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Traffic Cameras in D.C. 516

Posted by michael
from the say-cheese dept.
Kappelmeister writes "The Washington Post has an article about red-light-running and speeding cameras all over D.C. that have issued over half a million citations to date. (Police send you a ticket and photographic proof up to a month after the fact.) Though the cameras successfully reduce dangerous driving and boost the city's revenue, a lot of wrongful citations fall through the cracks and give some that guilty-until-proven-innocent feeling. Once again, how far is too far?" I came across this much more informative investigation of D.C.'s traffic cameras a few weeks ago. It's heavy on facts and figures, and hammers home the observation that an extra second of yellow light is at least as good at promoting good behavior, but much less lucrative for the local government and the contracting firm.
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Traffic Cameras in D.C.

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  • Extra Yellow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Golantig (231102) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:35AM (#3465455)
    ...surely, once drivers become used to the 'new' length of yellow they will jump the lights as frequently as they do now. Will they keep increasing the length indefinately?

    Green doesn't mean go, it means "go, if the way is clear"...
    • They could have a rand function that changes the length of the yellow light with every cycle. It wouldn't discourage the yellow jumper, because legally you have to have n number of seconds of yellow. So every driver knows that he has two seconds to slam past the light. even if really he has eight.

      I'm just glad I live in Texas where the state has declaired it illigal to post cameras for this purpose. In a state that spends more on corrective services than any other, I'm sure that our "boys in blue" will no have to contend with electronic replacements to soon.
      • Also in Texas, if you're in the intersection when the light is yellow, you own that intersection until you exit, even if the light turns red.
    • Indeed. Several years ago I recall a light that would hold yellow for a good 4 or 5 seconds. Many a time I would be driving next to (or close) to another car, the light would turn yellow and he would stop. Knowing that they light held yellow for so long, I'd continue through and make it through easily. A much better solution is to have a standard length for yellow, and then adjust the delay for the other direction's green.

      Speaking of better solutions, what about a police car actually pulling over red light runners? They don't have to catch everybody, but every driver who sees someone get pulled over will take notice. The fact that some states/cities choose to use cameras to ticket simply proves that they are more interested in ticket revenue than in the public's safety.
    • once drivers become used to the 'new' length

      The obvious solution is to minimize the probability that the driver will arrive on yellow. I.e. give the right synchronization to the damn lights.

      In the region where I commute, the first cars (and the entire pack altogether) systematically see yellow in the distance and catch red very near the next light, such that the waiting time is maximized. The lights are synchronized but the purpose is to make the traffic as bad as possible. The temptation to jump the lights and to get out of the vicious circle is so strong that usually the first several cars in the pack speed with more than 20 miles/hour over the limit and run the red lights. If you jump a light you are free to go for miles without stopping.

      They should see which lights are typically jumped and worry about fixing the traffic instead of fining. This should bring much more benefit in the long run.

    • I think the point is that people run red lights
      when the yellow is too short for another reason
      as well. If the yellow light is too short, the
      moment you have to decide what to do is too short,
      and therefore you can make bad decisions.

      If they increase the length of the yellow light,
      you might still make the decision to run a red
      light on purpose, but the extra second will help
      you to avoid making the bad decision to run the
      light when it would actually cause an accident.

      The pro-traffic camera side of the argument claims
      that the whole purpose is safety, so preventing
      people from running red lights is not the end
      goal. Preventing accidents is. Longer yellow
      lights accomplishes that goal.
  • Contest these (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wells2k (107114) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:40AM (#3465470)
    I think that every time I were to receive a ticket for this from one of these cameras, I would contest it in court. There is no proof that you were driving the car at the time, so why should you receive points against your record for the crime, not to mention the cost of the ticket and the rise in your insurance costs?
    • In British Columbia, before they abolished photo-radar, it was simple. No points were put on your record for a photo radar ticket. Only a live police officer could give you demerits. Then when you get the ticket, you can look at the picture to determine who was driving (you? your 17-year-old kid?), and have that person pay the fine. The fine gets paid, no points on the record.
    • If it's your car, then you're responsible for it. Choose wisely to whom you give permission to drive it.
    • but in practice the cameras are set up to snap a picture of both your front license and your face. Since the state knows what you look like via your Drivers License, they can do a quick double check that the person driving the car looks like the person the car is registered to, and a ticket is on it's way to you in the mail. You could contest it, but you'll look like an ass in front of the judge when you do. Although in support of your point, I don't think Colorado at least charges points against your license for photo radar tickets. I believe it's purely a revenue enhancer.

      I don't know how well it worked, but a guy I used to work with had his wife register his car, and visa versa. So if a photo radar ever snapped a picture, the driver of the car wouldn't even be the same sex as the registered owner. In theory, this should have kept either of them from getting tickets. Like I said, I don't know how well it worked. I don't think he made a habit of running red lights to try it out.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:40AM (#3465472) Homepage Journal
    There's something vaguely satisfying about thinking that those 5 people who just tailgated you through that yellow got ticketed.
  • by Holistic Universaliz (526100) <MCS@b[ ]ond.com.kh ['igp' in gap]> on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:41AM (#3465477)
    In Norway its a sport to Run the Traffic Cameras run, with hidden numbers an cut out Photos of local polices or politisions.. Go GO GO
    • Re:Traffic Cameras (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zerocool^ (112121)
      I've heard that in Russia and countries close to Russia, all the lights are yellow at the same time, and then they flick from yellow to green and yellow to red simultaneously. A friend of mine went over there with an exchange student he met in the states. He said that there are two speeds of cars: Off, and Maximum. And with a red-yellow-green sequence, it's like get ready, set, go. He says it makes you appreciate yellow lights in America - if you run a yellow light over there, you're probably dead. Yet somehow, he never saw a traffic accident.

      ~z
  • by Reziac (43301) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:45AM (#3465485) Homepage Journal
    I can't remember which state it was (might even have been here in California) but in the past year or so, one state's courts found use of such cameras to catch redlight runners unlawful, because using the evidence to issue a fine presumed guilt without proper legal procedures. Maybe someone else can recall or unearth the details.

    Not to mention that they were found to be considerably less than accurate.

    • I can't remember which state it was (might even have been here in California) but in the past year or so, one state's courts found use of such cameras to catch redlight runners unlawful, because using the evidence to issue a fine presumed guilt without proper legal procedures. Maybe someone else can recall or unearth the details.

