Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Red light cameras are intrusive, annoying and necessary

Post by Brian O'Neill on Dec. 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm with No Comments »
December 4, 2013 4:54 pm

Several years ago I was I was running late for my first shift with a new department. I made a right turn at a red light, fervently hoping none of my new coworkers were close enough to view my rolling stop.

Weeks later, I fished out an envelope mailed to me from my employer. The $100 ticket inside was not only an unpleasant surprise, but it was also my introduction to Redflex.

Although I had heard about red light cameras, I had no idea that I had just rolled through an intersection equipped with one of Redflex’s infamous new contraptions. It was an expensive reminder that Big Brother is watching.

One might think this would sour my opinion on Redflex’s camera systems, which have been showing up at more and more troublesome intersections in our region. But that is not the case.

Though my own experience has made me hyper-aware of Redflex intersections, the cameras appear to be working as an effective deterrent against the type of aggressive driving most likely to cause severe collisions. In fact, the Tacoma Police Department confirmed this view in a story reported in Saturday’s TNT.

Vehicles pass under the eye of a red-light camera at South 72nd Street and Pacific Avenue on Wednesday in Tacoma. LUI KIT WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Read more here:
Vehicles pass under a red-light camera at South 72nd Street and Pacific LUI KIT WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The city has seven Redflex cameras at collision hotspots, and the traffic unit, which is responsible for reviewing the footage and issuing citations, has discovered that both the number and severity of collisions are down at these locations.

Obviously not everyone is a fan – critics such as Tim Eyman cite the $124 cost as an unfair tax. That is not a fair assessment. While I did not enjoy discovering the ticket in my mailbox, there was little doubt that the car in the picture drifting through that right turn without stopping was indeed mine.

For all of the criticism, it is hard to imagine an alternative solution likely to change motorists poor driving habits. This is especially true for those fortunate people who have never experienced a traumatic car crash or watched a loved one suffer after being struck by a reckless driver.

Like it or not, if we want the streets to be safe (or at least safer), it will mean that a momentary lapse behind the wheel might result in an unpleasant notice from the police department.

But isn’t that better than a phone call from the emergency room?

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