Why is everyone angry at red-light cameras?

A few years ago, Chicago installed red-light cameras and speeding cameras along the roads, which would automatically record your license plate and a photograph of the violation along with your ticket for about $100.  It’s hard to fight these things, but in both cases I think I did transgress both times, not coming to a complete stop while turning right on red (as I recall), though I’m not 100% sure about my speeding violation as there’s no way to check the machine. One thing is for sure, though: I’ve been a lot more careful about speeding and coming to a complete stop before turning right on red.  It may not be because I believe in a 25-mph speed limit on a major road in Chicago, but because I don’t want to get caught. But the results are the same, whatever the motivation: more people obey the law.

So why are so many people incensed about these cameras? They do work: I heard on the NBC News last night that installing red-light cameras has reduced crashes in major American cities by 21%. It’s not really a violation of your privacy, either, for if there was a cop rather than a camera, you’d have no argument. (Street cameras with facial recognition are, however, a different issue.) Yet although about 24 states have such cameras, 11 have prohibited them, including Texas, whose governor (see below) has just signed a bill ending them on September 1:

Here’s an article on the law from NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas:

Like most Americans, I resent these cameras, but I can’t figure out why I do. Here are some possible reasons:

1.) They make a lot of money for the state. That’s true, but so what? You should be culpable if you violate the law.

2.) Americans see them as unfair because (as NBC says), the camera automatically assumes you’re guilty. That is an empirical question: do the cameras lie? That could easily be tested, and if they don’t lie, then you’re guilty. The problem is that sometimes they will lie, as nothing is 100% accurate, and you have no recourse if they did in your case. That is, they automatically assume you’re guilty, violating the presumption of innocence. That, however, doesn’t make me upset. In both of my case I think I almost certainly did violate the rules.

3.) Sometimes they punish people for stopping in a pedestrian crosswalk rather than just running a red light. Well, too bad: that’s also a violation.

4.) Somebody else was driving your car when the violation was committed, but the person to whom the car is registered must pay. This is the grounds on which Texas eliminated the cameras, but really, you will know if someone else was driving the car, as the date and time was recorded, and presumably you can dun whomever was driving for the fine.

5.) This may be a major reason why I and other people don’t like the intrusion: sometimes we think we should be able to break the law without getting caught, especially by a mechanical device rather than a cop. That is, we resent being monitored, like the inhabitants of Singapore, for constant adherence to the law, and part of our “freedom” means occasional freedom to violate the law without penalty.

None of these are really good reasons to oppose red-light and speeding cameras, but #5 comes closest to the reason I feel aggrieved. What do you think?

119 Comments

  1. Teresa Carson
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I have family members living in Fort Worth. The cameras there are not set properly; that is, drivers who make a left turn are penalized if the light turns yellow or red as the turn is made. My brother (who is a very careful driver) now avoids one intersection because he knows he will get a ticket there. It seems like it would be easier and wiser to reset the system than to get rid of the cameras altogether. I think the cameras are great if they’re programmed properly.

    • Derec Avery
      Posted June 4, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      ” The cameras there are not set properly; that is, drivers who make a left turn are penalized if the light turns yellow or red as the turn is made.”

      ———-

      Nope. Sounds like the cameras are set properly to maximize the revenue income for the city of Fort Worth so I doubt that the city will ever “reset” that camera.(And that’s all that “red light” cameras are. A lucrative source of income for the city they are in.)

  2. Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I think it’s contested whether they actually reduce accidents. Here, FYI, but not for posting if you prefer, are examples of studies to the contrary but a researchers who may have less of a vested interest:

    https://phys.org/news/2018-07-red-light-cameras-dont-traffic-accidents.html

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-06-traffic-light-controlled-intersections-fatal-accidents.html

  3. Jack
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I simply don’t like being monitored for my behavior – especially by a robot. I think I also identify with #5, especially when it comes to a deserted intersection in the middle of the night when rolling through a stop doesn’t seem like it deserves punishment – which identifies my real feeling that a robotic system offers no leniency or reasonable exception.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t count on the middle of the night thing.

      I did this once in Seattle (I could see a 1/2 mile in each direction — zero traffic). Just as I turned into the intersection, a pair of headlights appeared on the cross road, a 1/2-mile away.

      The lights instantly jolted upwards as the cop floored it to race up and pull me over — from 1 half-mile away.

      And he was pissed. I just admitted it and took the ticket. As I always do when I get pulled over.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        And your infraction caused absolutely no danger to anybody. And the cop had nothing better to do. He actually caused MORE danger in rushing up to give you a ticket.

