Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Somebody's watching you...
March 27, 2009 10:41 AM   Subscribe

When the economy slows down, ticket writing speeds up. Traffic cameras spark anger from citizens. Researchers find that they increase crashes. Find the red light cameras near you. Download a free warning system to your iPhone or Blackberry. In Mississippi? You're in luck. Red light cameras have been banned. In the Chicago area? Too bad. Speed cameras are coming too.
posted by desjardins (53 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is why the lord gave us paintball guns.
posted by mullingitover at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Was it Dallas where it was discovered that the city was shortening yellow lights in order to produce more traffic camera tickets?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:44 AM on March 27, 2009


Red light cameras might increase crashes, but speed cameras have definitely prevented me and my fellow travellers on the road from speeding when we would otherwise to so.
posted by deanc at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2009


Nothing warms my heart like good money that could be going toward food and necessities being diverted to the coffers of greedy local governments.
posted by crapmatic at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2009


I'll give them this much... If they were going to create an Orwellian surveillance dystopia anyway, at least this particular part of it has a legitimate public safety justification.

No one complains when the government makes a surprise inspection at a meat processing facility to make sure they're not being negligent in a situation where that could cost lives. That's why even when we're unpleasantly stung by a cop who had been hiding in a speed trap, we don't question his moral legitimacy.

I see no difference between these cameras and a cop hiding in a speed trap than mechanical efficiency.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:53 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just in time for American Top Gear!
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on March 27, 2009


Georgia responded to the news that red light cameras cause accidents by passing a law that you must add 1 second to the yellow if you install a camera. Well, this makes the cameras totally unprofitable. So they'll all come down soonish.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2009


There's a highly significant difference: Tickets from traffic cameras are typically handled in civil court, whereas ones given to you by a cop are handled in criminal courts. The standard of proof is vastly lower in civil courts than criminal ones. I find this practice, of moving the venue to favor the government, to be dubious.
posted by raysmj at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Another strong argument for the use of public transportation.
posted by furtive at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see no difference between these cameras and a cop hiding in a speed trap than mechanical efficiency.

Unless, as has been pointed out, municipalities start shortening the yellow light duration in order to create more offenders. Then their supposed legitimacy flies out the window.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:00 AM on March 27, 2009


Valid points. I was, uncharacteristically, giving the government the benefit of the doubt.

An enfeeblement of encroaching age, perhaps.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2009


If they were going to create an Orwellian surveillance dystopia anyway, at least this particular part of it has a legitimate public safety justification.

But red light cameras don't reduce accidents or casualties. The justification is illusory.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2009


The claim that cameras increase crashes is dubious in two ways.

1) Some municipalities shorten the yellow lights, that's what causes more crashes. The presence of the camera is an excuse for the shortening, yes, but's it's the shortening that's at fault. Cameras don't require shortening the yellow lights.

2) In other cases crashes increase as people irresponsibly come to a sudden stop in order to avoid a ticket when they notice the camera. In these cases it's the irresponsible behavior of the drivers both in originally intending to cross the intersection at a poor time and in dangerously abandoning the originally intended action. Safe driving and good understanding of when we should and should not progress through an intersection ought to put you in sync with the cameras. Therefore the cameras should have no measurable effect on good, cautious drivers.
posted by oddman at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


oddman nailed it, in my opinion.

In x years (I'm not saying, but it's a huge number) of driving, I've NEVER gone through a light that was red because I thought I could beat it. This is only going to impact on the idiots on the road, the rest of us won't see a difference.
posted by HuronBob at 11:15 AM on March 27, 2009


I see no difference between these cameras and a cop hiding in a speed trap than mechanical efficiency.

Increasing enforcement can have a lot of consequences aside from the intended one. It can start turning things that were effectively legal before into crimes; I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket for going 1 MPH over the limit before, for example, but with an accurate automated system it would be possible. It can turn roadways that are effective at handling the required daily traffic into constant traffic jams, as shown by the video of what happened when college students blocked all of the lanes of a highway by going the speed limit. It could give police less room to selectively enforce minor violations like speeding for "racial profiling" or other arbitrary reasons.

