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continued...

Notification of the violation comes by mail. At the moment, red-light cameras are only used in about 40 U.S. jurisdictions, but the Institute hopes that will change. One worry is that the photograph amounts to an invasion of privacy, possibly publicizing who's in the vehicle or the license plate.

Arthur Spitzer, JD, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in the Washington, D.C., area, tells WebMD he's not worried about the red-light cameras, at least as they're currently used.

"We certainly would object to a kind of 'Big Brother' surveillance where there would be cameras that would show who you were driving with, or who you were walking down the street with, that would record your conversation out on the street with other people," Spitzer says.

"I think that the correct view should be to be concerned about the safety of these motorists and pedestrians who are at risk from these violators," O'Neill says.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicate regional variations in red-light running. Arizona has the highest rate, with about seven incidents per 100,000 people. Other states near the top include Michigan and Nevada, second and third respectively.

Among cities, Phoenix, Ariz., ranked first; followed by Memphis, Tenn. Mesa and Tucson, Ariz., were third and fourth. It's not clear why Arizona drivers stand out among violators.

Meanwhile, another new study shows that one in five fatal car crashes in the U.S. involves a driver who either lacks a valid license or whose driving credentials are unknown. The report -- titled "Unlicensed to Kill" -- was prepared by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The analysis indicates 8,400 people a year die from wrecks where an unlicensed driver was a factor. About 30% of these violators had received three or more license suspensions or revocations in a three-year period prior to a deadly accident.

It's unclear how many unauthorized drivers are on American roads.

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