Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Red Light Cameras Save Lives

This belongs in the “DUUUHHH!!!” file, next to “birds fly” and “bears shit in the woods.” The obvious has been confirmed in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In fourteen cities with red light cameras, traffic fatalities were reduced by 24%. This includes a reduction in ALL categories of fatal crashes at intersections with a traffic signal; not just crashes caused by red light running. The Institute president said:

“We think that they are just paying more attention to intersections as they come up on them because they are more certain that if they violate the red light that they will get a ticket.”

However, some people think saving lives is a much lower priority than protecting a motorist’s God-given Constitutional right to crash into people without paying any consequences. Take the National Motorists Association (please!). The ACLU also has reservations about red light cameras. Oh well, they can’t get it right on every issue.

One argument is that these cameras are a privacy violation. I disagree. I think you give up a certain expectation of privacy when you get behind the wheel or get on a plane. They’re also condemned as being more of a “revenue generator” than a safety measure. That’s probably true. So if you don’t want to contribute extra revenue to your local government, stop at red lights.

Washington State’s favorite cut-services-to-the-marrow teabagger — Tim Eyman — has set his crosshairs on red light cameras. He probably figures he’s already closed enough schools and libraries and derailed enough mass transit projects, and red light cameras could prolong his fifteen minutes of fame just a little longer.

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Blogger MRMacrum said...

I'd love to see a red light camera set up here in town. But I guess we ought to set up a traffic light first.

Maybe we ought to start with a Stop sign camera. We got a few of them already up and working. I hear Jacob Bean has one of those new hi falutin digitalis camerers. He needs a job. And there's a sweet hiding spot behind the "Welcome to Acton" sign. Maybe I'll bring it up at the next Selectman's meeting.

February 2, 2011 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow Tom I never thought I would see you so "Pro Nanny" State.
Your position seems a whole lot different than just a few short years ago.

February 2, 2011 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

I agree with you, Tom. The notion that privacy applies to activities in public strikes me as rather absurd.

February 2, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

MRM: I wouldn't mind having some of those cameras at stop signs and pedestrian crosswalks too. I don't think speeding is dangerous necessarily, but running stop signs and red lights definitely is.

Lisa: So in other words you're on the same side as the ACLU :)

TC: You're right, in a public place, public safety trumps privacy.

February 2, 2011 at 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I got a photo ticket last year, the pics came in the mail. Hi quality pics of my rear plates and me driving it!

I went to court and watched people try to claim it wasn't them, they would bring up the video and let you watch it on a monitor right next to you, the whole sequence.

BTW the way if you still claim it isn't you, you better be ready to say who it really is, or that your car was stolen, or you are going to pay the fine.


February 3, 2011 at 2:03 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

No actually Tom I never said that I agreed with the ACLU but thanks for your interpretation of my comment.

February 3, 2011 at 6:09 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Uh oh, you got busted :)

Santa Rosa, CA had several red light cameras, and I was always super careful when I was approaching one of them. That's interesting (not in a good way) that they can bring up a picture on the monitor of you in your car, the license plate number, etc. I guess the camera doesn't lie.

February 3, 2011 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

I tend to forget that they are even there...so it hasn't altered my driving habits. But then, I am cautious at intersections, and I don't run red lights. Running red lights is a lousy idea in the first place.

If the cameras contribute to fewer accidents, and thereby saves lives, then they are justified.

Fondling passengers at airports is an invasion of privacy. Traffic light cameras are not.

February 3, 2011 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

jadedj: I agree on both things. Getting fondled at airports is an invasion of privacy; red light cameras are not.

February 3, 2011 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

A privacy violation? No. A violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process, most importantly the right to confront your accuser? Most certainly. In Arizona, last place I lived that allowed red light cameras, here's how it went down. You get a ticket in the mail. You show up in court to dispute it because you don't recall running any red lights. You're shown a photograph. A photograph of your license plate. A photograph that could have been taken anywhere, anyplace. That is the only witness that will appear in court for you to confront -- a photograph. Can you cross-examine a photograph? No. Can you ask for detailed technical information about where and how the photograph was taken and how the camera knew it was you and not some other car that triggered the sensor? No. It's a photograph, it has your license plate on it, you're guilty, bam bam thank you ma'am.

It's a mockery of the whole notion of rule of law, in the end. It's basically saying, "we can make you pay us money any time, any where, just by taking a photo of your license plate, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Regarding the example of the video monitor and picture of the person driving the car, perhaps the technology has gotten better since I moved to California eight years ago (at which point red light cameras ceased to be of interest to me, since none of our local cities have them due to the various legal issues they face in California courts). The core issue of not being allowed to question the technology, however, has not changed. If we want to take away the right to confront witnesses, fine. Let's just amend the Constitution to do that. But the government simply ignoring the Constitution to do whatever it wants to do makes a mockery of the notion of rule of law.

- Badtux the Due Process Penguin

February 4, 2011 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

BT: You're probably right; I can't think of a legal counter-argument.

It's almost as cut and dry when you try to contest a speeding ticket, since that radar gizmo is the only "proof" that you were speeding. But if the cop is there in court to contest your contesting, I guess that satisfies the 6th Amendment requirement about facing your accuser.

But I'm still in favor of those cameras because they save lives. But I'll admit, that puts me in the same category as those teabaggers who worship the Constitution, except for that First Amendment when liberals want to say something, or the 14th Amendment when one of them furriners squirts out a baby in America and tries to claim it's a citizen.

February 5, 2011 at 2:20 PM  

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