Letters to the Editor

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CAMERAS: Safety cameras save lives

Letter by Paul and Sue Oberhauser, Somerset, Ohio on May 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm with 29 Comments »
May 23, 2011 3:00 pm

We are writing in response to the recent media coverage of traffic safety cameras in the area to express our support for this life-saving technology. Throughout the country, traffic safety cameras deter red-light running, slow traffic on our streets and save lives.

Our passion for traffic safety stems from the deep, heart-felt sorrow and pain experienced in 2002 when our daughter, Sarah, was killed by a man who ran a red light and crashed into her car. We believe her death and the 30,000 deaths from fatal crashes every year should be a call to action for all Americans.

Too often, the media create the perception that it is permissible to run red lights or speed through our streets with no concern for recourse, when we as a society, should be fighting for the exact opposite.

Traffic safety cameras are tools used by law enforcement officials to deter people from speeding and running red lights, which is why we have joined with law enforcement and safety advocates in supporting this life-saving technology.

The use of these cameras sends a clear message: There is no excuse for disregarding traffic safety laws. If you do, you will be held accountable for putting yourself and others at risk. We welcome any technology that will keep people safe and prevent more tragic losses for our family and families across the country.

(Paul and Sue Oberhauser are co-chairs of the Traffic Safety Coalition.)

Leave a comment Comments → 29
  1. Pecksbadboy says:

    Sorry for you loss.

    Sorry also for your misinformation about red light cameras and actual lives saved. Please don’t try to spread your misguided information here.

    Next you will say bridge tolls and paid parking meters are good for business in this area too.

  2. Very sorry for your loss…however, having the yellow lights shortened in order to drive revenue through red light cameras only increases the risks…

  3. Paul and Sue Oberhauser, Somerset, Ohio. Here in Pierce co the county is not permitted to photograph the drivers’ face which the majority of the offenders are well aware of. When they appear in court all they have to do is claim they were not driving when the incident occurs so then the ticket is dismissed so it doesn’t prevent anything. In fact all it does is tie up the courts and cost the taxpayer more than what it takes in.

  4. live4fish says:

    Can you prove that yellow lights have been shortened are are you just spouting misguided information here as well. I’m all for a fact against something, but having read most of these RLC hate comments, I haven’t seen anybody PROVE that yellow lights have been shortened.

  5. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    live4fish –

    Yes, assertions that yellow lights have been shortened should be based on fact.

    So should industry assertions that cameras save lives. The industry and it’s on-line shills assert that cameras make us safer – so let us see the evidence of that too.

  6. I agree with you, live4fish.

    TMell says, “When they appear in court all they have to do is claim they were not driving when the incident occurs so then the ticket is dismissed so it doesn’t prevent anything.”

    Translation: When they appear in court all they have to do is lie.

    So, your conclusion is that since they can lie their way out of the fine, why bother to attempt to enforce the law?

    I’m thinking that even if they do lie their way out of the fine, the experience is inconvenient enough that it may cause them to pay more attention to their poor driving habits, to avoid yet another trip to traffic court.

  7. live4fish says:


    I agree. I’m not for or against the cameras as of yet, but I haven’t seen any evidence of cameras saving or not saving lives either. I’ve seen a bunch of people post biased reports done by an agency for or against cameras in the first place, but nothing past that.

    I’m just noting that, as of late, people started spouting out saying that yellow lights are shortened. Nobody has proved it or disproved it. I have no stake in this fight, but would love to read an article or comment based in truth and fact come out of this paper.

  8. Do you also need evidence that any enforcement of our traffic laws saves lives, Rollo_Tomassi?

  9. itwasntmethistime says:

    I don’t know how I would go about proving it because I don’t have a stopwatch capable of timing a yellow light with the degree of accuracy necessary to hold up in court, nor do I know how long the yellow light was before the camera was installed a few years ago, but what I do know is that the yellow light turning from Phillips Rd onto Steilacoom Blvd in Lakewood is really short. Noticeably short, as in “what the heck” short.

    I’m in favor of keeping the camera installed at that location because it has curbed the major red-light-running problem we had for years, but I strongly opposed to tampering with the yellow light to increase revenue.