        That sort of nonsense just brings the law into contempt.

        cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          By the way, I have done that too. Stop on deserted red light. Wait. Drum my fingers on the door panel. Look in all directions – nothing moving. Wait. Look carefully in all directions again. Still nothing. “Fuck you, you incompetent morons!” and go.

          cr

          • rickflick
            Posted June 3, 2019 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

            You’d think the facial recognition would have determined who you are, checked your profile, and, seeing that you’re someone of noble intent, give you the green right up front. 😎

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 4, 2019 at 5:06 am | Permalink

              😎

              But competent traffic light phasing would remove the problem.

              cr

  4. Jamie
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I agree that number five is the most salient. But it is not so much about “getting caught” as being about to use one’s own judgement.

    There is a scene in a movie that I like wherein, in the middle of a flat desert landscape where one can see for miles in every direction, on a dirt road without curbs or sidewalk, there is a traffic light. In the scene a driver comes to a stop and waits… in the middle of this desolate landscape, for the light to change because it’s the law.

    What we want is the power to exercise our own judgement, especially where the law is simply a safeguard, not a question of right and wrong.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      And because there’s probably a cop sitting behind the nearest bush, waiting.

      There was an urban legend that the traffic lights along the main drag in some California town (Bakersfield?) were phased so you could catch the ‘green wave’ only if you went slightly over the speed limit, and the cops were making a mint out of speeding tickets. I don’t know if that’s true but doubtless somewhere, someone thought of it.

      cr

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I saw that on the news yesterday as well. Cannot really figure why people seem to be so against this. I say put up more cameras and put them everywhere. Maybe they will catch more of the many shooters all over the city that seem to get away. And anything that makes people drive better is good. I have never had a ticket in my life. No cameras, I guess?

    • merilee
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      +1 (despite the fact that I sometimes cut it pretty close with the yellow…)

  6. Curtis
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    1) Many cities shorten the yellow light in order to create more red light runners and get more revenue.
    “the city of Fremont, California, pledged it would refund at least $490,000 in tickets to drivers after it was revealed that for a period of time in 2016, yellow-light times at two key intersections were shorted from 4.7 to 4 seconds, driving an increase in tickets”
    https://www.salon.com/2017/04/05/this-may-have-happened-to-you-revenue-hungry-cities-mess-with-traffic-lights-to-write-more-tickets_partner/

    2) Red light cameras increase the number of accidents because people slam their breaks and get rear-ended.
    “The North Carolina researchers documented an increase of 40 percent in accidents in red-light camera intersections, with a corresponding increase in the number of accidents with possible injuries.”
    https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/unintended-consequences-red-light-cameras-might-cause-traffic-accidents-19125

    • eric
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Also, I vaguely recall reading somewhere that some districts intentionally set their speeds low on roads in order to generate revenue.

      So in those cases, not only are the cameras a safety hazard for the reason you mention, but they are also not serving any public good and are in fact detrimental to the public good as they effectively turn public streets that we pay for through our state and local taxes into toll roads.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been rear-ended (on a wet and slippery road) because I responded – late – to an orange light and the car behind thought I was going through (and possibly even sped up momentarily to ‘follow me through’) and was caught out by my slightly late decision to be a good boy and stop. (No red light cameras involved).

      If I’d been watching my mirror I wouldn’t have stopped.

      cr

      • Filippo
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        “If I’d been watching my mirror I wouldn’t have stopped.”

        Right. One can’t trust drivers to stay a sufficient distance behind one.

      • Matt
        Posted June 4, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        So running through a red light is your idea of defensive driving?

  7. Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Two reasons that I’m aware of, which may or may not be entirely valid.

    1) Cities will reduce the time of the yellow light significantly, in order to generate more revenue from red light runners. In other words, changing the rules, to generate revenue. One place I’m aware of set the red light to an excessively long time, late at night. A single car on the road, with no other traffic, would still have to wait 5 minutes for a green light. The city made a ton of money until complaints made the city council get involved and change it.

    2) Some accidents are decreased in some areas, but other accidents (rear-end collisions for example) generally increase. And some areas experience a general increase in accidents after the cameras.
    https://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/red-light-cameras-nassau-county-1.19080982

    https://www.govtech.com/public-safety/Red-Light-Cameras-Generate-Revenue-Controversy.html

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Would it be different if the camera recorded the plate in order to charge a toll? It is still “monitoring” vehicles, and we know it is always there, but I assume there’s no monitoring going on, it’s limited to a practical use – billing in the case of a motorist to increase efficiency.

