"Take it slow and careful", you tell yourself, "it's slippery out." But some bonehead is right on your tail. The light's been green for a while. Now it's yellow. No way to stop without the bonehead eating your bumper. No cross traffic...better just to slip smoothly through the intersection.
You weren't entirely through when it turned red. No cop would ticket you for that, especially if he saw the whole thing. But big brother's no cop. Cops have common sense, and obviously you made the safer choice. Big brother's a computer and he's programmed for cash flow, not common sense, so a ticket arrives in the mail with a picture showing your car in the intersection underneath the red light.
The city calls them red light cameras, but they're really "gotcha cams". If you make a right turn on red and don't come to a full and complete stop beforehand, "gotcha". If you're a few miles over the posted speed limit, "gotcha". City officials don't talk about these particular features with the public, but all this and more has been included in the red light camera contract.
The "gotcha" game doesn't end there. EZ-Pass is used in the eastern US to automatically bill people for road and bridge tolls. Divorce lawyers now routinely subpoena EZ-Pass records to prove marital infidelity. Optical character recognition (OCR) allows big brother to convert the dots from a camera into recognizable numbers and letters. Big brother "reads" just as easily as if it were typed in on a computer keyboard. The technology hasn't worked so well with paperwork due to the large variety of artistic fonts people use. But state-issued license plates only come in one font which is already optimized for OCR.
Cincinnati's cameras can read every single license plate that passes through an intersection, store full motion video of it forever, and all of it will be public record. Pretty soon our divorce attorneys will play the "gotcha" game too. "Is that your spouse in the front seat with you...well then, who is it?"
The problem with big brother is that it pits government against the public in a "gotcha" game. Real safety comes from cooperation between law enforcement and the public. It wasn't that long ago that parts of our city rioted in the streets because they felt law enforcement wasn't there to protect them, but to prey upon them. Our community has come a long way toward healing those wounds. But now red light cameras threaten to undo all that and return us to those dark tumultuous days.