Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Smarter No-Brainer

Salem, like many, is taking the first tentative steps toward installing cameras in traffic lights to catch scofflaws. Good for them.

Salem City Councilor Jean Pelletier was quoted in The Salem News saying, “This is pretty much a no-brainer.”

Agreed. So-called civil libertarians who think their “rights” are being infringed by government catching them in the act of, ahhh, breaking the law!

It’s illegal, folks. Just because there’s not a cop sitting there watching you do it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be caught. So that’s the same for speeding? For breaking and entering? Spousal abuse? All is well, beat thy wife, just not when Johnny Law is around. That’s a load of crap.

The one beef I have with the Salem discussion is that they are going to post signs at intersections that feature camera lights. I’m sorry, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose? We all know the rules of the road – or at least should know them. Do we put signs up when there’s a hidden speed trap up ahead? And, carrying forward the above analogy, let’s just put signs in homes – “Just Don’t Beat Your Wife Here But Over in the Next Room is Fine.”

Well, I guess it could be worse – I could live in Swampscott. There, the town rejected the idea of traffic light cameras. Why? Well, it seems the cameras would actually cause more rear-end collisions because drivers would stop abruptly at yellow lights. Sure, maybe a few more rear-ends might happen. But given how many of the much-more-dangerous side-swiping accidents won’t happen, it seems, again, a no-brainer.

Just check out the federal highway stats and success stories – proving my point. At one New York City intersection, accidents were cut down 60 to 70 percent. Not bad.

Like most folks, I wasn’t so militant about this until I had kids. Now, every idiot on the road is a potential killer of my little boys. If a ticket from a camera stops some moron from running a red and slamming into my Jetta while Owen is pointing out the birds in the sky and Jake is quietly trying to scratch his brain through his nose – more power to ‘em.

No brainer.


Martin O'Brien said...

One thing you need to keep an eye on with red light cameras is the fact that lots of municipalities are getting caught shortening the yellow light cycle to increase revenue. THAT is one thing that surely causes more harm than the camera solves.

amusings_bnl said...

I commute from Groveland to Marblehead. Every day at the intersection of swampscott (or danvers, depending on your angle) road and Highland Ave, i watch people blast through the red lights, usually 2 or 3 cars worth of them, while i wait to go ahead and make my right turn towards the ground round.

it is atrocious.

they do it in front of cops who are working detail where they are building the new gas station ...

Gary McGath said...

The fact that an act is brainless isn't necessarily a reason to do it. (Yes, I know what you mean, but I get really annoyed when people use "no-brainer" to pre-empt debate.)

Look at what Washington, D.C. has done. Cameras have been allowed to go out of calibration, but are still used to ticket people. In order to deal with the fact that they don't have pictures of drivers, only of their plates, the city has set up its laws so that the owner of the vehicle is guilty, even if he can prove he was not driving the vehicle during the violation. Automated ticketing easily turns into a revenue source.

Anonymous said...

As a dad, I understand your feelings.
One detail you might be interested in: red light cameras do not reduce accidents or red-light running. There is strong evidence that they increase red-light running, and at higher speeds, as people try even harder to beat the yellow.

You'll have to look elsewhere for safety.


Ted said...

The only thing that will increase the safety of you and your boys while driving is if you pay more attention to driving the car. Watch for cross traffic at the intersection even when you have a green light. Check your rear view mirror when stopping. Leave some extra space. Anticpate that stale green light going yellow.

A good friend of mine once said "Being hit by an asteroid while driving is an accident, ANYTHING else is driver error on your part." Safe driving is your responsibilty, red light cameras will not help you. But they are good for revenue enhancement.

Ross said...

As a fairly new dad myself, I think you make a strong case. I disagree with you about the signs, though. I know that people shouldn't need to be under surveillance to obey the law, but on the other hand I'd rather see more people stop at the light because they see the sign than get ticketed because they didn't.

Maybe to protect the other lights the signs could be vague and posted everywhere, something like "This light may be monitored" or "Salem monitors traffic lights," etc.

Great blog--this is my first time here.