    The stop light camera – mmmm, What is the intention of it? To bust drivers, or – since we know it is there – to incentivize safer driving? Because if cars drive through red lights there’s going to be accidents – and big costs associated with accidents.

    • enl
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      “Would it be different if the camera recorded the plate in order to charge a toll?”

      They do in the NY/NJ/Philly area. Cash tolls are going away– probably totally, certainly for fixed tool points like bridges– over the next few years. Pre-paid auto pay device (EZpass) or camera and fee (about twice the posted toll). For all I use any of the toll points, I will not get the device and will suck up the vig.

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Western Washington uses this technology for tolling bridges as well. You can also pay a .75 cent toll for using a “fast lane”. If you have three or more people, the fast lane toll is waived.

    • harrync
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I got billed by the California version of EZpass for about $30, $25 of which was penalty for evading the toll. Good news was that whoever set up the system made on-line appeals easy; you could even upload pictures to back your appeal. I uploaded a scan of the title showing that the car in the picture was not even the same make as my car, and a couple of days later got an email roughly saying “Sorry about that; just ignore the request for payment, we’ve corrected our records.” Whoever/whatever [human or machine?] that read the plate mistook a “T” for an “I”.
      As for red light cameras: Before even considering them, we need national rules on how long yellows have to be, based on the speed limit at the intersection.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        I would thoroughly agree with your point about the length of the yellows. And also, the ‘red light’ offence should be for entering the intersection on red, not for failing to clear the intersection before the red.

        Re the picture, I make a point of always demanding the picture before I pay a speed camera fine. Mostly due to bloody-mindedness and making them do the maximum work for their ill-gotten gains. But once I got a speed camera notice for my Ford Cortina (gold with a black roof) which I thought was probably legit, since I recalled passing that camera a few weeks earlier, I almost didn’t bother demanding the photo but I did so on principle – and the photo was of a Ford Capri, also gold with a black vinyl roof and very similar number. Saved myself 80 bucks.

        cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          @harrync – I may have misread your comment re uploading pictures.

          Here in NZ you’re entitled to a copy of any speed camera photo (and probably a red light photo too) for free, since a court has ruled that it constitutes evidence which you’re entitled to see.

          cr

        • Derec Avery
          Posted June 4, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          I never pay a “speed camera” fine as most of them are “administrative citations” and not “criminal citations” and therefore the city/state has no legal basis to demand the money they do. Worse yet, it probably isn’t even the state and/or local government issuing the “citation” but a private, third-party contractor paid to issue the “citations” and collect the money which is then split with the jurisdiction where the alleged “crime” took place. Most people don’t know these things as they simply don’t take the time to actually read all the fine print in the letter they receive in the mail.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 5, 2019 at 3:14 am | Permalink

            I think permitting private companies to have any part in law enforcement is unacceptable. Just begging or corruption.

            In NZ so far as I know, only the police can issue legal traffic violations. City councils can issue parking tickets and transit lane infringements (as a violation of by-laws). But contracting it out to a third party who have no statutory authority would just not be acceptable, to the public or the courts.

            (Security guards only have the same rights as the general public).

            cr

  9. Adam M.
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I agree with you as long the cameras are incapable of being used to violate people’s privacy, e.g. by being set to record the license plate of everyone passing.

    Many police cameras – perhaps not these – are also used to watch for stolen cars, and that’s a fine thing, but they way they do it is to record the movements of every vehicle, and that database is searched for the license plates of cars reported to be stolen. Of course, the data once accumulated can be and occasionally is abused.

    A better way would be to push the list of stolen license plates to the cameras, which would only record the passage of vehicles on the list.

    That’s my only objection to the cameras as commonly implemented.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      The cameras still need to ‘look’ at all license plates, that’s no different than what social media platforms do with information.

      In the long run society will only get better with more data. And them more data the fewer people will actual look at it and actually have the ability to parse it.

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        They need to look but they don’t need to remember. And a curmudgeon like me won’t use social media either, for privacy reasons.

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    It is kind of funny really, people don’t like the intrusion of the camera in their life. But they are okay with Facebook and Google and their cell phones taking away everything but the kitchen sink.

    • craigp
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I suppose it could be:
      a) A lot of people don’t make that link between the 2 forms of surveillance, despite the social media one probably being far more intrusive and having a far more significant effect on our lives,
      b) We feel that at least we’re getting something in return for the spying antics of social media companies.

    • Wunold
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Some are, some are not. I for one am firmly against privacy intrusions and thus, I reject known data collectors like Facebook, Google, etc. as well as the growing trend of public surveillance.