  10. slugoxyz says:

    People tend to make the accusation that yellow light sequencing gets shortened to increase revenue but what is really happening is that people are jumping on yellow lights further and further out because that becomes their “norm”. “I made it from 200 feet out, I can make it from 250”. The problem is that these people eventually run out of room. They are the very reason for red light cameras. It’s why lengthening the yellow doesn’t work because habitualization makes people jump the yellow that much further out. The general standard is 10% of the speed limit in seconds. So, in a 35mph zone, the standard would be 3.5 seconds of yellow. In Lakewood, the sequence is 4-4.5 seconds at Phillips and Steilacoom and 4-4.5 seconds at San Francisco and Bridgeport. The jurisdictions (there have been a few) that cheat on the yellow have lost RLC privileges or received severe scrutiny. It’s happened in California, NC and Arizona. Anyone who reads my posts know that I am a proponent for RLC and if you hate them, the best way to get rid of them is to comply. In case you haven’t noticed, RLC are becoming a fact of life and raging is futile. They simply make sense. The only way to get rid of them is to stop running red lights. In these days of fiscal squeezing, placing a uniformed officer at an intersection is simply not cost effective or safe. A RLC is like a 24/7 cop. People are more aware and become more aware at non-regulated intersections. If RLC cost jurisdictions significantly more than they’re earning, they’ll get rid of them. So, complying with the signal is win-win. It makes intersections safer and you don’t get your photo taken. That, or you can keep raging and paying the fines. Think of it as a toll for running red lights. It’s a darn expensive toll but a choice you make.

  11. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    Sadly, my previous post was not published – I assume because I posted 12 URL’s in it. So here is a shortened repost without the direct link to the URL’s…

    The letter by Paul and Susan is an interesting little piece of Astroturf. If you google their opening phrase…

    “We are writing in response to the recent media coverage of traffic safety cameras” (Copy and paste that quote with the quotation marks into google)

    …you’ll see that this very letter has been printed verbatim in more than a dozen newspapers this year.

    Also, if you look on their “Traffic Safety Coalitions” website under the “partners” tab you’ll see this statement…

    “The Traffic Safety Coalition is funded by the traffic safety camera industry and its supporters to assist ongoing advocacy and education efforts…”

    The issue of whether or not traffic cams save lives becomes quickly clouded by the fact that the traffic camera industry is flooding cyberspace with a well-greased marketing machine that is working hard to convince us that traffic cams are good for us.

    I support efforts that legitimately reduce traffic accidents. But I am very skeptical of an industry orchestrated astroturf campaign. The burden of proof lays on those that would change laws for their own profit.

  12. Rollo_Tomassi says:


    There is quite a difference between traffic law enforcement and traffic cameras – the principle being that traffic cameras are promulgated by industry groups that are funded by the traffic camera makers. They have a profit motive (as they should) in an industry that is purported to be worth billions of dollars annually. Therefore we should process all that they say through a filter that recognizes their self interest.

    We should also be more skeptical when they orchestrate an astroturf campaign designed to display a groundswell of public support. As you noted in an earlier post in this thread, dishonesty should be called out and punished.

  13. http://blog.motorists.org/6-cities-that-were-caught-shortening-yellow-light-times-for-profit/

    Live4fish and Polago, here is your links-I accept you apologies :). Here is your specific link. The yellows have been noticeably shorter on South Hill, but I have been unable to get any information from the City of Puyallup. I have called and emailed over the last 5 months trying to obtain data as to any changes made in the yellow to red light cycles within the City of Puyallup for the past 3 years. They won’t even return a call or email. Whether they have been shortened beyond the legal minimum as occured in the link I provided, I cannot speak to that factually yet.

  14. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    “Red light camera exec suspended for online comments”

    Not fired, just suspended.

  15. itwasntmethistime says:

    slug — Go out to Phillips and Steilacoom Blvd. That light does not stay yellow for 4.0 – 4.5 seconds. It doesn’t stay yellow for the 3.5 seconds it’s legally required to. I don’t know exactly how long it stays yellow, but it’s short. You can talk all day about what is supposed to be, but it isn’t.

  16. live4fish says:


    Interesting BLOG. Yes I see that those stories are real news stories of cities being caught shortening yellow lights. 6 cities, none in WA. Still waiting on proof. Until then, speculation and thoughts are all it is.

