Saturday, June 14, 2008

Red Light "Gotcha"

"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.


  1. You make some good points about the potential privacy concerns of red light cameras, but comparing anger at getting a speeding ticket to Cincinnati's past race riots is way of the mark.

  2. Give me a break.

    It's so funny when people regurgitate 1984 with any new tech advancement - especially when the 'advancements' are relatively old-hat in other cities (but then again, we are talking about Cincinnati here).

    It's also funny that this particular blog would fight something that (1) keeps traffic safe and shitty drivers responsible for their actions, and (2) ADDS to the city coffers.

    If you haven't heard, not everything is black-and-white with these cameras. You do the have the right to defend yourself here, just as with any other citation. You may not win, but then again, you probably shouldn't have been lax at the wheel.

    Additionally, if you're against gov watching how you drive, why not support mass transit - you know, the kind that people would actually enjoy taking... like RAIL. But, oh no, that would mean INVESTING in the city. Bad suggestion, I know.

    Think about the huge weight lifted off your shoulders if we didn't have to pay the billions each year to maintain what automobiles have created over the last 50 years (including the need for these cameras)...

    Hard for you to imagine, isn't it.

    As an aside, I checked out your website, and was kind of surprised that you ask people to donate money to a 'coalition' that is fighting to help people stop spending money.

  3. Of course... the blog owner has to 'approve' the messages.

  4. Would a red light camera have deterred this driver?

    "TX Family of Five Killed after Minivan Hit by Red Light Runner
    Jun 23, 2008

    Police say a red light runner crashed into a minivan, killing a family of five
    in Plano, Texas.

    On June 22, the victims' church held a vigil in their honor.

    The family, including three children, was on their way home from church
    yesterday morning when the accident happened"

    The benefits (saving lives) outweigh the risks (an unwarranted ticket) every time.

  5. If there was a red light camera there, I'm sure the victims' families would be totally at peace knowing that a $100 ticket was in the mail to the killer.

    Cameras provide revenue to a municipality; that's their primary mission. They provide hassle to otherwise law-abiding citizens. They even provide the ILLUSION of safety by deterring a few casual offenders.

    But somebody who would blast through an intersection with enough speed and force to kill a minivan full of people isn't going to let a little thing like a camera change his behavior. So I'm going to have to go with "No." A camera would not have deterred this killer.

    I want those idiots constantly on the lookout for cops. Because then at least they're paying attention to their surroundings. And I want innocent drivers looking out too, not lulled into a false sense of safety by a ticket printing robot.


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