      I concur though that anyone using such services prominently while at the same time vehemently rejecting public surveillance should be confronted with this apparent contradiction – preferably by using the Socratic Method or it’s modern derivation Street Epistemology.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      There’a a great book, Data and Goliath, by Bruce Schneier that dives into numerous aspects of our surveillance society.

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      And Alexa constantly listening and sending the audio to Amazon… 😛

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I recently read about that. I’ve never used Alexa and am not planning to.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      That’s the reason they were banned in Houston several years ago. I always wondered what the response would be if a police officer with a radar gun was there issuing tickets. To me if someone runs a red light, give them a ticket.
      They broke the law.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      It’s a matter of control. The thing with your cellphone, *you* decide what it takes and you can switch it off.

      cr

    • Matt
      Posted June 4, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Who expects privacy while driving on a public road?

      • Wunold
        Posted June 4, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        You don’t see a difference in being seen and being recorded?

  11. Jonathan Dore
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Item 5 is similar to the feeling generated in the UK by speed cameras. People feel justified in insisting on knowing *where* the cameras are, saying it’s underhand for them to be hidden. Why? The implicit assumption can only be that people feel they have a natural right to violate speed limits and simply want to know where the cameras are so they can avoid getting caught by them, then speed up again afterwards. It’s an attitude I struggle to comprehend, or to sympathize with.

  12. KD
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Traffic cameras are not very sporting, its like hunting with traps, shooting fish in a barrel, it should be immoral if its not. The government has enough power and manpower to take down people committing traffic violations without surveillance cameras on every intersection.

    Americans want some wiggle room, with most people getting what they deserve, but on occasion, someone walking on “reasonable doubt” or similar grounds.

  13. Muffy Ferro
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Yes, I agree with number 5. Partly because I feel I should be able to break the law if it causes no risk to myself or anyone else. I drive to my running group very early in the morning when no one else is about, and I think it’s silly to sit at a red light. In fact here in Utah the legislature is considering a law to allow people to go through red lights (after first stopping), if there’s no other traffic.

    >

    • craigp
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      On the surface that sounds quite reasonable but the law has to be the same for everybody and not everybody is a good judge of what’s safe and what isn’t. And some people just don’t care what’s safe, especially for others. Any of us can make mistakes, and on the road can that can result in somebody being killed.

      • Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        I have witnessed this kind of extremely dangerous red-light running behavior many, many, many times.

        Here (Minneapolis/St. Paul area), red light running has gotten ridiculous. The worst offenders are people making left turns on the green arrow. It’s now nearly standard that 3+ drivers will run that red light. Not on yellow: They run through (enter the intersection) after the cross traffic has a green — which means many seconds after the red light began.

        I have regularly seen the last red-light runner have to swerve around the cross traffic that begins entering the intersection (on their green light) to complete their red-light run. Completely ridiculous.

        It’s some kind of weird attitude that “the light was supposed to stay green for me” or some such nonsense.

        People distracted by their (effing) phones may be a big part of it too. Yeah: Left-turning across traffic, running a red light, while texting. Genius.

        • merilee
          Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

          +1

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Well craigp, your argument would prohibit the use of STOP signs.

        cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      I think Utah has an excellent idea.

      Because, to me, what brings traffic lights into most disrepute is having to sit through exorbitantly long red phases late at night when there’s no other traffic, and that’s precisely when I’m most likely to race through the orange at the last moment because I *know* that if I stop I’ll be wasting time for nothing. If I know I can stop, look around and go then there’s less urgency to get through before the red.

      cr

      • Gareth Price
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        So what about red lights when there is traffic coming but you think it is far enough away? Or when it is fairly close but if you floor it you can make it through? And would you have to stop at the light and check for traffic or could you just slow down and then roll right on through? As the law currently stands, none of these questions are issues.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 4, 2019 at 5:05 am | Permalink

          Treat it like a STOP sign. Stop, look, go.

          It requires some judgement from the driver to do that, just like any STOP sign does. Exactly the same level of judgement required, in fact.

          I think your objection is contrived and ridiculous.

          cr

  14. enl
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    As well as the issues already mentioned (they are sold as revenue enhancers, not safety devices; the accident data is questionable), there is the issue of fobbing law enforcement tasks to a private company, and the issue of downright wrong tickets.