Personally I would be for automated speed limit enforcement if it came along with a requirement to raise the speed limit to something slightly lower than the current average speed everyone is actually driving at.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:24 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be okay with stop-sign cameras. I moved from a neighborhood with virtually no four-way intersections to one with a ton of them. Many are two-way stops. In the last week, I have almost T-boned two people who didn't even slow down at a two-way stop. People are idiots. But actually no, I wouldn't support stop-sign cameras. Maybe spike strips that can sense if you've come to a complete stop, though.

That said, most highway speed limits, these days, really seem to be revenue-driven. It's safe to drive 65mph on the interstate--a big, wide, flat, straight, well-maintained road--but not 70? I'm looking at you, Connecticut, where very small overages lead to very large fines. I'm not saying speeds should be uncontrolled--I've driven for long distances at 125+mph on the Autobahn, and it works only because the drivers are very good, and because the roads are well-designed and well-maintained--but there are lots of roads where the speed limits are simply unrealistic.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:29 AM on March 27, 2009


Pope Guilty - there are many cities that have been caught shortening their yellow lights to increase red light camera revenues. It's not a unique situation.

Not surprising, there's a website or two that provide information on yellow light standards, how to get out of automated tickets, best people to contact and demand some sort of change, and things of that sort.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:30 AM on March 27, 2009


"This is only going to impact on the idiots on the road, the rest of us won't see a difference."

Yes, of course, if you aren't doing anything wrong ...

I don't really see the increased presence of government cameras as a positive.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but here in Mississippi, it was fun to sit at a monitored intersection at night and watch the flash bulbs go off for speeders and red-light-runners.

But, OMG, the talk radio stations and what-not were so up in arms about their use.
posted by fijiwriter at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2009


At least six municipalities have shortened the yellow light duration to questionable, dangerous times. This increases the chance of accidents. That in turn means that the municipalities are not about safety, they are about revenue. I'll repeat that — they shortened the amount of safety time as the light changes. Think about that for a bit. You're begging to get someone T-boned, but the city can issue more tickets. Once the cameras are in place as a revenue method, the urge to squeeze is impossible to resist.

Finally, images from these cameras can and will be used for other purposes eventually, just as the FBI took Kinko's video footage to help surveillance of protesters. Said footage has also been requested by local government officials trying to find the identity of an anonymous whistleblower. You just have to turn up the heat slowly when you want to boil the frog.

I would support red light cameras if and only if: 1) yellow times are permanently lengthened, without recourse; 2) information is stored for a very short period of time and permanently discarded; 3) any municipality caught abusing the red light cameras for #1, #2, or in any other fashion would be barred from using those and similar devices for two decades.

Frankly, my contemplation of the purchase of high-power devices from Wicked Lasers, for the purposes of permanently frying CCDs, is not what I would call idle.
posted by adipocere at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a highly significant difference: Tickets from traffic cameras are typically handled in civil court, whereas ones given to you by a cop are handled in criminal courts. The standard of proof is vastly lower in civil courts than criminal ones.
The other difference is that you don't get points on your license for fines levied by traffic cameras. While on the one hand, the standard of proof is lower for the government, on the other hand, the consequences for being handed a violation are much lower.
posted by deanc at 11:38 AM on March 27, 2009


Isn't this the municipalities decision? If the town decides that people shouldn't drive over 25 mph, must stop for stop signs, red lights, people in crosswalks, etc..., they should be able to enforce it with speed cameras, extra officers, red-light cameras, speed bumps, etc...

Of course, if they get caught shorting the duration of yellow lights, they should be held responsible for accidents that occur. But it seems to me, these are two separate issues.

Finally, I'd guess there's a difference in the accidents before and after a camera is installed. Prior to a camera being put up, I'd expect more of the accidents to be cars t-boning each other as they come from different directions, or maybe pedestrians being hit as people race for the light. Afterwards, there would be alot of collisions from behind. Each has completely different injuries, has any study compared the two?
posted by ShadowCrash at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2009


"The other difference is that you don't get points on your license for fines levied by traffic cameras. While on the one hand, the standard of proof is lower for the government, on the other hand, the consequences for being handed a violation are much lower."