      Back in something like 1993, in Pasadena CA, I got a photo-radar speeding ticket. (Note: similar deal, but not specifically WRT running a red light.) I went to look at the picture, and it was clearly me; you could read the licence plate on the car, and the picture of me was better than the one on my drivers licence. I was speeding and knew it, so quietly paid up. Later, I found out that anybody who contested one of those tickets in court would have it removed without question; I guess the legality was on shaky enough ground that they didn't bother defending them. The depended on the sheep like me to make their money....

      I read in the newspaper a year or two after I got my ticket that Pasadena had stopped doing it. I don't know if it was declared illegal or not, but I did sort of kick myself for having just blithely paid the ticket. Oh well, it's water well under the bridge by now.

      I would say that during my six years in Pasadena (1990-1996), I noticed as a pedestrian that the running of red lights got noticably worse during those six years. By 1996, it seemed that the rule was "if you saw it yellow, you get to go through it." Driving or walking, once my light turned green I would always wait a few seconds to make sure that somebody else wasn't going to blow through the red light the other way. It wasn't that bad in 1990, but by 1996 it had gotten pretty common and pretty ridiculous.

      -Rob

    • The issue of legality came down to the fact that the company running the system of red light cameras was also controlling the timing of the lights. In fact, the courts found that the contractor was actually shortening the yellow times on lights, as they got something like 70 percent of the fines for each red light violator/victim. This at least was the case in San Diego, CA.

      http://www.kfmb.com/results.php?storyID=3166&is= y

      http://www.kfmb.com/search_results.php?curPage=1 &s Text=red+light

    • A judge in Hawaii recently ruled that traffic tickets issued from traffic cameras are unconstitutional.

      http://www.thehawaiichannel.com/hon/news/stories/n ews-139403920020411-160413.html [thehawaiichannel.com]

      I live in SF, California, and the lawyer friends that I've spoken to regarding these tickets all told me that the judges here will cancel all tickets that are challenged. So if you get one of these around here, challenge the ticket and the judge will tear it up for you!

  • by antis0c (133550) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:46AM (#3465488)
    I live about 15 minutes from D.C. north in Maryland and we have the same traffic cameras. Same up all over baltimore city. My father works as a Fleet Manager for a contracting company that rents out trucks to do city work for Baltimore city. They get about 10 of those traffic citations a day.

    My father tells me there are only 2 ways to win a case in court contesting the citation. One, you have convince the judge that the license plate on the vechicle in the picture isn't yours, or isn't clear enough to establish 100% that it is indeed your license plate.

    Or two, you have to prove the yellow light you were photographed at wasn't 4 seconds. State law mandates that the yellow lights must be at least 4 seconds long, so if the yellow light was say 3, the light was malfunctioning and you weren't at fault. This of course means you have to go out there with a video camera and get the light being yellow for less than 4 seconds.

    Down near DC they don't seem to use flash photography, I think they use actual video cameras, all the cameras around my place are the security camera style ones. Up in Baltimore City they're flash style, and you can tell when you've gotten caught because they produce a large flash. They also look a little like bird houses on a poll next to the intersection.

    Thats about all I know personally about these, I don't care for them that much, but ever since they put them in, I carefully pick and chose which yellow lights I'm going to try and go through.
    • by vanguard (102038) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:00AM (#3465541)
      They have this in my area (RTP, NC) too. It's fairly well known that unless you're actually innocent, you can't get out of it.

      You need to prove that you weren't driving, it wasn't actually your car, etc.

      One nice thing about the system is that if you're caught with the cameras, it's not treated like a moving violation. You don't get any points on your record and your insurance isn't impacted.

      The system doesn't bother me. It only catches guilty people, it's less fallible than the police, and it provides more money to the local gov. (I like our local gov). And most importantly, it makes the street safer. Let's not forget that running red lights kills people. Punishing the guys that do that is a good thing.

      Vanguard
      • If you had actually read the report [weeklystandard.com] you would realize that these cameras DO NOT "make the streets safer". As a matter of fact, the statistics showed that red light cameras actually INCREASED the number of rear-end accidents by as much as 700+ percent in some areas (just about ALL intersections with cameras showed increases in rear-end accidents)!

        Also, if they were truly intended to increase safety, they would be installed at the worst intersections (i.e. the ones with the most accidents), right? Well, they're not. Every one of these cameras is installed at intersections with the lowest yellow light times. It has nothing to do with safety. They are positioned in such a way as to maximize revenue.

        If you start heading into an intersection with a yellow light and "miss the red" by one second or less (as over 75% of all 'violators' do), what, exactly, are you guilty of? Did you just make the roads unsafe? Imagine if you got fined $270 every time you were one second late for something, anything. That's what's happening to most of these people who get fined.

        Also, a single photograph of your car in mid-intersection with a picture of a red light above it doesn't tell the whole story. The lights make absolutely no distinction of the rest of your driving behavior leading up to the incident. For instance, a drunk driver swerving all over the road, then running a red light will merely be fined for running the red light. What would happen if a cop was there instead? A DWI arrest.
        • Imagine if you got fined $270 every time you were one second late for something, anything.

          Now put this comment back in context and imagine if you are 3 seconds late for the same thing, you kill someone. What's the legal difference between 1 second and 3 seconds? Nothing. You were told to stop, and you did not.

          If you think that being late is OK when a difference of a few seconds can mean the death of innocent people, you should take a remedial traffic law class. One thing you will probably learn is that you don't get tickets for going 5 miles under the speed limit if you have trouble stopping safely at poorly timed yellow lights.
        • Imagine if you got fined $270 every time you were one second late for something, anything.

          Hmm. I've just imagined this scenario... and do you know what? I've come up with a solution guaranteed, 100% of the time, to avoid those fines.

          It's called BEING ON TIME. I manage it, nearly every day. Almost every time. I have a schedule at least as hectic as anyone I know, but I arrive at work, and at appointments, etc., ON TIME. It's easy being punctual. It is actually a stress reducer, to cruise into an appointed place at the appointed time with five minutes or so to spare.

          Most people who are habitually tardy are very poor managers of their time. I've had co-workers who lived UPSTAIRS from their workplace - it took them literally 30 seconds to open the door and stroll to work - yet they were late almost daily.

          Also, have you ever noticed that the impatient, inconsiderate drivers who pass at every opportunity, who tailgate, who jet across yellow lights, etc., always arrive at the sam parking lot at the same time you do?

          I conclude with this simple sentence: "If you want something done, ask a busy person." This sentence is very true, but ask yourself WHY IS IT TRUE?

          It is true because busy people know how to manage their fucking time!

