Photo Traffic Enforcement

Photo Traffic Enforcement
Big Brother or Sound Practice

The Council Bluffs area recently saw the start of the use of cameras to catch those that run red lights.

Opponents quickly claimed that this was going to create more serious problems because the cameras would cause an increase in the number of rear end collisions. They claimed that there would be a bigger increase in rear end crashes then there would be a reduction of crashes from someone running the red light.

In the first week of having cameras at 5 intersections in Council Bluffs the cameras captured 221 red light violations according to the Omaha World Herald newspaper.

The opponents claimed that the yellow lights were set for too short of an interval and that drivers would stop too quickly if they knew they would be ticketed for running a red light because of the camera.

They conveniently omitted two critical details. First, the camera doesn’t take a picture unless the car enters the intersection after the light is already red. In other words you can still get away with running a yellow light.

Second, there is no violation for stopping too quickly whether at a stop light or anywhere else. There is a violation for driving too close behind another car. Also, there is another violation for not being able to stop in a clear and assured distance. By definition, if someone crashes into the rear end of another car they did not stay the legally required distance behind the other car. They were tailgating and the cause of the crash.

The defense claim that the front car stopped too quickly simply doesn’t hold water. Everyone has to be ready to stop as quickly (in as short a distance) as possible. What if a child steps out into the street from a unseen location? The front car has to stop as quickly as possible. Now what if a car behind that one crashes into the front one and the front one had been able to stop in time otherwise but is pushed by the back one into and killing the child? The front car is not guilty of anything. The front car has done everything required by law (for this example they were alert and did not have a chance to anticipate the child stepping out) and can not be held responsible. The front car did not stop too quickly. The front car did not cause the back car to crash into them. The front car did not cause the child to die. The back car was tailgating or not paying proper attention as evidenced by the fact that they made contact with the front car. The back car caused the crash. The back car caused the child to die because they hit the front car and pushed it into the child.

Camera enforcement of red light violations is not the cause of rear end collisions. The car that hits the other is the cause of the crash.

Others claim that having cameras for traffic enforcement are unfair and should be made blanket illegal. They claim that the cameras are Big Brother tactics.

Again there are at least two flaws with this argument. The cameras are in a public area where no one should expect that they can not be observed. George Orwell’s Big Brother intruded into private places such as bedrooms.

There is nothing unfair about camera enforcement. If a live officer had been there they claim they wouldn’t have violated the law because they knew they would be caught but with a camera they don’t realize that they might be caught. Whether there is an officer standing in the middle of the intersection, a citizen sitting in a bus shelter with opaque sides or a camera mounted on the traffic light a driver’s behavior may be observed legally even if they do not see the observer.

Also, the camera enforcement in Council Bluffs is treated more like a parking meter violation. The ticket is issued against the car and does not count as a moving violation against the driver’s license. It is not unfair that an owner may have to pay a ticket when someone else drove their car through a red light. The owner of the car is responsible for those that use it the same as every other situation so someone else causing the ticket is still their responsibility. If they can’t trust that person to obey the traffic lights while using their vehicle, how can they trust them with thousands of dollars in a car let alone millions of dollars in liability? Simply, if they can’t then they shouldn’t let them use their car. It is no more unfair that the owner has to pay the ticket for someone else using their car than it is for a business to stand the liability for an employee crashing a company vehicle instead of the employee paying the liability for their own actions.

I would allow one out for the owner of the car. If they can prove the identity of the actual driver such that it will stand up in court and results in the conviction of that driver then they should be released.

Almost every criminal claims that if they knew they would have been caught they wouldn’t have committed that crime.

This kind of argument actually makes the case for more camera enforcement. By having total camera coverage everyone will no longer be able to claim they didn’t know they might get caught and should always assume they will be caught. Knowing they will be caught, they know also that they simply should not violate the law.

This brings up more opponents that claim not being allowed to get away with any violations goes too far. If you talk to members of this small but vocal group you quickly find that they believe that there should always be a way to get away when caught doing something illegal. If this were true there would be no criminals. Also, the world would be in total chaos as there would effectively be no laws.

The law abiding, competent driver has nothing to fear and should not be endangered by those that aren’t.

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