    After hurricane Sandy, a friend of mine was driving an evacuation bus. THe signals were all out, many missing, and traffic was being directed by police and national guard. Several weeks later, he was called in and fired for the stack of tickets issued by the red light cameras (as prescribed by the law for moving voilations). He was not the only one. Only after the entire stack had been re-evaluated, and several other people getting the same treatment (he was the first up, due to chance) were they all called back in and the situation resolved. The cam company, apparently, still wanted their vig. (Brick and Toms Rivr, NJ, by the way)

  15. EdwardM
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    ALL of this goes away when vehicles become driver-less. As a cyclist, I welcome the coming robotic hordes; the streets will be MUCH safer* than when meat puppets are at the wheel.

    *though a friend in AI suggests traffic jams may not go away and might become even more nightmarish; people may avoid paying to park by having their cars do futile cycles in the neighborhood, driving around empty and aimless, until they’re done shopping and getting their nails done. Then the cars come pick them up. Yeeek.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      The streets would become much safer if bicycles were driven by robots that actually obeyed the traffic laws.

      cr

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      Pedestrians may get the notion to step out in front of driverless cars at crossing as the cars will stop and remain there until clear… even after turning green.
      Motorist will be trapped behind it and peds will just take the piss once they know its a DC.

      • Posted June 4, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        The assumption of that is that a human driver who sees a pedestrian step out in front of them when the light is green will simply run them over. Pedestrians don’t (usually) take advantage of drivers’ reluctance to kill people now, why would they do it when the driver is a machine?

        • George Atkinson
          Posted June 4, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          I have experienced stopping at a red light in NYC: pedestrians cross, light goes green, pedestrians continue to cross in front, no chance to move, and now the drivers behind work their horns. When a vehicle moves, pedestrians make way; a stationary vehicle, not participating in traffic, is ignored. A robot driver must also deal with this reality.

          • Posted June 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

            It will be able to do that in the same way, it could start edging forward as a human driver would.

            I think driverless cars are a lot further away the the likes of Waymo and Uber would have you believe. Either they need to have an understanding of human behaviour and behave like humans in these situations or you have to change human behaviour. So either the self driving car has to start edging forward or the pedestrians have to be educated or prevented from crossing when the traffic light is green

        • Posted June 4, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          What i was trying to say and not very well was this and it’s not mine, it’s from a radio report about a driver-less car (DC) accident causing injuries, possible fatality, can’t recall that part.
          Anyhow, a driver-less car is stationary at an intersection waiting for the lights to change (how they know this i’m not clear on) meanwhile a stream of peds just keep walking onto the ped crossing, even after the lights have changed for the DC to proceed, but peds realizing this (it’s a DC) just keep invading the ped crossing knowing the DC will not move until the way is clear. If it is a busy foot traffic area this could cause frustration for non DC, being held up by a robot whilst peds take advantage of the robot. I just found that interesting and humourous.

  16. Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    #5. That really is the main reason.

  17. Gareth Price
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Several people have commented that they should be free to use their judgement as to whether it is necessary to stop. If you stop and obey the light, there is no risk that you make an error of judgement.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      + a very large number.

      • enl
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        For reference, I learned to drive in Boston during the early 1980’s (until high school, I was out in the sticks, so lights were really not on my radar), and have been in NJ for the last 25 years. In that time, I have rear ended no one due to failure to stop (though I did bump the back of a car when I had a brake master cylinder fail) but have been rear ended roughly a half dozen times in a car, two of them sever enough that the car needed to be towed, and have been rear ended twice on motorcycles. Every one of them was at a red light. several were, unquestionably, the person behind me intending to run the light.

        I would say that, in several cases, including one on the motorcycle, stopping for the red light was an error, as I was not situationally aware enough. I have run several red light to avoid being hit.

        • Gareth Price
          Posted June 3, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          I think you are talking about being rear-ended for jamming your brakes on hard at the last moment. I am talking about people who I thought were suggesting that it should up to them to decide whether or not they need to wait at a red light. Maybe I have misunderstood what they are saying.

  18. Mike Anderson
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    One of the issues with red light cameras is that they’re often run by private companies that have a profit motive to find as many infractions as possible.

    There’s just something about a for profit company in a law enforcement role that doesn’t sit well with people.

    • Nicholas K.
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Combined with credible allegations of bribery in contract negotiations (reported in Chicago)and the placement of such cameras — never is wealthy neighborhoods, often in poor to middle class neighborhoods, and you can see how people can view for-profit enforcement as unjust and how it can quickly lead to corruption.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        The law enforcement by private company concept reminds me of Robocop, where a corrupt company got the contract to police New Detroit.