That seems to reinforce the idea that it's about revenue and not about safety.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:55 AM on March 27, 2009


one camera was shut down for being too efficent.
posted by lester at 12:02 PM on March 27, 2009


Nothing warms my heart like good money that could be going toward food and necessities being diverted to the coffers of greedy local governments.

Greedy governments? You mean the ones who spend their ill gotten loot on exotic luxuries like schools and fire departments? (although I’m sure there are plenty of crappy local governments out there)

Not to defend those cameras, but I just found that statement odd.

The claim that cameras increase crashes is dubious in two ways.

Neither of your “ways” is actually any kind of refutation. The actual data shows that crashes increase when you put in red-light cameras. No amount of theorizing about morality can change that fact. More cameras = more crashes. The “ultimate responsibility” for the crash isn’t really a big deal when you’re taking your car to the body shop

And, in your second example you say that redlight cameras don’t have an effect on “responsible” drivers, but that’s hilarious. If what you call an “irresponsible” driver slams on his breaks to avoid a camera ticket, and you rear end him then that accident is legally your responsibility. So actually according to your theory of “responsible driving” redlight cameras actually reward irresponsible driving, and punish those behind them.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


We have some of these in my city and my wife and I have been burned by them a couple of times, once for making a right on red without coming to a complete stop, and once for not making it through a left in time. Of course we both technically broke the law. I guess what I object to is the removal of the element of human judgment on the part of a police officer. I consider myself an *extremely* cautious driver. In the left-turn case I followed the previous car out with what seemed like plenty of time, but they ended making a painstakingly slow and almost impossibly u-turn in a very large vehicle. And yes, the yellow seems shorter since the camera was added. I don't think a cop would have written me a ticket.

I know traffic stops are often just dumb luck (or maybe not if you're in a profiled group), but it kills me that this stupid camera is at the end of a long stretch of town road that has a 35 mph speed limit and on which people routinely tailgate the crap out of me for going "only" 44. If we're going to be micromanaging driving, why not start with all the people that do the really dangerous stuff, like not use turn signals, tailgate, and so forth? I feel like some kind of relic at age 39 because I leave 1 car length in front of me for every 10 mph like I was taught in driving school.

Uh oh ... I'm ranting. Time to bail before I get too ridiculous. And yes, everyone that drives slower than me is an idiot, while those who drive faster are maniacs :-)

Oh, I should add that recently I was waiting to turn left at the same light when the camera went berserk and started camera-ing the cars going straight in the opposing lanes during a green cycle. This went on for at least 30 seconds at rush hour ..,

*car passes*
*flash*
*car passes*
*flash*
etc ... Man I bet those people were pissed.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:07 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ha, suckers! We don't have any in New Jersey, we've got a statute on the books making them illegal. Last I heard a few municipalities were trying to get around the law but I don't think it went anywhere.... OMG! They just became legal! Nooooo!
posted by exhilaration at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2009


Seems like this tool *facilitates* the running of red lights. As someone who commutes 40 miles a day around a major metropolitan area, I really don't need to see (or be on the receiving end of) any more red light runnings. Honestly, folks can't we all just chill and wait our turns? WTF. If I had a buck for every red-light t-boning I've witnessed over the years, I wouldn't need to commute.
posted by VicNebulous at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2009


Seems like revenue would drop over time as people either do a better job of obeying the red lights or, more likely, learn where the camera's are and avoid those intersections as much as possible. I swear a read a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer that alluded to a study that found that effect over time when City Counsel was considering stop-light cameras but I can't find the story or the study.
posted by srw12 at 12:21 PM on March 27, 2009


Quite a bit of ire when these went up in my home town, but of all the objections possible, "waste of money" (on cameras) seemed to be the main cry. Which is strange. Which costs more: a camera and sensor, or a fully trained cop in a patrol car or motorcycle? Sure, the cop can attend to other needs as they arise, but having the camera, he or she can be free to do those other things all of the time.

But then, I don't speed or go through red lights, so it doesn't really bug me, so long as pics are never used for any other purpose.

I like what you're saying, freecellwizard, about removal of human judgment from the equation. I'm just not sure not being a hot PYT (but also not as a young black male) I have all that much confidence in that judgment.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:30 PM on March 27, 2009


from exhilaration's link:
Few old inventions continue to stir emotions as much as a movie camera, especially when it shows us those beautiful Hollywood types who will walk the red carpet Sunday night.