      • This sort of camera cop is evolving in atlanta and metro areas. This has been in development since before the 1996 olympics (much wasn't operational during the olympics but was promised for the olympics - actually traffic was wonderful during the 96 olympics so it turned out to not be so needed then in just helping to report traffic conditions).

        The draw back in using such a system is that you don't see cops pulling people over, blue flashing lights and all that generally cause everyone to slow down. Instead you will just end up generating more income for the city(s) governments with a less improvement in driving safety. But I suppose maintance of those cameras and such related expences needs that increased income...

        There was even some talk of creating a second HOV like lane for those who would pay a monthly fee to drive in it....... then traffic comes to a stop, like that lane wouldn't (dream on).

        For how bad traffic "sucks" around atlanta [285sucks.com]

        But hey, now we got cameras that help warn those watching TV (know any vehicles with a TV that the Driver can watch?) and radio reporters not in helicopters... (Quick take a hand off the steering wheel and eyes off the road to make a cell phone call to notify the news media of an accide... screech....crash)

        BTW, when traffic is not stop and go on I285, it's generally moving around 80mph (that's as much as 25mph over the speed limit....) and generally somewhat unsafe to be driving the speed limit or lower boundry of it [40mph].

        The city officials must be drulling over the idea of traffic cop cameras...

        They removed all the "slower traffic keep right" signs. Nobody paid attention to them anyway.

        What would make a big improvement in traffic flow is to reduce the number of pickup trucks on the road (and similiar type vehicles). As some TV commercial for pickup trucks communicates....something about seeing changing scenery ......... everyone passing you up, or damn well trying to...

        Or maybe they just need to hire a bunch of people to drive around in pickup trucks and the like...
      • And most importantly, it makes the street safer.

        Yes, sir. Red light runners here in San Francisco are terrible - people get run down constantly. There are a few of these downtown, and while I initially disliked them for the usual kneejerk reasons (privacy, just a moneymaking scam, etc.) I'm pretty much for them now. If you're in such a hurry that you have to kill someone to get there, a little traffic ticket is probably the least of your troubles.

        I, for one, think they should go even further and install Severe Tire Damage spikes in the crosswalks that pop up when the light turns red. Couple weeks of idiots trashing their wheels, and your problem is totally solved...
    • by cvd6262 (180823) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:44AM (#3465699)

      Or two, you have to prove the yellow light you were photographed at wasn't 4 seconds. State law mandates that the yellow lights must be at least 4 seconds long, so if the yellow light was say 3, the light was malfunctioning and you weren't at fault. This of course means you have to go out there with a video camera and get the light being yellow for less than 4 seconds.

      I read about these ticketing-lights in a Car & Driver editorial a few months ago. It seems that they are not installed to improve safety, but to generate more income for the state. They cost much less per ticket than a patrol car and policeman would.

      The problem is that many states use the four-second-yellow-light rule regardless of speed limit. If I'm driving 25MPH, it's likely that I will have sufficient time to decide whether to safely stop or continue through the light. However, at 55MPH (eg on an expressway), four seconds is not enough time for a driver to decided whether or not they should stop (safely) or run the light.

      If states were honestly interested in improving public safety at traffic lights, they would study the situation and vary yellow-light duration based on speed limit (and weather conditions).

  • by mattreilly (33603) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:49AM (#3465501)
    Yes we live in a free country and you are allowed to exercise your freedom until it starts to impinge on the freedoms of others. Now, I would say your freedom to run a red light unless you get caught by a physical police officer impinges on my right to walk across the street without being killed.

    This is not a freedom or privacy issue, it's a public safety issue. If your worried about getting tickets because someone else ran a red light in your car, be more careful about who you lend your car out to. Or maybe we should go for a more technical solution and do away with car registrations and me your license a transponder you put on your windshield so if a violation is committed in your car the correct person will be charged.
    • A public safety issue? I think you're being too naive. It's a profit issue. Red light cameras provide a disincentive to fixing the problem because the existence of the problem generates revenue.

      You might want to check out The Truth About Red Light Cameras [freedom.gov] for a little more information on this.
    • I'm rather astonished at the number of people who are chanting this mantra. It is clear that you haven't read the article. The author makes a very good case that the whole thing stinks, no matter how you look at it, and that its sole effective purpose is to generate revenue, possibly at the expense of safety.

      Driving isn't a right, but handing out arbitrary fines isn't either. The aricle takes every reason people give for these red light cameras, and gives very good reasons and evidence that it is misguided or even flat out wrong. A lot of people hate these things for selfish reasons. Nobody wants to get fined. On the other hand, why should we put up with something we hate if it doesn't do any good, and might do measurable harm?

      I was hoping to find a comment that refuted something in the article, as it seems rather one sided. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing much of anything like that.
  • by eap (91469) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:52AM (#3465515) Journal
    I heard a story about someone who got one of those pictures of himself running a light in the mail. Instead of sending in payment, he mailed them a photograph of some money.

    They responded by mailing him back a picture of some handcuffs.

  • "Casual" red light running is harmless. This is exactly what these cameras catch. The people who miss the yellow by a second, or people who have been waiting in the turn lane forever and it turns red 2 seconds before they get to go, and they say fuckit.

    It does not catch the flagrant retards who barrel through a red light without a care in the world.

    If these cameras prevented deaths and made streets safer, why aren't they on every single intersection? Because if they were, everyone would know about them and no one would commit "casual" offenses, thusly destroying a huge revenue stream for the city. Cities would rather people thought they could get away with it so they could catch and ticket a small percentage of them.

    The street lights here that have cameras? Everyone who knows about them stops at them. There's only one here on a road I frequent. I creep up to it at 15mph and SLAM on the brakes if the light turns yellow. Even the cops don't run these lights. But everyone resumes their normal course once they pass it.

    What's particularly sneaky about this light is that it is near the border to another county, where the street lights have a much longer yellow duration. Pure evil.

    • I'm not understanding how they don't catch the people who barrel through the lights without a care in the world.

      And as for casual red light running being harmless. Here in New York City I've stepped into the crosswalk countless times and almost been run down by the idiot who just missed the yellow by one second.

      What people don't seem to get is that when you are driving you are piloting a potentially deadly piece of machinery and it should be taken seriously. Of course this is going to laughed off Slashdot with it's predominently male memebers. So many guys seem to think that driving like an asshole makes your dick bigger.
      • It's all about discresion, really.

        If the light is yellow, you have 2 choices: go through, or stop.

        If it's safe for you to stop, you should stop.