  19. Nicholas K.
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    My objection to red light cameras is based on the manipulation of yellow light timing by the City of Chicago. Yellow light times were shortened so that more violations would occur. And, what is to stop the city from shortening them further?

    https://www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair/f2906d0b-34a1-48ac-bbf4-1a3ec15a2913

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      This is a local governance issue, not an issue with red light cameras.

      • Nicholas K.
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Is it too much to ask to fix the one before you implement the other?

  20. Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    On a side issue that is puzzling: There are now rulings that the police can not chalk someones’ tires to check if they had parked their car in a public place beyond the allotted time. This is viewed as an unlawful search simply b/c they have to touch the tire with chalk.
    I don’t get that one.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Presumably a legalistic interpretation of some facet of the law.

      I assume touching any part of your car without permission or suitable grounds for suspicion constitutes a ‘search’.

      (Much though I hate parking tickets, I can’t raise any objection to chalking the tyre to determine if you’ve been there too long).

      cr

  21. Randy Bessinger
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Why do people hire lawyers to get them off obvious traffic violations or DUI’s? Cynical me says because laws that inconvenience me should apply only to others.

  22. Posted June 3, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ll lump radar cameras with photo radar (in which a temporary camera is set up in a location, photographs speeders, and a ticket is mailed) together.

    First a couple of anecdotes:
    – radar cameras were set up in one city, but then removed shortly after a politician was caught speeding by one, with a female passenger who was not his wife.
    – this may be an urban legend, but when photo radar was first introduced in Vancouver, one driver was sent a photograph of his car speeding. He sent back a picture of the money owed. He then received a picture of handcuffs.
    – a loophole was noticed in the ticketing for photo radar, in that a ticket wasn’t legal unless it was served to you by a police officer. Once this became known, people ignored their mailed tickets, and simply didn’t answer the door when a policeman came to serve it to them. Since the police only tried once, a lot of tickets were not paid, and the system lost money for the extra hours. I believe that, at least in Vancouver, if you don’t pay your ticket they will force you to pay it when you try to renew your car insurance.

    Another reason to hate radar cameras is that (a) it is more challenging to fight them. When a police officer stops you, they may let you off with a warning, depending on your excuse. However you would have to take time off work to fight a radar ticket in court, and your reason that might have been acceptable to the police officer at the time, might not be acceptable to the judge, as they weren’t there to see it. (eg. screaming kids in the car distracted you or similar kid emergency, something happened and you spilled something all over yourself, etc.)
    (b) You may not even be aware that you had received a ticket, or done something wrong until weeks later. This can be an expensive problem if you were visiting a city, and driving a rental car.

    So I would equate that to people don’t like radar cameras because they are inflexible in terms of the law. You are either guilty or not. However in some situations, you may be guilty, but justified in doing so or have a good explanation.

    • Dragon
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      #5 is the most likely.
      I was a stickler for stopping at red lights. I had a number of close calls where the driver behind me clearly assumed I would run it. So I started years ago immediately checking the rear view mirror before applying the brakes.
      Early this year I did so at one of the few red light cameras. One of those newer huge pickups was not slowing down behind me, and following too close.

      I actually thought I entered the intersection before the yellow turned red. But the camera showed my tire was on the paint of the stop line just as the light turned red. The pickup truck barreled through after me – just as my judgement had predicted. I got to see his truck on my photo.
      I considered fighting it by showing that I feared stopping would create an accident, but ended up just paying the $85. Otherwise I would have had to take time off work.

      I suspect a policeman in the same situation would have given me a warning. Actually the policeman would have just stopped the tail-gating pickup rather than me.

  23. sabre422
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Get used to this. Europe has been doing this for years.

    I rented a car in Germany about 6 or 7 years ago for about 3 days as I did business north of Hamburg. When I returned it to the rental company at the airport, I was presented with 4 moving violations, three of which were for speeding in areas where the limit was 40 to 50 km/hr and one ticket for going down a one way street. The tickets added 2 hundred dollars to my rental. It was all done using cameras.

    On the autobahn I was probably the slowest car doing 90 to 110 km/hr. The posted limits in small towns and rural streets was typically 40 to 50. I was aware there were cameras everywhere, but my tickets were for exceeding the limits in those local areas by no more than 5 km/hr (just a few mph) Those with local knowledge knew where the cameras where and when to slow down. Outsiders like me were easy prey. The one way ticket was harsh since I had inadvertently driven into at part of town that was holding a street festival, and a policeman had directed me to back up to the main street, at which time I was traveling the wrong way. The camera “cop” didn’t cut me a break, and so the ticket.

    I thought it all sucked pretty bad at the time since my violations were all for very minor breaches of the law. Had a cop been the loop, I probably would not have been stopped or ticketed…. just warnings.