But enthusiasm wilts like a thirsty rose if you dare to stick a camera on a New Jersey traffic light.
WORST LEAD IN EVER. I hope someone gives this guy a ticket for horrible journalism.
posted by desjardins at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I see no difference between these cameras and a cop hiding in a speed trap than mechanical efficiency."

In San Diego the cameras are operated not by the cops by by a for-profit company that sends the photos to the police so they can issue tickets. The company gets to charge the city a fee for every photo they send along. Well guess what..... The company has a profit motive in making sure their cameras are set up to catch as many people as possible. And surprise surprise..... many intersections have yellows that don't offer a reasonable amount of time to get through.

So rather than catching bad drivers, they take advantage of a stupid business model and poor engineering.

So if your hypothetical cop hiding in a speed trap gets a cut from every ticket, and he gets to set up the speed limits so it's actually hard to *not* break the law......... then yeah, they are the same.
posted by Ragma at 12:51 PM on March 27, 2009


It's funny to watch Americans get up in arms about things like red light cameras and speed cameras. The idea that red light cameras increase accidents not only goes against all evidence we see in countries that have had these for decades, but also remind me of arguments like "Seatbelts kill more people than they save" and "Citizens carrying guns make society safer".
posted by Jimbob at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ragma: are you saying that this for-profit company that operates the cameras is also allowed to set the timing of the traffic signals?
posted by rocket88 at 1:12 PM on March 27, 2009


On the one hand, people in the Chicago area do kind of drive like shit. That said, until someone invents a "trying to turn left and the traffic from the left side has cleared but not from the right side so I'll just pull out halfway, blocking all oncoming traffic until a hole opens up and I can complete the turn" camera, I don't think this will solve the problem.

On the other hand, freecellwizard pretty much summed up my worries. The red light cameras, at least the ones I see most, malfunction ALL. THE. TIME. There's one by my office that, quite literally, throws at least one faulty flash every time I approach the intersection.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2009


I always feel like somebody's watching me, and I have no privacy (whoa-oa-oa).

From the Chicago link: "If people start to slow down, they wouldn't have to worry about the fines,'' Link said"
If politicians stop taking it in the ass from oil and auto companies, maybe we'd have a decent f'ng public transportation system and we wouldn't need all this bullshit surveillance equipment instead of an infrastructure that was actually useful for something.
I don't want a damn car in the first place, but if it's going to be my only option, then I want society to bend to safety - that would mean, say, alternate work shifts so we don't have massive rush hours full of people trying to get to work or get home clogging highways that are far too small then and far too large for the other 18 hours (plus or minus a few) of the day.
Maybe speed governors so the car only goes 'x' speed in a given area. Any number of things that don't depend on this asinine system that depends on driver failure and individual penalization. Oh and private companies aren't going to game this to their advantage. Uh huh.
This is for safety? Horse apples.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I really hate about the lights is that it can take weeks for you to find out if you've been given a ticket or not. Weeks. By that time, how are you supposed to remember the details about the specific situation? Sure, they send you pictures, but how are you supposed to have any defense available for your actions when the only evidence you have is the pictures that have been given as evidence of your guilt? That just strikes me as wrong, I guess for the same reasons freecellwizard mentioned. When you're dealing with a human being at the exact moment of the (alleged) infraction, you can explain or defend yourself. When you're dealing with a camera and no notification for several weeks, you haven't anywhere near the same ability.

But what really gets me, and what has added a ton of stress to my driving, is that one just doesn't know, when the light flashes, if it's you who's getting a ticket. Three times now my SO and I have been driving, seen the light flash, and then freaked out that we may have gotten a ticket. Three times now, we've spent two weeks worrying that we might receive a ticket in the mail at any time. Three times now, we haven't, but I gotta say, that relief doesn't make up for the stress we experienced.