        If it's not safe to stop (IE: you are very close to the light, in relatively heavy traffic, at the moment it changes, and slamming on the brakes to stop might cause a rear-ending), then you go through.

        If someone is in the crosswalk, it's pretty obvious that you should stop for them. This, of course, doesn't mean everyone will. There are a lot of assholes out there (or nice people who just drive like assholes) that won't stop, and will run the yellow (sometimes red) light, endangering the pedestrians.

        But - there are situations in which it's not safe to stop -- a camera doesn't have the judgement to decide if a driver was willfully running a red light, or whether they were avoiding an unsafe situation. All it does is detect that someone was in the intersection when the light turned red. A human officer does have the judgement to decide -- and that's the fundamental difference.

        I agree with you that people who endanger pedestrians need to be caught. I don't agree that these cameras have the ability to accurately judge a situation.

        I also have seen just as many females that drive like assholes as males - so I don't think that's a big factor here. People (in general) can be nice - or they can be assholes. It's not a gender thing - it's a people thing. There are, however, a larger number of male drivers on the road (both good and bad drivers amongst them) - so that may be the reason for your (somewhat skewed, IMHO) perceptions.
      • I'm not understanding how they don't catch the people who barrel through the lights without a care in the world.

        That was admittedly kind of vague. Lets try again; Measures like these don't put a stop to real crime. When people think red lights being run, they think of drunk drivers (or maybe gangsters, or stupid teenagers) running lights and killing innocent people, but (I think) they somehow equate automatic ticketing cameras with the solution to this kind of crime.

        Try speeding. Everyone speeds "casually" (10+mph over the speed limit). These are not the kind of people who cause terrible damage with their cars, but they are the ones that will get penalized by laws that are really meant to target truly reckless drivers.

        Cameras are probably good solutions to some traffic problems, e.g. this intersection looks safe to most drivers but they don't realize that there's a school just around the block and the kids like to cross early (and the crossing guard budget was cut). They are not a general all-purpose solution to traffic crime, nor do police probably even want that.

        There's a huge distinction between real crime and petty crimes, and I feel that most crime prevention measures, while targetted at real crime, end up being a lucrative business since it catches all the petty criminals.

        If everyone who broke the speed limit was ticketed instantly, and if every run-red-light was caught, no one (but perhaps the uninitiated) would break these laws, and therefore, the city would lose out on a huge revenue stream. The fact that this hasn't happened suggests that eliminating petty crime isn't worth giving up the money, and therefore the petty crime isn't that destructive. We certainly have the technology, after all.

        And as for casual red light running being harmless. Here in New York City I've stepped into the crosswalk countless times and almost been run down by the idiot who just missed the yellow by one second.

        Are you sure it's only a second? I notice that the light turns red, there's a two-three second pause where both directions stay red, and then the other direction + crosswalk turn green. I think most drivers understand that if the light has been red that long, you're really treading thin ice by running it. This is different. Even with my macho testosterone car I don't do that. But, the autoticket cameras are way less forgiving.

        For example, if you come from a county with 3 second yellows into a county with 2 second yellows, and are unaware of this fact, you will be ticketed without failure even though you're not putting anyone in any increased relative danger.

        • I've noticed that crosswalk signals here in (downtown) milwaukee are a lot different than ones in orange county, ca.

          in orange county, the typical cross walk signal turns to walk with the green light in that direction, turns to flashing don't walk before yellow, and turns to don't walk on red. There is generally at least a second or two before the light turns green for the other direction. There is a pause of one or two seconds, and then green goes for the other direction.

          Here in milwaukee... the walk starts a bit before the green, don't walk starts flashing a bit before yellow, and solid don't walk starts at red. (brain dead eh?)

          So its likely that New York also has brain dead walk/don't walk signals, and it could just be one second.
  • by EvlPenguin (168738) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @10:57AM (#3465530) Homepage
    I live in the pile of rubbish known as Staten Island, NY, where the ticket-issuing traffic lights have become a fact of life. The first ones went up about four years ago, and since then there have probably been millions of tickets issued. Drive by a few known ticketing stops at night and you will see one of two things: 1) a cavalcade of brake lights as the light turns yellow, or 2) the bright flash of the camera as some unwitting moron speeds through the red light.

    Now, I believe there are about 20 in place (all on busy intersections), of which I can name 16. They're also pretty obvious to see (not every corner has a giant grey camera box attached to the traffic pole). Are you really in such a rush that you can't stop when the light turns red?

    While I will admit that this system may be annoying for those who like to try and burn red lights, for the rest of us, it's not a big deal. Orwellian? Certainly not. I'd be more concerned about face recognition and national ID cards than moving violations.
  • is that they are no longer set to keep traffic moving but, in fact, set to keep traffic stopped. This is a theory that a stopped car can't get into an accident (seriously!). Drivers know this, at least subconsciously, and are more apt to run yellow/red lights because they will surely be stopped at the next one anyway.

    It's my own belief that the best way to stop drivers from running traffic lights is to synchronize them by speed so that drivers know that if they don't stop they will get out of synch and be stopped at the next one. But if they stop they will get back in synch and can make it through the rest (albeit at a slower speed).

    This is also an excellent way to enforce speed limits. Set the lights on a main thoroughfare to be all green if a driver maintains 29mph in a 35mph zone and you will find far fewer drivers going 40.
  • by donfede (6215)

    The folks at epic, electronic privacy information center [epic.org] have a link on their website to ovservingsurveillance.org [observings...llance.org], a web site that has a map of "big brother" camera installations in DC watching people.

    donfede
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was riding with a friend in DC when we came upon one of these signals. They had big signs ahead of the intersection saying something to the effect of "CAMERAS IN USE." Wouldn't you know it, the light went to yellow as we were coming up to the intersection and my friend did the some thing we all do - we gauge our speed, our distance to the white line, and decide "yea or nay" as to whether or not we want to perform "heroic" braking. Well, because I had read about these signals not that long ago, I paid special attention to the length of the yellow and, whereas I can't give you a time down to the tenths of a second, I can tell you that it was VERY short - I'd say between 1.5 and 2 seconds, compared to the usual 4 to 5. The light was red by the time we went through the intersection; I don't know how much time after the light goes red where they send tickets, but I wouldn't be surprised if my friend got one. If so, though, it will have been because in addition to setting up the cameras, they jiggered the light timing so as to make violators out of normal, adequately careful drivers.