  24. uommibatto
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I think there’s a slippery slope aspect to this question as well. In London just a week or two ago, a man was fined for covering up his face when walking past a camera that was looking for people who had outstanding warrants. Why is it acceptable/unacceptable to film people on the street in this manner?

    What if lie detectors were 100% reliable? Would it be unacceptable then to simply use them in all legal cases? Why or why not?

    I think most people sense a loss of freedom/autonomy with these cases and the camera issue as well (basically point #5). I am reminded of the end of Camus’ “The Stranger,” where Meursault says something to the effect that a condemned person should have one last chance to make a break for it, sort of a roll of the dice or some element of chance. We are slowly losing our perceived freedom to escape the clutches of the state, and the red camera lights are one more example of this.

    • rod
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      how would the police find him to fine him if he covered his face

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Citation needed for the man covering his face incident.

  25. Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I want cameras everywhere. I commute on a bike everyday and would love to see citations given to dangerous drivers (and some cyclists).

    It sounds as if not all the systematics are worked out to make these cameras 100% error free. Nevertheless, I look forward to the day my car drives me an talks with all the other cars and all the lights and they work together in a ballet. The more cameras now the better data models we can have to improve these systems.

    Humans will lose this battle for independence. Engineering controls will win. Computers and remote sensing systems never text, never drink, and never fall asleep and can make decisions based on models they can refine 24/7.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      It’s not a battle for independence (at least for me).

      It’s that police and local governments are manipulating the system for an increase in revenue.

      I know drivers (and some cyclists, I look forward to the day where I don’t have to drive anymore. If I want, I can go to a track to drive… or something.

      But that’s not the issue here.

  26. Doug Keck
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    In France there are speed traps on the freeway, but they are all announced by a sign well before you get to the actual camera. A few people speed, but not many. that may also be because the limit is 130 km/hr (81mph). There is very little traffic law enforcement of any kind other than that.
    I think the real solution to red light cameras is replace the stops with round abouts. They are common here and much more convenient.

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      I really noticed this last summer (July 2018) driving in France.

      Last time I was there, there were few cameras. Now there are many. And people were not speeding.

      Here (Minneapolis-St.Paul Minnesota area), they have begun putting in roundabouts and I am thrilled about it. Mainly it’s for 4-way stops but some have been for traffic lights.

      Roundabouts are better in every way (except initial installation cost and land footprint): Safer (much safer), faster, and easier to maintain. They are especially useful at intersections of more that 4 roads (2 roads crossing each other).

      There’s some learning curve and some resistance; but people seem to be taking to them pretty well.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        The great thing about roundabouts is that, unlike traffic lights, they don’t hold you up unnecessarily for ages in light traffic with their crappy phasing.

        And yes, safer, because even if you do have a collision it’s a glancing side impact, not a full-speed head-on or T-bone.

        cr

  27. Joe Hahn
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Coyne,

    I consider the 5th reason to be the primary one. Supporting evidence – Watch how many people obey speed limits.

  28. TEJAS PATKI
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    JC, #5 is the reason and it should have been #1. I live in NC and here driving 10mph above the speed limit is the norm no matter what the speed limit is. Unless there is a cop which is when everyone falls in line like good children. So lets not kid ourselves. We need policing to make us follow the law. Not because we are immoral but because without monitoring we will disregard the rules. People follow queues not because that’s the right thing to do but because the crowd self polices itself.

    Someone commented on this post that they want to exercise judgement rather than follow the law. Why would you want to not follow the law every time? Is it because it is not convenient? That is a slippery slope to go down on.

    In stead of tickets, use camera to dock points on a driver. They work like credit scores impacting your insurance premiums or increase DMV fees or something. There are ways to make it work without bringing in some of the risks that others pointed out.

    • Nicholas K.
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Driving 10 mph above the limit is the norm in many of Chicago’s posh neighborhoods too. Only the cameras are rarely placed there. That is my objection — the placement of the cameras is not without bias. They are placed in areas where they are likely to generate more revenue and they are not placed in places like the 14th Ward, where Chicago’s longest-serving Alderman is located.

      • denise
        Posted June 3, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        It’s a tax that you can avoid completely if you choose to. What could be better than that?

  29. Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    The real reason? People want to break the law without consequence. Full stop.

    And that’s just too bad, in my opinion.

    Red light cameras are more efficient in penalizing people for breaking the traffic signal laws and that’s why they don’t like them.

