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Picture yourself tooling along in your auto, intersection after intersection, hitting the lights on a slow traffic evening. Suddenly, the light in front of you turns yellow. Decision time: Do …
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Picture yourself tooling along in your auto, intersection after intersection, hitting the lights on a slow traffic evening. Suddenly, the light in front of you turns yellow. Decision time: Do you hit the gas or the brakes? The answer to that question could soon cost you a big chunk of change along Highway 85, courtesy of technology that boosts revenues while supposedly making the streets safer for all. Red light cameras, those pesky law enforcement eyes that bag unsuspecting, unwary or unwilling scofflaws in cities across America, may very well be coming to Brighton, and from the feedback I’ve received so far, I’m not alone in objecting to their use.
Aside from the obvious and all too easy big brother arguments surrounding the use of such devices, there are valid concerns over whether the cameras actually improve public safety, or simply bolster the city’s bottom line.
While some studies show reduced side-angle crashes caused by red light running, scores of comprehensive studies show marked increases at intersections that use the cameras, particularly rear-enders caused by those without room for a safe stop braking hurriedly to avoid the inevitable ticket. Statistically, increasing the length of the yellow light while ensuring a pause before the cross traffic light turns green boosts safety in both the immediate and long term at intersections, and it’s a method of improving driver safety that costs the city, and us drivers, nothing to implement.
Financially, few could argue the cameras are a tremendous boon to city coffers, with companies like the industry-leading Redflex installing, maintaining and monitoring the devices for a cut of the proceeds from citations, usually 50 percent. The city hauls in the other half, pure profit for little or no work. It’s logic that is hard to argue with for recession-strapped cities, and, I suspect, as much if not more a selling point as any perceived safety benefit. Either way, it’s profiteering for Redflex, on the backs of taxpayers, and that’s not something I’d personally support. Would you?
Another problem with the cams is the complete and total removal of an officer’s discretionary judgment. Consider this scenario: weather conditions are less than ideal, and as you near a camera-equipped intersection, the light turns yellow. Any rapid directional change would certainly be hazardous, including applying the brakes. Given the conditions, an officer exercising common sense would likely agree that you made the correct choice in rolling through the light, and waive the ticket. The cold eye of a camera cannot.
In the ensuing weeks, I expect the city will be looking at ordinances to support the cameras, and contracts to procure them, given the nod council gave to the police department two weeks ago. I would also expect the idea to fly through the approval process, given the easy money to be made.
That’s not something I can personally support. Can you?
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