    Unfortunately, there are few if any laws covering traffic signal timing. So, if you live where these things are used, I suggest two paths that you can follow. One, see if you can get a city ordinance passed specifying a minimum yellow light time. Two, find out who's in charge of setting these systems up, find the next highest elected official, and tell them that you want this practice stopped or you will do what you can to have him/her removed from office. If you're told to pound sand (and you will be), follow through.

    Time to practice some "sousveillance." First, using a video camera, capture the timing of the rigged signals and capture the timing of several normal, untampered-with signals. Extract timing data from the tape, tabulate it, and send it to your local news outlets (if possible, send it directly to reporters who have covered similar stories in the past). Make sure that the reporter goes after the elected official you spoke to.

    Practice more sousveillance. Try to capture the license plate numbers of city vehicles and, if at all possible, the license plate numbers of the car or cars driven by aforementioned elected officials. Then, stake out intersections where those cars routinely pass and videotape the cars running red lights. If you really want to blow the lid off the scam, see if you can tape them running the rigged lights. If you can show that the city officials don't get tickets, well...
  • by *xpenguin* (306001)
    There's an article on HowStuffWorks [howstuffworks.com] that shows how the Red-light traffic cameras [howstuffworks.com] work.
  • My favorite: "My main objection is that tickets are continuing to be issued before I have an opportunity to adjust my speed based on the first ticket," said Miriam Balutis of Arlington, who was cited for four camera-captured violations in one week -- but did not receive any tickets for a month. This "strongly suggests that deterrence is not the goal of this program."

    Is it a monetary incentive for the cities? Probably, but so what? If you are caught speeding or running a red light, you did the crime, stop whining about it. As for the "Balutis Judicial System", using this logic, I should be able to rob banks until I am convicted on the first one. Further, you cannot hold any of the robberies between the first and when I was arrested against me. I did not have time to "adjust my behavior based on the arrest."

    Then we have the "police were not there" group. Following their logic we should prevent the introduction of video taped evidence of the robbery because the police were not there to actually witness the event. Where do they find people with such a poor grasp of logic and how do they always manage to get press?

    Technology is going to be misused, but this is not such a case. The people who are getting caught are guilty, even by their own admission.

    If they wish to make the argument, it was not them, or the machine was incorrect, etc. that would be fine. But "it's not fair?" Give me a break.
  • /. Knee Jerking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the phantom (107624) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:41AM (#3465692) Homepage
    Now, without jerking a knee so hard it falls off, can some one please explain to me why these cameras are such a bad thing? Really, I want to know. The three arguments that I have seen thus far are as follows:

    (1) The cameras are an invasion of privacy.
    I am unwilling to accept this argument. Is it an invasion of privacy when a cop sits behind a billboard with a radar gun looking for speeders? Are security cameras in the local Kwik-e-Mart an invasion of privacy? Hell, when you get your driver's licsence, they want to know your height, weight, age, eye color, and a whole slew of other information about you. Is that invasive? I certainly don't feel I need to tell people how much I weigh. The cameras are in public places. If they used tax dollars to put a cop at every one of these intersections to catch people who are speeding or running red lights, instead of complaining that it is an invasion of privacy, I'll bet anything people on /. would be complaining that it is a waste of money.

    (2) The cameras are inaccurate.
    This could be a problem. It is really the only argument that I buy. However, can police officers not also be inaccurate? mean? nasty? in a bad mood? How many people do you suppose get pulled over for speeding when they are within just a couple of miles of the speed limit, but the cop thinks they are going faster than they are or is just in a bad mood? Sure, you can try to contest such tickets, but you will generally loose. It is your word against the police officers, and who do you think a judge is going to believe. In the end, I don't think that the cameras are any worse than a cop on a bad day.

    (3) The cameras are nothing more than a money making scheme.
    I can't accept that at all. Certainly, they make money for the city, and for the corporation that reviews the photos, and I could understand how one could accuse a mayor or other city official of doing nothing but making money off of the cameras, but it would seem from the Washington Post article that the cameras are well liked by everyone in the enforcement business, from the lowly cop on patrol to those in power. Yes, it makes some money, but it also serves the function of keeping people safe. Drugs like Aspirin make a lot of money too. Is that a bad thing? In my opinion, no.

    I am sorry to rant, but I really do not understand what is so wrong with delegating much of the grunt work of law enforcement to machines. This should allow police officers to focus on things that many would consider to be more important, like citing drunk drivers and solving crimes like homicide and rape. The system does not seem to be trampling any freedoms, and it is freeing up the police to get on to other things. What is so wrong with that?
    • Re:/. Knee Jerking (Score:5, Informative)

      by cmorriss (471077) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @01:01PM (#3465947)
      Obviously you didn't read the detailed investigation [weeklystandard.com] that clearly presented a mountain of evidence against your arguments for cameras at red lights. Here's summary, but I suggest you read the whole thing.

      (3) The cameras are nothing more than a money making scheme.

      The article pretty much proves this point through unambiguous data. The cameras are not placed at the most accident prone red lights. Just to drive this point home, MOST of the worst accident lights in the cities with red light cameras were not chosen for the location of the cameras. They're placed at the intersections with the shortest yellow lights and most volume. Many of the lights they're placed at don't have any accident problems at all!

      Most importantly, the reason these cameras are there is to reduce accidents. Is it working? NO!!! Read the article. All CREDIBLE studies done on this have conlcuded that the cameras at least do nothing and often increase accidents. Mainly rear end accidents because people slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket. In fact, at many of these intersections, the rear end accidents have doubled or more.

      Intuition says these cameras should help save lives, but the statistics don't lie. This red light camera business is simply a Bad Thing in its current form. Maybe red light cameras could be used in certain places, in certain ways for good, but that's not what's going on now.

      • Accidents at intersections happen for a variety of reasons. I know a local intersection that has a lot of morning accidents because you are staring right into the sun at 8am. A red-light camera wouldn't affect that.

        Part of the point of the cameras is to change a person's driving habits, not the habits at particular intersectinos. Accordingly, choosing the busy ones that many people drive through is the best way to do that.

        In the city, I wish they would use the cameras to nail people who enter an intersection they do not have a prayer of exiting, and then block the cross-street for a full light.
      • (3) The cameras are nothing more than a money making scheme.

        I can't accept that at all.
      Maybe not yet they're not. In the UK, they're had cameras like this for years, and they'vre proved to be such money spinners that cameras were no longer being put in accident black spots, but in risk free areas where people were known to speed a lot. It'll happen alright, just as soon as people accept the cameras because nobody speeds through their towns anymore, or the accident rates drop at badly designed junctions.
    • (1) The cameras are an invasion of privacy.