(If you want to know why we'd wait at least three near-misses to change our driving habits.. We live in an area where there is a lot of road work going on, and the speed limits have been changed in weird ways because of it. When you don't know if you're in a 55 or a 65 zone, and when you don't know if the speed cameras have been changed to reflect whatever construction-zone speed limits have been put in place, it can be confusing and frustrating.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:53 PM on March 27, 2009


I just put my hand over my face when I rush through yellow lights. Can't ticket me if they don't have a clear picture, right? If I didn't live in San Diego I'd probably start wearing a ski mask while driving.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:07 PM on March 27, 2009


trying to turn left and the traffic from the left side has cleared but not from the right side so I'll just pull out halfway, blocking all oncoming traffic until a hole opens up and I can complete the turn"

Yeah, that chaps me as well. However, the last two times it happened to me, a cop appeared. Justice was swift.

The problem? Chicagoan run lights. Constantly. It's so bad that Chicagoans have been trained to *not* go when the light turns green, or you'll get hit. You wait a second or two to make sure that everyone is done running the lights. So, I want *more* red light cameras, because maybe, just maybe, if it costs people real money to run the red lights, they'll stop doing it.

Having said that, the Chicago red light cameras are *extremely* fair. To get a ticket from them, the following sequence has to happen.

1) The light must turn red.

2) The stop light traffic sensor, which senses a car by an induction loop, must clear -- that is, no car. If you're across the line, you have *not* run the red light.

3) Once the sensor is cleared, the camera arms. If someone crosses the stop line after the camera is armed, the camera takes three shots -- one instantly, the other .4 seconds later, and one of the plate.

4) It's $100, not $500+ as some localities try to make it.

Arguably, this is incorrect, because it encourages you to *speed up* and get across that sensor before the yellow changes to red and the camera tries to arm. But compared to most camera setups, this one's honest -- the light has to be red *before* you enter the intersection, and the camera won't arm until the sensor is cleared -- if a car is on the stop line sensor when it turns red, the camera won't arm until that car clears. The yellows are short, but the yellow in the city have been short forever, and they're all short, so there's nothing different. They don't need to be long, you just don't drive fast on most streets in Chicago.

And, of course, there is a staggeringly simple way to not get a ticket from these cameras if you are driving your car in the city. STOP AT THE GODDAMN RED LIGHT.

Ahem.

Red light cameras might increase crashes,

Ahh, they do -- but the claim was that it would increase safety, and surprisingly, they do. There are more slow speed rear end collisions when red light cameras are installed.

But slow speed rear-end collisions rarely hurt people. What red light cameras cut is t-bone collisions in the intersection, where someone running the red at speed hits someone pulling out into the green. These collisions are *far* more likely to cause injury, because of the energy and vectors involved.

I keep hearing about how you can't have a car around here without getting a stack of tickets. Funny, I've gotten exactly zero in the last year, and one total*. It's not hard. Stop at the red light. Don't park where it says not to park. Don't do 90 on the Kennedy.

To me, if you get 15 parking/red light tickets in one year, you should have your licensed pulled, because, frankly, you're too stupid to operate a car. It isn't hard to not break the law. Really. It's not.

* Street Cleaning, of course.
posted by eriko at 3:26 PM on March 27, 2009


I don't know if I buy the suggestion that the installation of a red-light camera BY ITSELF causes an increase in accidents.

I have no sympathy for those who decry this as a tax grab. It's a completely voluntary tax; don't speed, don't run red lights, and you're tax-exempt. It's often anarchy on the roads. I rarely see speed traps during rush-hour.

I do agree that the thresholds have to be reasonable. In Canada (when we had photo radar) by camera or otherwise, you had to be speeding by 10 km/h over the limit before you'd be charged. I would hope that there's a similar threshold for red-light cameras - e.g. they only penalise those who enter on a red.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:46 PM on March 27, 2009


I don't really have sympathy for anyone caught by these cameras in violation, because it's not like the law stops applying if there isn't a cop nearby. This is just an extension of that enforcement. If those people are guilty, then they should be fined/charged if they choose to break the law.

That said, shortening the yellow lights is potentially dangerous, but mostly if you're the type of driver who accelerates on yellow instead of slowing down and braking like you're supposed to.

At the very least, however, shortening of the lights should be announced publicly.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:31 PM on March 27, 2009


I don't like how it takes out the human element, because there are intersections and situations where you can end up running a red light by accident; some intersections are wider than others, some are just confusing (Fort Worth has one in the cultural district that is nearly impossible to figure out at first glance; you could go as many as 8 different directions).