    I’m not debating as to whether or not they actually do it…but using an argument that has never been even closed to proven is an absurd way of fighting something.

    Emails and calls are not required by law to be responded to. The Public Information Act is. Submit a request through the right channels and when they don’t respond, then we can force their hand in court.

  17. Live 4-
    Can you prove that yellow lights have been shortened are are you just spouting misguided information here as well. I’m all for a fact against something, but having read most of these RLC hate comments, I haven’t seen anybody PROVE that yellow lights have been shortened

    So, to understand your new position, now that I have proven what you asked, now you are looking for proof within out state or municipality? That’s your new question? Cuz the old one is above, and I clearly gave you 6 different instances of yellows not only be shortened, but being shortened beyond the legal limits…..

    I am very aware of public records requests-I have one pending with the Washington State Patrol at present. Obviously you aren’t familiar with Puyallup politics-if you were you would know they refused to provide a public records request for years to one of the councilmembers, incurring somewhere in the neighborhood of 200k in legal fees.

    I’m not interested enough in this subject at present to go through the hassle of a public records request with Puyallup. But I drive a Ford F250, and twice my dog has been thrown forward in my truck because I am forced to slam on my brakes so hard to stop in time, as you cannot make it through the lights at 35 mph on Meridian often.

  18. live4fish says:


    As this letter is written and published in a WA newspaper about a WA problem in WA, I could definitely see where you would ASSUME that I would have wanted proof from ANOTHER state. So no, it’s not a new position, its the same position.

    But I see your problem. As you state above about driving down Meridian and having to slam on your breaks. I frequently travel Meridian and have yet to find a light on it that changes so fast that you need to slam on the breaks. Maybe you should pay attention to driving and stop trying to see if you can make it through the light. You can’t say that you are, if you are slamming on your breaks on Meridian.

    Equally, I am very familiar with Puyallup politics and their problems with public records requests. But you can’t complain about not getting unofficial emails and phone calls answered and then complain about the correct way to do so.

    Cake and eat it too.

  19. Not sure if you noted live4-the writers of this letter are from Somerset, OH-so my link was very valid, and addressed your question.

    I don’t know what you drive-my truck weighs 8,000 lbs. It doesn’t stop in the same manner as my motorcycle, or a small car. I am very attentive in my driving, have never received a red light camera ticket….but hitting my BRAKES very hard has been part of driving on Meridian, in the vehicle that I drive.

    I am glad you are aware of Puyallup politics. And YES, I can complain about the fact that unofficial emails and unofficial phone calls go un-returned. See, this is an opinion blog, and just because a municipality that I pay heavy taxes and utility bill to doesn’t legally have to respond to repeated phone call and emails doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to complain about it. However, you are factually correct in your prior posting-I have no legal basis to sue the City of Puyallup over un-returned phone calls and emails. If I wanted to do that,(which I don’t), I’d need to go through the appropriate public records requests, then yes I could engage the city in an expensive lawsuit, and pay even higher utility rates and taxes to pay for our cities ineptness in its leadership.

    To answer your new question whether anyone has legally proven a municipality in Washington State has shortened yellows, here is Seattles…


    Course the shortened yellows were just coincidentally shortened at the same time the cameras were installed, just ask the officials. They promise its just a coincidence….funny way of increasing safety-shortening the yellows?

    I chose to give you the link to the municipalities that have gotten caught shortening yellows to illegal levels. But to answer your new question, the link you asked for is above. BTW, google is awesome, you could have found this yourself in minutes versus accusing people of just spouting off.

    Hard to get frustrated with you, given your live4fish moniker. Just got back from fishing the Pend Oreille River, Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, and Banks and Roosevelt. Had a fantastic trip….

  20. live4fish says:

    I too drive a big truck. A Dodge 3500. Never once had to slam on the brakes on Meridian.

    Just as an FYI, I would consider everybody else spouting off about shortening yellows as you are the only person that has ever posted any kind of evidence of doing so in WA.

    How was the fishing?

  21. Was awesome! Gone for 9 days, Banks still hasn’t come into it’s pre-spawn pattern, so it was real tough(bet it’s going to be on fire in a week or two). Roosevelt was ridiculous, had multiple trip hookups(3 of us fishing in one of the bass boats), boated well over a hundred smallies a day; all decent, no dinks, but nothing over 2 to 3 lbs either. All in all an awesome trip! Northern Pike were very agressive on the Pend Oreille River(go if you ever get the chance!)