      I wouldn't make this argument. One doesn't have an expectation of privacy in public. However, I would argue that automatic devices violate the due-process right to confront one's 'accusers'. Cameras are automatic devices and, at least as operated in most jurisdictions, are not subject to examination (i.e. you the accused are not entitled to details of how the camera works, is installed, operated, etc. Some 'expert' goes on the stand and declares the camera accurate, and that's good enough for the court.)

      (2) The cameras are inaccurate.
      This could be a problem. It is really the only argument that I buy. However, can police officers not also be inaccurate? mean? nasty? in a bad mood?


      Sure. But at least you can get a cop on the stand and make him defend his actions in issuing a citation, and determine the circumstances under which it happened. Also, coming up with another scenario in which a ticket can be issued unfairly is hardly justification for letting it happen with the cameras. If a device can be shown to issue citations improperly, it ought to be shut off, just as, if you could establish that a cop is issuing citations unfairly, he ought to be fired.

      3) The cameras are nothing more than a money making scheme.
      I can't accept that at all. Certainly, they make money for the city, and for the corporation that reviews the photos, and I could understand how one could accuse a mayor or other city official of doing nothing but making money off of the cameras, but it would seem from the Washington Post article that the cameras are well liked by everyone in the enforcement business, from the lowly cop on patrol to those in power. Yes, it makes some money, but it also serves the function of keeping people safe. Drugs like Aspirin make a lot of money too. Is that a bad thing? In my opinion, no.


      The large and numerous fines the cameras produce provide a perverse incentive to a city to place them in spots where they will maximize revenue, not increase safety. It also reduces the city's incentives to take other measures to increase safety, such as lengthening yellow lights or instituting a system where the yellow flashes shortly before the red comes on. Studies have shown that rear-end collisions go up with red light cameras, and that other measures such as lengthening yellow can cut down the incidence of red light running as much as the cameras are said to do (the statistics that the cameras cut down on red light running are disputed by some). Wouldn't it be better to take steps that would actually reduce the dangerous activity rather than just get a fine for it after it happens?
    • The problem is that a camera has perpetual memory and with optical regognition, it would also allow profiling; letting the government track where I am at any given time. This latter more subtle aspects are what I'm worried about. A cop behind a banner doesn't have these abilities, and they are an invasion of my privacy.
  • San Diego Scameras (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Jorsett (171560) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @11:52AM (#3465719)
    San Diego had its red light cameras shut down when some attorneys established in a civil lawsuit that Lockheed Martin had deliberately misplaced the sensors, causing many drivers to be ticketed unfairly. LM got around $70 per ticket, so they had a large incentive to make sure as many were issued as possible. (How'd you like to have cops get a percentage of every ticket or fine they wrote?) This business was so profitable for LM that they installed and maintained the cameras at their expense in return for their cut. The city and other governmental agencies got the rest of the $271 tickets, so they were ecstatic. San Diego got millions of dollars a year from these devices before they were shut off.

    The trial brought out many other interesting revelations. For example, each ticket was supposed to be issued by a sworn police officer, who had to review the 'evidence' and sign off on it. Turns out that a spate of tickets were issued when the officer was on vacation. Testimony revealed that the officer frequently just signed a bunch of blank forms and let LM fill them in. Another interesting aspect is that LM fiercely resisted having their hardware and software examined by the plaintiffs. In fact, they threatened the law firm with a suit if they persisted in pressing for discovery of those items. People who have fought their red light tickets in court and who wanted the design details and calibration records for the camera that photographed them were routinely refused this information, even though it's vital to a defense. Another interesting fact revealed at trial was that the cameras were NOT placed at 'the most dangerous intersections' as the city had been contending all along, but at intersections whose yellow light intervals were revealed to be set far shorter than state guidelines. As has been discussed here in other posts, the yellow light duration is a major factor in whether a light will be run or not.

    These cameras, at least as operated in San Diego, are a scam. They ticket innocent people, are unexaminable for a defense, and are just a way for the city to rake in big money.

    Here's the web site operated by the attorneys who got these cameras shut down: Red Light Lawyers [redlightlawyers.com]
  • Not of the DC cameras but of a similar system in Germany.

    When I received a ticket for my wife's vehicle running a red light, I was pretty upset with her. It was a brand new red sports car and she was obviously driving recklessly. The ticket arrived with a 500DM fine (about $350 at the time) and did not include a copy of the picture.

    I was livid so I called the telephone number on the ticket and spoke with the clerk. She verified the license plates and the type of vehicle. Sending out a copy of the picture would have cost an extra 30DM so I asked her to describe the driver.

    Sure enough, it was me behind the wheel and I was taking it in for a service that day. Damn.

    Bottom Line: The cameras work. I deserved the ticket and it always reminded me to drive more carefully. Very few mistakes. They even use them in Germany to measure following distance and speeds on the Autobahn and send out ENORMOUS tickets.

  • I came across this much more informative investigation of D.C.'s traffic cameras a few weeks ago. It's heavy on facts and figures, and hammers home the observation that an extra second of yellow light is at least as good at promoting good behavior, but much less lucrative for the local government and the contracting firm.

    Adding an extra second of yellow light only promotes ""good behavior" because people have an extra second to run the yellow light. The key is that you aren't changing their bad behavior (the yellow light if there for people who don't have time to stop, not to speed up and rush the light which is what this is catching 99% of the time), you are just making their bad bahavior within the law. Behavior does not become "good" because it's within the law. Good behavior consists of stopping at a yellow light at all times unless you cannot stop safely.
  • At last, we have a solution to the real problem plaguing our legal system: cute girls who cry when they pulled over and thus get away with speeding, running red lights, and occasionally murder.
  • I wish they'd get those speeding cameras here in my state. Maybe then when millions of people start getting tickets for breaking the speed limit there'll be enough support to actually start putting reasonable speed limits in place.

    Then maybe we can get the cops to focus on people failing to keep right except to pass.

    A wide open left lane for rich people who can afford to pay the speeding tickets - now there's something I'd like to see.

  • by zulux (112259) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @12:31PM (#3465856) Homepage Journal
    Almst all stated have a document stored at the "Department of Highways/Paths/Roadways" that list recommended yellow-light times vs speed. Usually they are quite conservitive: here in Washington State the WADOT recommends 7 seconds for a 35 MPH zone. Of courss, light arn't set this way. Video tape the light in question, bring document and present in court. You win!

    Oh, and supoenna the cop just to make his life miserable. Especially if he's a motorcycle cop. If if the cop is a chick - maby you could strike up a conversation about hand-cuffs afterwards.