And as was mentioned, there is no possibility of true defense against a grainy photo image that's mailed to you with a "Pay up!" notice; it would be quite easy to, say, send random citations to people, and unless they knew exactly where they were at that time 4 weeks ago, and could prove it, how could they fight it? We got one a few years ago, and paid, but who knows if I truly ran that red? That intersection was always getting blocked by construction crews and was very wide, to boot.
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 PM on March 27, 2009


The implementation in Chicago is terrible. I got two of these tickets recently. I did not get a notice for either, just a letter saying they will soon be suspending my license for outstanding tickets. I checked the website and there are videos of me going through reds. One was a right hand turn on a yellow which turned red right in the middle of the turn. Err, how is that illegal? A human cop would never give me a ticket for that. The other was me going through a yellow in rainy conditions and it turned red while the car was in the middle of the intersection. Err, should I slam on my brakes in the rain so avoid the split second change in lights? Again, no human cop would give me a ticket for that.

Oh, and I had two parking tickets that I never recieved tickets for.

All in all I had to pay double fines because they were "late." Who cares if the meter maids never gave me a ticket and the city never sent me a ticket about the reds. If I want to drive I need to pay them. This is how the system works.

>send random citations to people, and unless they knew exactly where they were at that time 4 weeks ago, and could prove it, how could they fight it?

With regards to those two mystery parking tickets, Im 99% sure some corrupt meter maid decided to finish his or her quota by just issuing me two tickets and calling it a day. Considering I lose more in salary by going to court, I just paid. They dont care. They dont get fired for this stuff, if anything, they'll get a promotion for meeting quota.

>his is just an extension of that enforcement.

Not its not. These sytems work like this: "If car is in intersection while light turns red, issue ticket." Its all about split second errors, not catching people who blow through lights. Rain, pedestrians, etc dont matter. Stop on a dime or get a ticket.

This robot logic doesnt make sense. There are many situations where you should go through a yellow, even if youre a half a second short. Now I have taught myself that yellow means "slam on the brakes no matter what, if you cause an accident, oh well."

What they should do is configure it so it ignores all cars that go through 2 seconds after the light turns red, but there arent that many people that do that. There are lots of people who misjudge the yellow. That's the money maker.

It blows my mind to see money wasted like this. Considering Ive been hit by drunk drivers three times, how about we have more DUI checkpoints with this money instead of putting up useless cameras and taking money out o my pocket? Oh right, real public safety costs money, this MAKES MONEY. This has nothing to do with public safety and everthing to do about keeping taxes low for the rich.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:17 PM on March 27, 2009


To me, if you get 15 parking/red light tickets in one year, you should have your licensed pulled, because, frankly, you're too stupid to operate a car.

Stupid? Ignorant people shouldnt be calling other people stupid. I get about 15 a year. 5 of which are for street cleaning because the fucking city workers dont feel like putting signs on my street half the time. Our trees are thin so they dont bother. Or they do and the signs just fall nearly flat to the ground where you cant see them. The judge I complained to said tough shit. I probably get 2 or 3 mystery tickets a year and 3 or 4 legitimate tickets. I cant afford a garage so I have to park on the street.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:21 PM on March 27, 2009


On the one hand, people in the Chicago area do kind of drive like shit.

This doesnt stop the guy who is weaving between the lanes or the guy who drives as fast as possible between the lights, nor the guy who's driving drunk, etc. This just affects the guy who mistimed the yellow. That's it. We're not safer. We're poorer.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:23 PM on March 27, 2009


In Minneapolis, the ACLU challenged the red light cameras for being in violation of Minnesota law. Per the ACLU,

"In Minnesota petty misdemeanor prosecutions, the prosecutor has the burden of proof to show that an individual is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But the “Photo Cop” ordinance reverses the burden of proof and requires the owner to prove that they were not the driver of the vehicle that was photographed going through the red light."

