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CAMERAS: If no one breaks the law, they will go away

Letter by Jess A. Treloar, Puyallup on Feb. 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm with 14 Comments »
February 3, 2011 12:06 pm

Governments that install traffic cameras are not out any money unless not enough tickets are issued.

Society is glued together by the moral or legal norm that we all agree to live within.
If we all came to a complete stop and waited three seconds as stated in the RCW, the cities/counties that have put cameras in will pull them as they would cost too much to operate.

Instead of screaming about the windfall to cash-strapped municipalities, let us scream about the scofflaws.

When I started driving in 1971, yellow meant “Prepare to stop.” Why aren’t we doing that?
I have driven back and forth to work in Puyallup, Fife and Tacoma since the cameras have been coming on line. I have yet to receive a notice of infraction.

I wish more people would, “Prepare to stop.”

Leave a comment Comments → 14
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    I wish more people would be careful and look around before entering the intersection, green light or not….

  2. I think all drivers should take note of when the Traffic ahead is green and immediatly start to brake in anticipation of the light suddenly turning yellow then red before they can blink their eyes.Be sure to stop at least 8 feet back of the wide white stripe across the road,lest you receive a ticket for running a red light.The people that do receive tickets are not always deserving of this way of making money for the cities and counties.Maybe a better way would be to eliminate all signals and make all intersections,4 way stops.That would give real meaning to the Policeman who would be called a Traffic Cop to oversee the job of keeping traffic moving smoothly!

  3. ronniew says:

    sincere — Lights don’t suddenly turn from green to yellow to red before you can blink. Or stop. And, the cameras only flash if you enter the intersection after the light has already turned red. If you aren’t speeding there is enough time to either get through the light or stop behind the line.

  4. What people seem to fail to realize is that appealing an unfair or unjust ticket from an automated system is a (de facto) fine often greater than the fine levied if the ticket is not appealed. This situation disinclines those wronged to stand up for what is right.

    Automated systems, however well monitored and reviewed by human intelligence, are inherently more prone to systemic failures than human intelligence.

    The cameras are, quite simply, an unfair and unjust tax upon the citizenry, and I hope the citizenry rising up against them are successful.

  5. There would be a lot less to complain about if we had a law enforcing a set yellow time, like the semi-typical 4 seconds.

    There are documented cases where cities have reduced the yellow time to increase the number of tickets generated.

  6. bobcat1a says:

    Lots of excuses for violating the law; just like nobody in prison is really guilty.

  7. Traffic cameras make believers out of otherwise negligent drivers.

  8. Novelist3 says:

    “Automated systems, however well monitored and reviewed by human intelligence, are inherently more prone to systemic failures than human intelligence.”

    Where is your proof of this statement?

  9. scooter6139 says:

    In my opinion, a camera system is inherently faulty because it automatically makes a false assumption: that the driver and the car owner are the same person. Imagine if a police officer, sitting on the side of the road with a laser/radar gun just wrote down the license number of the speeding vehicle and sent the ticket to the vehicle owner? Would there be an outcry from the citizenry then?

  10. slugoxyz says:

    Zaqar, the digital images are reviewed by humans for errors or flaws. It’s not so automated that humans aren’t there in the mix. Let’s face it, if you don’t run the light, you won’t get your photo taken. Ronniew is correct. The light won’t flash unless your entire car is over the stop bar after the light turns red. Not your bumper, not half of your car. Photos are reviewed for errors by humans. While there is evidence that red light cameras (RLC) may cause rear end collisions, the truth is that the person running into the car in front of them was inattentive and caused that accident. On arterials where pedestrians, kids, pets, etc. are present, drivers must be prepared to stop suddenly. RLC have also proven to reduce T-bone accidents and more importantly, there is residual effects (studies ongoing) that says the effects of the RLC monitored intersection can reduce red light violations at non-monitored intersections. Most yellow lights are set at 10% of the speed. 3 seconds in a 30mph zone, 4.5 seconds in a 45mph zone etc. Jurisdictions that cheat the timing, ultimately get caught and have lost their right to use RLC (Irvine CA, Montgomery County VA). However, most RLC don’t generate much more than they cost to maintain. Some cities make more than others but RLC are hardly the cash cow opponents think they are. Most of the monies earned from RLC citations go to improved safety (in Lakewood anyway) in school zones and not the general fund or the pockets of… who’s pocket would that go into conspiracy theorists? Certainly not mine.

  11. slugoxyz says:

    Oh yeah! Effective use of RLC make themselves extinct. If an intersection with a RLC exists honestly for years, eventually, people comply and the camera doesn’t come close to paying for itself. So, if you truly hate RLC, you should just comply. That way, the jurisdiction will be forced to take the cameras down or move them. It is expensive to move them so usually, they just go away. There was a jurisdiction in NC that had 10 intersections equipped for RLC but they only had 2 or 3 cameras. The city would rotate the cameras. Red light running went down at all 10 intersections. Brilliant! Is it cheating to force people to comply? Is it cheating to force you to wear a seatbelt, helmet or not talk on your cell phone? No! It is forcing you to be safe because you aren’t smart enough to do it on your own! I know you’re late for work or you want to get home or you need to get to the store. But you’ll only lose 30 seconds to a minute average if you just slow down a bit and comply with the lighted intersection. What’s a minute for your life? Still, you have rights. If you still chose to run that red light, think of the citation as a toll. A hefty one (I think they’re around $140 in Fife) but it is your right to run that light. Honestly, if cities could get wealthy setting up RLC, don’t you think they’d all be doing it? There are a lot of cities hurting for money right now. If a RLC could bail them out, they’d have RLC at every lighted intersection they could. It would look like a U2 concert with all the flashes. Nope. Not a money maker.