  • by garver (30881) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @12:37PM (#3465873)

    I live in NJ. People here go until they see red. Period. This is the only place where I feel I need to look both ways before going through a recently green light.

    Extending the yellow would have the same effect as extending green. That's all.

    <rant>As for rear-ending... I'm originally from another a state where people stop when they see yellow (imagine!), and I visit frequently. Hence, I'm not in the habit and I don't want to get into the habit of running orange lights. So, I stop when I see yellow and have time... A good way to get the finger in Jersey and maybe "BMW" stamped onto the back of my Toyota . I've gotten pretty good at hopping the curb to get out of the way. And the worse part is that NJ has no-fault insurance! If those bastards hit me, my insurance company pays for my damages and my premiums go up!</rant>

    • As someone who has to commute to work in a very densely populated area of New Jersey... I can fully agree with this.

      Yes, we are assinine drivers. Get over it. They are worse in New York, and even much worse anywhere else where driver's licenses are as easy to get as filling out a form. For all the complaints you hear about Jersey drivers, we have some very strict requirements to get a legal drivers license here. (to fabricate one, however, is quite easy... even the real ones look fake) Basically, the only thing they do not test you for is highway driving... and some would argue that they should be doing that too. If you've been driving a few years in New Jersey without any serious accidents or a lot of "near-misses"... you might be an asshole, but consider yourself a skilled driver.

      Which brings us to light changing cycles.

      In this state, there is an actual danger of someone forcing you to the side of the road and beating you with a heavy object if you piss them off on the road. You don't have to drive in fear, but just don't do anything too stupid or dangerous. Dangerous... in this state of heavy traffic, impatient drivers, and all kinds of weird light cycles that make no sense whatsoever... includes hitting the brakes hard for a yellow light.

      Regarding insurance... and yes, it is no-fault... it would be much wiser to get a non-points-offense (and therefore non-insurance-surcharge) $300 ticket rather than pay a $250 deductible and pay higher insurance rates for the next three years. The former is less than half of the latter.

      Also, if you stop for every yellow light in this state, you'll never get anywhere. I hit traffic just to go to the supermarket on a late Saturday afternoon.

      Finally... and this is a good one... while NJ doesn't have cameras at intersections, it does have cameras at EZ-Pass toll lanes all up and down the state's famous toll roads and even more famous river crossings. (New Jersey Turnpike, George Washington Bridge, etc) However, ever since they installed EZ-Pass, they can catch toll violators (either people who don't have EZ-Pass or people that are going faster than the 5mph limit) speeding through the lanes... but they don't follow up on the tickets they send out! As a result, if you go through an EZ-Pass lane in this state and you get a ticket for it, you might as well not pay it. If they can't handle EZ-Pass fines here, what makes you think they can handle cameras on the traffic signals?

      These kind of things make me want to move to NYC and leave the car behind entirely. Late night subway rides in Harlem are not nearly as scary as getting to and from work in New Jersey.
  • Once and for all, will people please note that driving is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. So it is not subject to all those constitutional rights hoopla, and the "due process" can be summarized as expediously as possible by the proper use of technology. No one blinks at the mention of putting event recorders in aircraft and locomotives, so one should not blink either at the same concept applied to automobiles.

    After all, the automobile killed more people than wars (including those against drugs and/or terrorism)!

  • by EvilStein (414640) <spam.pbp@net> on Sunday May 05, 2002 @12:45PM (#3465897) Homepage
    Link is here [news10.net]....

    And here's the text...
    Red light camera tickets have temporarily been suspended throughout Sacramento county. On Tuesday, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced the break, which will remain in place until the system can be reviewed.

    The hiatus in the use of the devices was called because of a possible timing discrepancy in the cameras. Under current law, drivers are given 0.20 of a second after a traffic signal turns red before the camera takes a picture.

    Some questions have arisen about whether or not the cameras are actually set correctly to provide the delay. The manual for the cameras specifies that delays of more than 0.15 of a second but less than 0.20 can be rounded to the higher number, meaning that some motorists may have been cited while still within the allowable limit.

    The questions about the timing of when the photos will cause hundreds of red light violations to be dismissed. This is the second time there has been a mass dismissal of red light cases. In 1999, it was ruled that drivers were not properly notified of the existence of the cameras, forcing more than a thousand tickets to be thrown out.
  • Old news in the UK (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @01:19PM (#3466009) Homepage

    These things are endemic in the UK, both lights and speed cameras. Some consequences and quirks:

    • Drivers learn where they are and how sensitive they are extremely quickly. The major effect they have is to produce zones where drivers brake frantically, creep along for fifty yards (for speed cameras), then accelerate sharply away in annoyance.
    • They are used discretionally. The older flash-and-film cameras only have film put in depending on whether they need to meet quota this month (just as the police used to do random blitzes with radar guns on the last day of the month to make quota). The newer digital ones can be tweaked remotely to crank up the tickets, and the really new image recognition ones are pretty smart. They read license plates, and flash them up on big signs along with the speed as a warning.
    • Here's an interesting angle to try: plead the fifth. If you're sent a letter saying you've been caught and ticketed, insist that they prove that it was you driving. When they demand you identify yourself, roll out that good old amendment. This defence is currently going through the European courts.
    • Mostly, don't sweat it. The cameras only hand out the same number of tickets as the police (they're carefully tweaked to ensure that), while at the same time being less discriminatory. They don't (yet) ticket people on the basis of "Driving while black", or let them off for being "Hot and flirty in charge of a vehicle.". That's a good thing, right?
  • In response to complaints about this, and lobbying from the Southern California Auto Club, California recently enacted SB 667 [ca.gov], which requires that yellow light timings be no less than those in the CALTRANS traffic manual [ca.gov] where red-light cameras are in use. Drivers also have the right to see the photos, and the system has to be run by a government agency, not a contractor. These rules were enacted in response to the San Diego mess.

    The standard CALTRANS yellow light timings aren't that long, though; the shortest is 3.1 seconds. These increase with speed, but not by much. As one of the original articles points out, an extra second of yellow will cut red light violations down substantially.

  • by aeloff (131226) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @01:29PM (#3466047)
    It's truly disappointing that these devices are being used to rake in cash in the name of public safety, especially when the same input data could be used to make the interesections work "better", e.g. minimize the possibility that a car will run a yellow, decrease or increase (to prevent speeding) the stop time at intersections.

    We need to finally be beyond the era where a driver has to wait at an empty intersection at 3AM for a light to change.

