Law and Regulation, Politics and Society

Red Light Rage

Most of us have seen or heard of red light cameras in our communities. These devices (which capture digital images and video of a driver who “runs” a red light) are aimed at easing the burden on an already time-taxed police force — cops relying on the cameras to be an essential “big brother” at traffic lights.

Putting aside the fact that these devices often bar drivers from their “day in court” (since many agencies now are not allowing drivers to contest the tickets owing to the video ‘evidence’ provided from the cameras), there may be a bigger problem present, in that it is often private companies — not law enforcement agencies — responsible for setting up and calibrating the equipment in the first place.

stoplightFurthermore, a certain ambiguity arises with these devices, begging the question as to what constitutes an actual ‘run’ of a red light in the first place. Some agencies consider a ticket-able offense to have occurred when any part of the vehicle is in the intersection once the light has already turned red, while others put specific times and vehicle locations into play when determining who has run a red light and will be issued a citation.

What I mean to say is that if you are one of the many who ‘push’ the light (speeding up when you see a traffic signal turn yellow so as to avoid having to stop), you could be in line for a ticket, should the light turn red at any point before the tail end of your vehicle is fully out of the intersection.

This means you could be looking at a ‘proceed with caution’ yellow when you attempt to beat the light, but if it turns red when you are directly underneath the signal (and not able to notice it has turned) you could still be cited. This, in turn, negates the very concept of the yellow light (prepare to stop, not slam on your brakes) still taught in driver’s education classes across the country.

I am also concerned with the fact that points are not assessed on red light tickets, so there is no possibility of losing one’s license. The fine increases, yes, but if you would indulge me in a hypothetical situation for moment:

Consider you are prone to being consistently late for work. To avoid what could tack an extra five minutes onto your schedule, you have taken it upon yourself to ‘run’ a certain red light each morning. Were you able to pony up the cash each time you were caught, you could — theoretically — do this every day for the rest of your life and never face any consequences more serious than a fine that only increases to the third offense.

red light cameraBy contrast, if you are caught speeding — even if it’s 10 miles an hour over the limit — four times in a year (depending on your state laws, of course) you could lose your license for a year.

We have to ask ourselves which is worse: doing 10 mph over the limit or continually putting your life and the lives of innocent drivers and pedestrians in danger? If red light cameras are truly about safety, why are points not assessed for repeat offenders?

Law enforcement officers have, as yet, been unable or unwilling to provide an answer to that question, which brings to light (no pun intended) the unpleasant realization that the cameras are just one more tactic to bring in much needed revenue for ailing state agencies everywhere without having to pay an actual officer to ‘patrol.’

And, once again, the little guy gets screwed in the process.

by Paymon West | Assistant Editor | Residential Life Magazine 


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