  12. Novelist3: the statement is axiomatic, which is to say the statement’s “proof” is itself. Further explanation may help you understand this: human intelligence is not systemic in nature (except as represented by some of various theories about it), so systemic failure is not inherent in it.

    scooter6139: I prefer the brevity and simplicity of your argument (call it a comment if that pleases you more) to mine.

    slugoxyz: Just to illustrate the point with one real world example, consider this: I used to regularly make right turns on red at an onto a street monitored by a school zone speed camera. The vehicle I was driving was 35 feet long with height to match. My vehicle was repeatedly photographed by the school zone speed camera. This puzzled me at first, because I was going well under 20 miles an hour (the school zone speed limit; I was typically going 10 mph, 15 at most). I came up with some theories to explain this after I observed two additional things: 1) every time I was photographed, vehicles behind me on the main street were speeding through the intersection after and as I completed my turn; 2) after speeding through the intersection when I had completed the turn, the vehicles would slow down and drive in the “shadow” of my vehicle, that is, the area protected from the camera by my vehicle’s bulk. One of my theories was that the cameras were being tripped by the speeding vehicle, then photographing mine, which was blocking the actual speeding vehicle from the camera’s field of view. Now, I don’t claim to know whether the drivers of those vehicles were doing this intentionally, or simply belatedly realizing they were speeding through a camera-controlled school zone, but the effect was the same–I was photographed for their infraction. Another theory, which I gave less credence, was that the side of the bus might well have exceeded twenty as I completed the turn, despite the monitored wheels and speedometer not exceeding 15…because I noticed the other vehicles speeding through the intersection, I never bothered to calculate the physics of that theory to see if really offered a potential explanation.

    I’ve never gotten a camera-related ticket, from those incidents or any others, but the point is that I could’ve, and I would’ve had to dedicate resources in an amount equal to or greater than the cost of simply paying the fine to contest such a ticket, and the ticket I contested might well not have been revoked even after I contested it. So I would be required to gamble on paying (in time and other resources, if not in money) an amount at least double that of the ticket simply to contest it, even though I would go into the gamble knowing for a fact the ticket was undeserved.

    About your other point, that humans review the video, note that review doesn’t reduce the built-in potential for system flaws and failures, but rather provides inconclusive oversight for those flaws, an oversight itself subject to _human_ error, corruption, etc. In short, human review, while it may decrease the potential for automated “errors”, increases the potential for human errors of various kinds. I’m not sure of the final balance between those two potentials.

  13. pazzo242 says:

    If jurisdiction used the cameras for their original intended use, as a solution to problem intersections, I would defend them with gusto. But that has not been the case. They are placed in almost every intersection, such as the City of Puyallup does, for one purpose–to generate income for the City. Example; Shaw Road, both at Pioneer and Main–both brand new intersection for Shaw Rd yet cameras immediately went up. There are no statistics to say these intersections are problems. That is why I have difficulty with these cameras and how they are being abused. These cameras are a means of taxation and when you happen to have a minor mind mishap, and there is no one in the intersection, let’s see if you still feel the same way when that ticket comes in the mail. We all make mistakes but the cameras don’t care, simple as that. A police officer can use discretion as to whether the infraction was worthy of a ticket, the cameras don’t have that same ability. I have never gotten a camera generated ticket and hopefully I never will, but I can sympathize with those who have. If the violation is blatant, then sure they deserve a ticket. I can tell you that a camera isn’t going to stop an accident from happening, despite what some of you think.

  14. artiepuy says:

    At last, a little clarity. I’ve been wondering what people were talking about when they referred to RLC’s “all over Puyallup”. There are only seven.

    Those cameras that sit on top of the traffic light arms? Those are not RED light cameras. They are GREEN light cameras. They tell the computer that controls the traffic light that someone is in the lane, and it schedules a green light for that car. If you look down at newly paved intersections, you’ll notice that there are no longer cutout lines in the pavement with sensors beneath them, it’s done using cameras now.

    RLC’s come from behind you, not from in front of you. They sit in large boxes about ten feet off the ground, not on light standards twenty feet off the ground.

    I imagine that they also are probably used to count traffic, which in turn would feed the congestion indicators on your GPS, smart phone, or map software.

    Everyone that I talk to knows at least one person who has received an RLC ticket. Ask around, do you know anyone who has received one anywhere other than at one of the seven marked intersections in Puyallup?

    I was taught that if I always act as if a police car was following me, I would probably never get a traffic ticket. Discretion is a wonderful gift from a police officer, but remember that it is a gift. We should stop thinking that it’s a right.

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