  • Averaging Cameras (Score:2, Interesting)

    by neutronic (67558)
    We have some interesting new ones over here in the UK now - they take note of license plates as you drive down the road, and if they see a license plate further on but sooner than it could possibly have arrived there if it was obeying the limit then it notes your plate down and takes a photo.

    So you can do 30mph in the 30mph camera zone, do 50 to the next camera, slow down to 30 again and whallop you'll get hammered.

    Presumably it's the technology that TrafficMaster licensed from the police, now that it's been refined and its reliable they are using it to enforce the limits in a much more "reliable" way than assuming people will be good and obey the speed limit when they aren't being watched.

    We have tons of the red-light cameras here in London and large quantities of speed cameras.

    I don't have a problem with them personally, as someone else has said on the thread - yellow means stop unless it is dangerous to do so. Yellow doesn't mean you can still go, it's as good as Red. I still see lots of people using the rule:

    Green means go.
    Yellow means go.
    Red means go if you think you can.

    Lights and speed limits are there for safety folks, and while I would disagree with agencies from manipulating the lights in order to encourage higher "failings", fact is, if there is always a minimum yellow period then you've got no excuse, sorry, if that light is yellow then you are obligated to stop, immediately, no questions and no arguments, unless it is unsafe to do so.

    I don't see Tailgating as a valid excuse either, my wifes solution to tailgaters is to speed up to put some distance between them - she hasn't yet twigged that this just means that they'll speed up themselves. The proper solution is to slow down so that you can drive within your normal tolerances given the distance between you and the vehicle behind - if that means you're doing 5mph because they're bumpering you, tough, they'll soon get annoyed and burn rubber past you (which becomes even more satisfying if they then nab themselves a speeding ticket from the camera moments later down the road :) ).

    Matt.
  • We have had them in the Greater Vancouver area for the past three years now and they have done an extremely good job on catching those who run the red lights.

    One such place near my place (88th and King George Highway) has seen accident reductions and it has been classified as a "high risk" zone by ICBC. They have also been proven to be helpful in other parts of the King George Highway and in parts of Vancouver.

    In most cases, they come via mail and you can just claim you never got the ticket (just like ol' jury duty). Yet in other cases I have heard of, the RCMP/Municipal Police will actually come to your door with the ticket.

    The system does actually work pretty decent and nobody has really attacked it.

    Photo Radar however...
  • I do this apparently amazing and rather unheard of thing when I come to red light: I stop. I know, it may be a little hard for some people to understand, but I actually put forth the courtesy to stop at a light that is red and, thus, means "stop". Of course, the number of people that I saw run the red light outside my office window for the last four years leads me to believe most other people don't think this way.

    C'mon, really. Don't think you could just leave 2 minutes earlier and not speed through every yellow/red light you come to? Pedestrians, people on bikes, and people who do actually follow a couple of the laws our fine government have come up with would appreciate it. And you know what? This way I don't have to worry about little cameras on poles, as I know they don't apply to me (unlike the fools who think red lights don't apply to them).
  • I used to live in DC. I saw an accident one day, well I looked over and saw the end result of it anyway. A person had run a 'stale' redlight that I was stopped at and traffic had begun to move through the green. The red light runner hit a car in the intersection and totalled it. Luckily there was no passenger else they would have been dead. The drivers of both cars were okay, but it was a real mess. There was no camera, but many witnesses.

    In other areas I have seen the cameras and we have them in San Francisco too. They are becomming more and more popular across the nation as well. What are our alternatives when people have stopped obeying trafic rules?

    Each day on my way to work, I see people driving over teh speed limit. Not 5 or 10 miles over but 20 miles or more. If the limit is 65 anmd I am doing 70-75, people are passing me at 80 to 100 at least! They switch lanes without using turn signals. When I get home and am crossing the street in the cross walk, people will swerve to miss me and other pedestrians but WONT slow down. People run stop signs and I have seen people speed up at stop signs cause they see cars coming up to the intersection and they refuse to slow. So what would you recommend society as a whole do to protect people?

    A picture is worth a 1000 words. The only flaw in the cameras is WHO is driving the car. If you can prove that you were not driving the car then you can get off the ticket. Of course you will be required to tell who was driving the car. This can get messy when a kid takes out the parents car and the parents get the ticket. But it is nothing compared to what car rentals are doing with GPS and tracking where you take the car and how fast you go in it too.

    Banks have been using cameras for getting bank robbers for years so why should this be any different? Its not like someone is using a sattelite imaging system to see who you are screwing in your bedroom .. yet....

  • The home of eternal gridlock anyhow, was one of the earlier adopters of these. I walk 2 blocks from the subway, to work every day. And I see at least 1-2 redlight runners a day, at Mission and Spear. At least.

    As a pedestrian, I'm all for every kind of enforcement imaginable.

    Tho one of my biggest peeves, is bus drivers. Those clowns need to be racking up points just like non-city employees.
  • They don't work. Statistically, they have *absolutely no effect* on the numbers of killed or seriously injured in regions that are rolling them out. It's purely revenue generation.

    Last year the number of accidents dropped by around 30% and the cameras were acclaimed as a massive success to all. Unfortunately this year the accident rate is up 100% and they are now saying oh yes we have peaks and troughs in the accident rates but of course the cameras are working.

    It's clear that any effect on road safety that the cameras have is negligible.

  • It makes for an interesting story. In 1998, the state legislature was trying to pass this law, and I went up there and spoke against them (all the orwellian stuff...blah blah blah.) I, and a few others, in speaking against the bill, had a pretty good effect, and so the bill was amended to

    a.) put a really, really big sign indicating that the intersection has the thingies

    b.) let your first red light ticket be a freebie

    It was the second that was the stroke of genius. See, most people are not going to run the red light more than twice...and the damn cameras are so expensive, that a good part of the ticket revenue was going to pay for them. So without a collectible fine on the first ticket, there was a guarantee that little revenue was going to come in.

    Suddenly, we were able to get everyone to say that not enough money is coming in and then we were able to say "then clearly, this is not about safety now is it?" Then the camera makers said that if the bill was passed, Ohio would not see a single camera because there's no money to be made to pay for them. The bill passed the house almost barely, and the senate wasn't even gonna pick up the albatross.

    In the end, a few brave jurisdictions, like dayton and toledo, put them in anyway, because ohio cities are empowered to do whatever they want if the state hasnt prohibited them from doing so. It still is not a great situation for the cities, because they should have state law to guide them. Oh well.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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