This news article is about a group of people in Washington state protesting the use of red-light cameras. The private companies that build and monitor these cameras are given a license to print money. Patrick Bedard from Car and Driver has written a couple of times about this issue. I am 100% against both red-light and speeding cameras. Why? Mr. Bedard puts it nicely:
Let’s be clear about the tyranny here. This is not about running red lights. Camera enforcement is a revenuing scheme that depends on an end run around the fundamental American principle of innocent until proven guilty. The glassy-eyed accuser is a robot, and it’s not subject to cross examination. Moreover, it’s a robot employed by a for-profit business that makes its profits from guilty verdicts. It makes nothing on innocent verdicts.
Exactly. In response to the protesters, there is a lot of the old argument, “if you don’t run red lights, then you won’t get a ticket.” Hogwash. How many people can honestly say they’ve never been in the gray area at the beginning of a yellow and chosen to go through the light safely rather than slam on their brakes, risking a rear-ender? An officer can tell the difference, but a machine gets set with a threshold that it applies no matter what.
Washington is a pretty anti-car state in general, unfortunately, but the comments on the Seattle PI story are downright scary. I understand the people who get annoyed at terrible driving and blatant red-light running, but there are apparently people out there who want even more surveillance. How about this gem of a comment:
All those who want to replace cameras with more cops should tax themselves. I rather have my taxes lowered, so the more cameras, the better. I say stick a GPS into each car and transmit speed directly to insurance companies.
Really? Of course, that comment was only in response to this equally crazy suggestion:
When you get caught running a red light the fine is tripled and you don’t get to contest it in court. If you cause an accident while running a red light the fine is quadrupled, your license is suspended for up to one year, and you don’t get to contest it in court. If you cause an accident and a death is involved, the fine is a minimum $10,000, jail time, and license suspended indefinitely. […] With the higher fines, that will help pay for those extra police officers. If you’re not allowed to contest the infraction, the courts will have more space. (Of course this would NEVER happen, violates too many rights I’m sure. )
Since this commenter is against the red light cameras, I guess he is relying on witness testimony to determine who ran what light in that accident. Too bad he doesn’t think you should be able to contest the ticket in court. I guess you’re walking for the next year now. What about the Seattle man mentioned in Bedard’s article who got a ticket meant for someone else driving someone else’s car while he was home sleeping? Should he not be allowed to contest the ticket?
I don’t understand these authoritarian impulses. Are we really that eager to give our money away and let somebody monitor our every move? I find the responses like the ones above to be much more upsetting than the red-light cameras themselves. Wasn’t the whole point of forming this country to get away from thinking like that?