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Are you for or against traffic cameras?

posted 6/14/2011 8:35:25 PM |
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tagged: news, straddle, safety, cars

I saw this yesterday in the Columbus Dispatch. This topic has been debated, and has been in the news in Columbus, Ohio, and other cities across the country.

The car's license plate was purposely blocked when a group of teens triggered a red-light camera and offered a bare-bottomed opinion of Columbus' newest traffic-enforcement tool.

Cameras have been shot at in Knoxville, Tenn.; stolen in Seattle; had their lenses spray-painted on Long Island, N.Y.; and been voted out of existence in Cincinnati, Houston and other cities.

Why do we hate them so much? They're not the only cameras out there watching us, but legal experts and lawyers who fight them say these red-light watchdogs offend some people's basic beliefs about justice and trigger beefs about government.

City officials are about to install red-light cameras at 18 additional Columbus intersections.

Story continues belowAdvertisement In the first week of operation for the two newest cameras - at E. Broad Street and Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road, and at E. Livingston Avenue and Yearling Road - more than 100 drivers have been caught. (For now, they are warned. Eventually, scofflaws there will be fined.)

Are red-light cameras about making roads safer or making money?

"You're allowing private enterprise to get involved in law enforcement and make a profit off it," said Michael Kubosh, a Houston lawyer who led the campaign last fall for a voter-approved ban on red-light cameras in the nation's fourth-largest city.

Are they protecting people or picking on them?

"It's just this Big Brother thing," said Ted Hollander, a Florida lawyer who recently argued in court that it was unconstitutional for Broward County to impose different penalties for red-light running based on whether drivers were caught by camera or by a police officer.

Camera-generated tickets are issued to the car's owner, but no points are issued against that person's driver's license. The tickets police officers write do add points.

Ohio State University law professor Ric Simmons said Americans believe in basic principles of justice: that we are innocent until proven guilty, that we have the right to our day in court. We also believe in the right to confront our accusers, which is in the Bill of Rights.

Simmons said most people probably agree that red lights are necessary and that ignoring them should be illegal.

"But the idea (that) you can be charged with a crime based solely on a photograph, they feel that's not right," he said.

Columbus has learned from cities where traffic cameras have spurred revolt, said Deputy Safety Director George Speaks. Here, they are used only to catch red-light runners, not speeders (although portable cameras are used to catch speeders in school zones), and cameras are installed only at intersections where there are a lot of crashes.

Police officers review every picture the cameras take and reject one in four before issuing tickets.

In December, the City Council clarified a law governing right turns on red so officers reviewing red-light footage could cut people the same slack as officers on the street.

"That's why hearings (for appeals) are few and far between," Speaks said.

Kubosh said it's a matter of time before voters here and elsewhere follow Houston's lead. In central Ohio, voters banned traffic cameras in Chillicothe and Heath in 2009 and defeated re-election bids for several camera-supporting officials.

Kubosh said people don't buy the safety argument and see the cameras as a way for cities to increase their revenue.

Speaks said Columbus has seen an 83 percent decrease in right-angle crashes at camera-monitored intersections since the first ones were installed in 2006. Less-severe rear-end crashes are down, too.

But the city also has collected more than $2.5 million since then and now gets a bigger cut of each $95 ticket under a contract signed last year with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems.

In Florida, Hollander argued that the difference in penalties for red-light tickets issued by cameras and police officers violates the constitution's equal-protection clause.

It's the same situation in Columbus. Camera-issued tickets cost $95; officer-issued tickets cost as much as $150 and carry two points on the offender's driving record.

Hollander said he hopes the ruling in May by Broward County Judge Fred Berman will become a precedent elsewhere.

Carlos Sun, a civil-engineering professor at the University of Missouri, concluded in a study released last week that the safety benefits of red-light cameras outweigh the potential for abuse by revenue-hungry cities.

Still, he said, states should regulate red-light camera operation, enact privacy rules and limit their jurisdiction to ensure they're used properly.

The Columbus Dispatch

How do you feel about traffic cameras?

Personally, I have no problem with them.

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post a comment!


Jun 14 @ 8:45PM  
I've read, that in London, their cameras are hooked up to facial recognition software. As a Libertarian, I feel it's not only intrusive, but WAY out of line.
When U.S. Gubbernment Officials, sit back and aid Mexican Drug Cartels
getting weapons, but spy on citizens.....there is something really wrong.

I've got a great idea....only give U.S. Border Patrol officers, paint-ball guns for when
they go up against M-16 toten druggers..... oh, too late, Eric Holder beat me to it. Fekker.

Jun 14 @ 9:01PM  
I feel that if one is obeying traffic laws, then they have nothing to worry about. Now yes, I know, a parent let's their teenager borrow the car, and the teen runs a red light, and the parent gets the ticket. In that scenario, I would be arguing against this IF points were being added to the parent's record. According to the article, the only time points get added to the driver's record is only when pulled over by a police officer. But, I would want a photo sent with the ticket as proof that it's my vehicle. Don't just send a ticket and expect me to accept it if I know for a fact my vehicle never left the driveway that day.

There is a potential for problems, as there is with anything new. But, like I said, if I have nothing to worry about...isn't going to bother me any.

Jun 14 @ 9:39PM  
We have had them here for years. They are like a parking ticket in that the violation is against the vehicle and not the car.

A good friend of mine got a ticket in the mail for $75.00. In the notice was a link to a URL so she could go online and see the video.

In my city they have deferred citing people as it is being challenged in court. They have also found that the citations clog up the court. The upside is that they have reduced the number of wrecks at certain intersections.

To complicate matters, many of these are operated by a contractor and the municipalities are locked into a contract. Many of these are in litigation for performance issues.

Jun 14 @ 9:41PM  

They are like a parking ticket in that the violation is against the vehicle and not the car.

That should read, "They are like a parking ticket in that the violation is against the vehicle and not the driver."

Jun 14 @ 9:43PM  
Ok I don't drive, HOWEVER I do have an opinion and a right to it! Personally as a pedestrian I have had many people very nearly run me over because they where running red lights and not paying attention to the crosswalk in front of where their car was heading. If there is a chance that some dumbass (yes they are dumbass's!) might stop and think "hey i'll get a ticket I can't afford to pay, I'll wait for the green light" then maybe the pedestrian won't get run over.

Jun 15 @ 4:21AM  
I think they are good. When I visit home I must really pay more attention because they do have the cameras there. My sister says it has actually helped so if someone is driving correctly then they have nothing to worry about.

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Are you for or against traffic cameras?