  22. I can’t say that I’ve run into a situation around here where I suspected that the yellow was too short in any intersection that is monitored. I’m all for lengthening the yellow where camera’s are present, but they don’t seem to be a big problem for me the way they are now.

    Maybe the News Tribune would be willing to investigate the yellow light issue and report their findings, so that the average citizen doesn’t have to. They do have that traffic Q&A thing every Monday. Someone must have asked the question by this time, considering all the letters.

  23. slugoxyz says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you truly hate RLCs, then stop running them. If that camera did not flash for 2-3 moths, the municipality would take it down. All the whining, all the crying? Will not get those camera taken down. Compliance will. If you aren’t willing to do that, think of the ticket as a big, fat toll. You are free to run that light and endanger everyone else. You just have to pay that toll. It’s not like it effects your insurance. Just your wallet.

  24. slugoxyz says:

    oops. Sorry. moths should be months.

  25. Polago-If we are discussing safety, many municipalities have admitted to shortening their yellows…..and there are studies that clearly show increased yellows result in fewer accidents, BUT increased yellows significantly reduce the revenue generated by the red light cameras. And that is the real crux of the issue.

  26. Apparently, our disagreement focuses around your outrage toward red light cameras, and my lack thereof, TMell.

    There are two issues. The first is safety. Do the red light cameras save lives as the letter suggests? Without changing the length of the yellow light, I would say, yes, as any enforcement of the law would..

    The second is, would lengthening the yellow create a safer situation with or without the cameras? Research and logic says yes. But would the driving public eventually adjust to the new longer yellow and end up violating the red, knowing that they had more time to beat it? Some say yes, some say no.

    Since we are used to the standard yellow length, it seems probable that we would become used to the longer yellow, in time. New drivers would not have anything to compare with, so they would automatically be accustomed to the longer yellow.

    Because some municipalities have maliciously shortened the yellow in order to enhance revenue, and I don’t see any evidence of that being the case in our area, that doesn’t mean that all red light cameras are meant solely to produce revenue. Remember that there was no talk of lengthening the yellow until the red light cameras came on the scene.

    Therefore, I cannot completely agree with you that this issue is as black and white (red or yellow) as it seems to you, or the letter writers.

  27. Polago-we aren’t talking about lengthening yellows. We are talking about municipalities subsequently REDUCING the yellows, while installing cameras, and stating the purpose of the cameras is for safety not revenue. To deflect the issue thinking we are talking about the safety benefits of increasing the yellows(which is a seperate discussion, and certainly could be something that a discussion could be based around), we are discussing the decisions to SHORTEN the yellows……

    So, cameras with the yellows the same length as before…one thing. Cameras and shortening the yellows below reasonable standards-another topic. Please note-I have never received a red light ticket. However, I have to routinely slam on my brakes, looking in the rear view praying the driver behind me is as attentive a driver as I am since the yellows have been shortened, and the cameras installed(again, I’m sure this is a coincidence)

  28. penumbrage says:

    slugoxyz – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (since you never replied to me in ‘Cameras: only offenders complain’).
    The major RLC studies show the increase in the number of rear end collisions equals between 50% and 70% of the total decrease in the number of T-bone accidents,’
    There’s not nearly as much gain as you seem to think and what gain exists is paid for by greater risk to innocent citizens, not just in insurance but in pain, injury and death.
    According to USDOT (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/05049/) installing RLC’s will cause a reduction in T-bone accidents almost equaled by the increase in rear end collisions, and to protect the criminally negligent red light runners and the obliviously negligent who proceed without checking traffic, the ‘toll’ the law abiding drivers using that intersection will actually pay is to become more than one seventh more likely to be involved in an accident and almost one quarter more likely to be injured.
    Unless you’d like to share your secret technique for preventing distracted fools from being behind you when the brake lights come on hard, extending yellow cycles and making EVERYONE safer at a cost of a few seconds per commute is still a no brainer.

  29. Penumbrage-the silence is deafening :). There is no logical response to your post, other than for them to acknowledge you are correct. This is about revenue, to pretend it’s about safety is ridiculous!

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