcement, then that habit is going to carry over to other areas they happen to travel through," he said.
Video shows what happens when drivers run red lights. Captain Catlett sees clear value in keeping red light cameras as a safety tool.
"Legislators that are saying 'no red light cameras,' what they're doing is they're listening to a group of people who ultimately don't want to be held accountable for their actions," Catlett said. "In the event that red light cameras were ever removed because of legislation, I can assure you that we would see an increase in traffic crashes as well as personal injury, as a result of that legislation."
Crash trend data from Knoxville Police Department:
2005 vs 2006
Total crashes down 17%
T-bone crashes down 45%
Rear end crashes down 1%
2006 vs 2007
Total crashes down 18%
T-bone crashes down 42%
Rear end crashes down 16%
2007 vs 2008
Total crashes down 25%
T-bone crashes down 16%
Rear end crashes down 23%
2008 vs 2009
Total crashes down 10%
T-bone crashes down 30%
Rear end crashes down 7%
In Knoxville, Lasercraft operates red light cameras at 15 intersections.
The cameras collect evidence for a police officer to evaluate and then issue a citation, if warranted.
Those tickets cost violators $50. A formula splits the fines collected between Lasercraft and Knoxville's general fund, with Lasercraft keeping roughly 80%.
KPD assigns one officer to review red light camera evidence for 40 hours a week. That costs about $31,453.
According to KPD calculations, assigning enough officers to personally watch the 15 intersections currently monitored by cameras, 24 hours a day, would require 225 officers and cost $7,076,925.