Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: traffic cameras

Jan.
29th

Traffic cameras can be crime-busters

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Seattle police think a red-light camera might have helped catch whoever killed 21-year-old Nicole Westbrook in a drive-by shooting last spring. They figured someone who has that much disregard for human life might also disregard traffic lights, and the camera might have captured a license plate number.

But state law prohibits access to those cameras for anything other than issuing a traffic citation, so Westbrook’s killer is still at large.

That should change. Society’s interest in identifying killers far outweighs protecting the privacy of a red-light runner’s license plate number – on a public street at that.
Read more »

March
18th

Court ruling aside, traffic camera foes still have options

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The Washington Supreme Court has spoken, and opponents of red-light cameras don’t like what it had to say.

The court ruled last week that local initiatives can’t be used to block or remove traffic-enforcement cameras – such as the ones that photograph the license plates of red-light runners in several South Sound cities. State law gives only city councils authority over those cameras, the court said.

The response from camera opponents – most notably Tim “Mr. Initiative” Eyman – was fast and furious. The decision, he said, sounds “un-American.” Critics say they are disappointed and angry that the citizens have been muscled out of the decision-making process.

But they haven’t been really. Read more »

Jan.
27th

Cities must be able to recoup camera costs

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Those “photocop” tickets for running red lights or speeding in school zones are:

1) A useful tool for getting drivers to observe traffic lights and speed limits, or

2) A “Big Brother” cash cow for municipalities.

Your answer may hinge on whether you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a hefty ticket that arrived in the mail after a camera caught your infraction.

In 2001, Lakewood was the first city in the state to install automated traffic cameras, and they’ve spread to many others, including Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Fife, Federal Way, Lacey and Auburn. The cameras are usually installed at intersections that have experienced high numbers of T-bone crashes caused by red-light runners. Such a crash fatally injured a 3-month-old child in Fife Sunday.
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Dec.
8th

Pierce County: Get moving on traffic cameras

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Mysteriously, plans for photo-enforcement of red lights at several accident-prone intersections has vanished from the Pierce County budget. It’s not clear yet whose fingerprints are on the decision, but the County Council ought to reverse course.

A novelty in this state 10 years ago, traffic cameras now have a well-established record of reducing dangerous accidents. The City of Tacoma, for example, began installing them in 2007 and quickly saw a sharp decline in serious crashes. They’ve been successfully adopted in Lakewood, Federal Way and many other Puget Sound jurisdictions.

Why not unincorporated Pierce County? Many county roads are heavily traveled and rife with speeders and red-light runners. The original proposal was to place the cameras on major arterials – at four intersections on Canyon Road, possibly, as well as the intersection of Military Road and Spanaway Loop Road. Photo-enforcement in such trouble spots would likely save lives and prevent major injuries, as it’s done elsewhere.

Those who hate them typically say they don’t mind being caught fair and square by a flesh-and-blood police officer – but they don’t want a ticket issued by an impersonal device. Actually, flesh-and-blood humans do review the photographic evidence before tickets are issued. The unspoken gripe is not that the cameras are unreliable, but that they are all too reliable.
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