The ACLU won, and the cameras were shut off. The City of Minneapolis was forced to refund $2.6 million in fines.
posted by gimonca at 8:54 PM on March 27, 2009


"But slow speed rear-end collisions rarely hurt people"

Unless you're in a Pinto. Of course, the government stepped in and cleaned that right up and made everything safe for everyone without merciless gadflying from some short Lebanese lawyer from Connecticut into creating the NHTSA, 'cos y'know, they were just so concerned for safety.
But really it's the same problem, different system. Right now the consumer is responsible for the safety of the automobile. Used to be the manufacturer laid that off on Joe Public too (before Nader...hey, he's a dick, but give the man his due)
And as it is speed is just a question of money anyway. Got enough dough? You can speed all you want if you outfit your vehicle with radar detectors, laser jammers, etc. etc. Cost you a few thousand for a top of the line thing. Got more? You just have to make the payola. Got even more? Hire a driver.
Philosophically we've made the decision that we're willing to sacrifice thousands of people a year to car accidents for the 'freedom' to drive a car. They're nice. But day to day to and from the same places?
I think the red light cameras just illuminate the cage we're already in.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:23 PM on March 27, 2009


Tucson is starting to get these cameras - in fact, a new camera is about to go operational not far from my house. I make sure to cover my face (in a manner, of course, that allows me to see - hoodies and sunglasses have their uses) every time I go by one. I'm not a speeder, either. But I don't trust these cameras to be accurate. I pass one of those "your speed is" radar signs several times a week, and it often reads a speed that's nowhere close to what I'm traveling at. If there was a camera on that thing, who knows who would be getting tickets. I warned my sister, who was visiting from out of town, about one of the red light cameras, and she said, "That's OK, I don't run red lights." She ended up getting flashed by the camera after getting stuck behind someone who stopped in the intersection and decided not to go.

By the way, in Arizona (and I'm not sure what other states) if you get a ticket in the mail you can ignore it. Mail is not legal service. If you don't respond, they have to send a process server to serve you the citation. This caused a problem in Tucson recently, as a process server was caught cheating. He was claiming to serve people when he hadn't - he'd claimed he'd left papers with people who didn't even know the accused. That ended up costing the city a lot of money when they had to throw out the tickets.
posted by azpenguin at 11:34 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Setting light to a petrol-filled tyre is the favoured method of destroying them."
posted by Eideteker at 3:57 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


People who use public transit are three times more likely to meet fitness guidelines than those who don't. And they don't get traffic tickets.
posted by furtive at 5:27 PM on March 28, 2009


To me, if you get 15 parking/red light tickets in one year, you should have your licensed pulled, because, frankly, you're too stupid to operate a car.

I live on a city block with no less than 5 different street cleaning days (different sides of each street have different requirements), in addition to 2 hour limits during the day. I have finally figured it out for the most part, but it is presumptuous to think just over a ticket a month deserves license revocation.
posted by vaportrail at 6:13 PM on March 28, 2009


One thing I haven't seen mentioned here is the case in Connecticut of the high school students who decided to screw over people they didn't like by finding a vehicle similar to the one driven by the victim, photographing their license plate, printing it out on glossy paper, and speeding past the cameras/blowing red lights by the cameras. As it turns out, the cameras could not indeed tell the difference between a real license plate and a plate-sized photo of a plate, causing the victims to receive citations-- with the attendant consequences-- and, as stated above, placing the burden of proof on the victims to prove that they were not, in fact, responsible for the crimes in question. This is a perfect example of why these kinds of systems should be illegal across the board...that's just one example of how they can be exploited, aside from the numerous (if anecdotal) examples of how they can be just plain wrong cited above.
posted by baphomet at 7:25 PM on March 28, 2009


"To me, if you get 15 parking/red light tickets in one year, you should have your licensed pulled depose your local government."

FTFY.

"It isn't hard to not break the law. Really. It's not."

Except when the law becomes a revenue-generating scheme, sufficient people need to break the law in order to meet the budget. If they don't, the laws become stricter and stricter until abiding the law is sufficiently difficult that quotas are met. Remember this? Safety has a lot less to do with speed than with driver attention and alertness. In fact, I support doubling or tripling speed limits so that people learn they can't apply makeup and eat a muffin while driving. Trust me, if you're going 120 mph, you're focused on the road, not the radio.
posted by Eideteker at 7:22 AM on March 29, 2009


« Older Bob Claster...  |  The sky is a really big place,... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments