Monday, July 05, 2010

Red-light camera backlash brewing

Following up on the Texas Tribune's publication of statewide red-light camera revenues, the writer Theodore Kim at the Dallas News has a pair of notable stories (thanks to the reader who notified me) on the growing public backlash against red-light cameras, highlighted most recently by a plebiscite in College Station to take them down.
A grassroots backlash against the cameras is growing, says the News:
In Texas, College Station voters last fall forced their city to take down its cameras. Houston opponents say they have enough petition signatures to put the cameras to a vote this fall. And the Texas House of Representatives last year passed a measure that would have phased out the cameras. Though it failed in the Senate, camera opponents say they plan to try again.

"There is a backlash, for sure," said state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, who co-sponsored the anti-camera push. "City budgeters are counting on these fines as a revenue stream and simply using the argument of safety as cover."
Don't know how I missed the College Station vote. The News could have added that in 2008, Lubbock discontinued use of cameras after accidents increased at intersections using them. The article also provides no update on provocative litigation (which I assume is still pending), where a judge said in December 2008 that the companies operating cameras in Texas weren't properly licensed. The Dallas News linked to the class action suits when they were filed, but I don't know where they are in the process and can't find any recent coverage.

The News also found that lobby reports filed with the state:
do not include money that the companies may have spent on lobbying efforts in cities such as College Station and Houston, which have grappled with local ballot initiatives related to red-light cameras.

Jim Ash, leader of College Station's anti-camera movement, contends that American Traffic Solutions spent a significant sum to keep red-light cameras in the city.

George Hittner, vice president and general counsel for American Traffic Solutions, said the company does not view its advocacy efforts as lobbying but as "more of an education program."
Finally, at the end of the main story, a lobbyist for red-light cameras made this interesting argument:
Jim McGrath, a consultant who works for a group tied to Houston's camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions Inc., said red-light cameras are easy targets for criticism. After all, he said, they raise the specter of Big Brother and "are something everyone can identify with."

But he added, "If these cameras were catching child molesters, we would insist on having them on every corner. ... Critics who say this is just a money grab are really saying that the city of Houston is being too efficient at enforcing the law."
Awhile back I'd posed the second-hand question, "if it were possible to construct a machine that would allow detection of every law violation and ensure 100% enforcement, should the machine be built?" Red-light cameras are just such a machine aimed at one crime (out of thousands) at a particular location. Judging from the College Station vote, the general public appears far less than certain 100% enforcement of the law is a good idea.


john said...

"Minority Report" movie had them catching folks, pre-crime. Screw that.
There needs to be an injury or damage to BE a crime, really even to be a civil case. But few in the lawyers' "union" cares about that much, anymore.
Those red-light cameras never had a law, were always an abomination, and the people of TX get screwed by the rich gov runners more than many States. But the "news" isn't, and folks can't realize they need to stand up.
I'm tired of those in power (and their contractors) getting rich off crap that interrupts citizens trying to have a life and make a living. I'm tired of having to watch over my shoulder. I want a taser-proof suit. A Dallas lawyer told me, "you can't win in Jersey Village." Then why is it even a court, when EVERYONE knows it's kangaroo. And they are NOT the only one. Go pro se to court, be left to the end of day.
ARROGANCE, GREED, and many folks CANNOT be voted out, as it's not an elected office. Think communitarianism.

Anonymous said...

There was an article in the Amarillo GN a couple of weeks or so ago, headlined something like, "Red light cameras bring in the green." The article examined statistically the evidence as far as safety is concerned. The statistics were inconclusive. Significantly more rear end collisions, somewhat fewer side collisions, very slightly more injuries since the installation of the cameras.

What was not inconclusive was the green that came into city coffers.

The mayor says we need to give it five more years. Yesterday's AGN editorialized strongly in favor of keeping the cameras.

Rev. Charles Tulia

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a traffic device that is designed to make intersections safer, but the evidence just is not there. Sure, these cameras may reduce collisions in the intersection, but many increase rear-end crashes due to people locking up their brakes to avoid the yellow light. My own experience with these lights included a ticket I received for driving through a red light at the direction of a police officer controlling the intersection. The three photos with my citation clearly showed the officer directing traffic. It took four months to get this ticket dismissed. Efficient use of public time and money? Ha!

Anonymous said...

IMPO Most traffic laws, red lights and speed limits could be revoked with zero effect on public safety.

Anonymous said...

I find this statement by the Camera companies to be blatantly offesive:

"If these cameras were catching child molesters, we would insist on having them on every corner."

No, to catch the highest population of child-molesters they would have to put a camera in every HOME in the nation, as most child molesters are members of the child's family and the offense usually happens at home. Poor remark by the company, pathetic individual.

Anonymous said...

I am fine with the cameras. Being that revenues are down, it seems logical to pass a red light tax. For the privilege of running a red light, you only pay $75. Seems like a bargain to me. I put this on the same level as gambling revenues. If you don't want to pay the red light tax, don't run a red light. Pretty simple really.

Funny that most of the red light camera haters are Republicans...the party of individual responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Just more money generating, privacy invading bullmess. Every little chip hammered out of the Constitution brings us all one step closer to Orwell's universe. I'll take freedom over safety any day of the week.

Rev.charlestulia said...

Yeah anon 9:27, stop if it's yellow in front of you (the only way to be sure you won't run the red) and get whammed by the driver behind you who wants to make the light.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Some simple people think that these only affect a lawbreaker...don't run a light and your "ok".

Gee if it was only that & learn...

Some cities have had cameras ticket on yellow & not red.
Plus some people have printed plate #'s then ran red lights with someone else's plate numbers.

Mary Moody said...

The TX Hospitals receive 49% of these funds. Why aren't they making a big fuss about this like the did the TX DRL? Obviously GREED is a big part!

Anonymous said...

When I read the report about Austin light cams I was upset because the cams are not evenly placed throughout the city. The lights focus only on a few intersections, and many of the lights are at the same maze of intersections where Ben White, 360, Lamar, and West Gate all converge. Of course, this is also the same neighborhood that I live in. There are many, many apartment complexes around here and I cannot help but think that it is only a few of us Austin residents, those of us in this neighborhood, who are bearing the brunt of red light tickets. Put all the cameras in one section and those of us who have to travel through those intersections several times a day are more likely to be caught running red lights.

So I've just started taking a new route. I go 10mph over the limit in order to make it through the next light (I know how they are timed). There's no camera, so I'm alright.

Either the city can place cameras everywhere in the name of fairness, or they can keep them in only a few neighborhoods and those of us clever enough will learn the routes safest for speeding and running lights.

Anonymous said...

I used to support red light camera laws until I found out what they actually are. I was shocked to find out that these cameras are not there to punish those that run red lights. The law is set up to generate revenue. It does not leave you any legal rights. The only fact you can even question is do you own the car. It makes no difference whether you were actually even in the car when the violation took place.
In my case, I have had a driver’s license for 48 years and have never been ticked for a red light violation. I have lived with 6 blocks of the red light camera in question every since it was installed three years ago. I am well aware of it's location. I pass it at least twice a day. I can prove I was not driving the car. I had loaned it to relatives who were visiting from out of town. I am not sure who was actually driving it. It all does not matter. If you own the car you are guilty by law and pay the fine. Period. How does that stop me from committing a violation I have never committed? If you don’t pay the fine you cannot register the car the following year.