    Here (Minneapolis/St. Paul area), red light running has gotten ridiculous. The worst offenders are people making left turns on the green arrow. It’s now nearly standard that 3+ drivers will run that red light. Not on yellow: They run through (enter the intersection) after the cross traffic has a green — which means many seconds after the red light began.

    I have regularly seen the last red-light runner have to swerve around the cross traffic that begins entering the intersection (on their green light) to complete their red-light run. Completely ridiculous. Happens all the time.

    It’s some kind of weird attitude that “the light was supposed to stay green for me” or some such nonsense.

    People distracted by their (effing) phones may be a big part of it too. Yeah: Left-turning across traffic, running a red light, while texting. Genius.

    Sorry to be long; but I will relate another event from my own life.

    I was commuting home a few years ago. I was stopped (first in line) at a local traffic signal. The cross traffic was coming to a stop; there was a stack of 5-10 cars stopping/stopped to my left and to my right on the cross road.

    My light turned green. I took my foot off the brake and touched the gas. I noticed the car directly across from me just touch his brakes (his front bumper just dipped slightly). Without thought, I instantly hit my brakes. It saved my life.

    Some yahoo flashed through the intersection on the cross road, doing 60-70mph, slaloming around the queues of stopped cars. (My view of the oncoming idiot was blocked by the queue of cars to my left. The person across from me could see them.)

    If I hadn’t hit my brakes, he would have T-boned me on my driver door. And I wouldn’t be writing this.

    Hell, yes, bring on the red light cameras!

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      “The real reason? People want to break the law without consequence. Full stop.”

      Yes, including police and local governments.

  30. Hunt
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I think No. 5 hits it on the head. The fact is that everyone’s driving is littered with various little violations that probably amount to small or no safety hazard in themselves. In fact, strict, robotic adherence to traffic laws is probably less safe, in that it’s outside the mental “flow” of the driver.

    How ever minor the violations are, they are technical violations, and you can get dinged for them. This is exactly why most people get nervous when followed by a cop. You will almost surely make some error, giving the cop an excuse to stop you if he or she wants to.

    Without sophisticated (and probably technically impossible at present) AI, traffic cameras are not able to separate innocuous violations from truly dangerous ones.

  31. Hunt
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    The real solution is to move beyond human-guided multi-ton vehicles for personal transport. Future generations are going to look back on us as lunatics.

  32. Posted June 3, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I’d add a sixth point–like numerous other laws, red light camera laws have not kept up with technology. The idea behind traffic control devices (the spirit of the law) is to reduce and hopefully eliminate the risk of collision. A computer can see when someone runs a red light 0.09 seconds after it flips from yellow (as it did for one of the right turn tickets I received). No intersection is designed in a way where running a light by 0.09 seconds will result in a risk of oncoming traffic from a different direction causing a collision. To that end, I’ve read many municipalities are adding 0.25-0.50 buffers to account for human reaction time, difference in yellow light lengths and the various other factors that go into whether a driver can stop a vehicle when in that certain zone where it is a judgement call.

    (I’d written more before, but it appears WordPress ate my comment. I’ll elaborate further if this one successfully shows up.)

    • Posted June 3, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      There we go…in my above anecdote, I actually had to slow the video down to play frame by frame to determine that I had indeed run the red light. I’ve received 4 or 5 of these tickets in my lifetime–the earliest was around 2003 in the DC Metro area) and not one has ever been for an infraction where I was more than 0.3 seconds late. Given that all intersections are designed with buffers measured in the seconds between a signal turning red and other traffic getting a green signal, I’d support traffic cameras more if they really addressed the egregious offenders who blow through lights, rather than the driver who has to make a judgment call and maybe got caught in between on a yellow light that lasts 3 seconds rather than 3.5 seconds. As outlined in what this article calls the “Dilemma Zone” there is no standard yellow light length. Given this factor alone, it is ridiculous to assume anything other than given enough attempts, every driver will inadvertently run a red light, and do it in a way that is not actually causing a dangerous situation. Human reaction time simply isn’t such that we can make these sort of judgment calls in real-time (hell, even computers wouldn’t be able to do it if they weren’t programmed with knowledge of the length the lights are yellow).

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        I think this only happens to people who try to run the yellow lights. Yellow means “stop if safe”, not “hurry up and try to get through”. 😛

        • Posted June 5, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Let’s just say that when you’re already braking to make the right turn and the light cycles through the yellow so quickly that you’d have to skid to a halt and then you’re under 1/10th of a second late, that system is designed for revenue, not for safety.

          One particularly egregious case in my area involved a yellow phase set to 2 seconds (that’s about 2x less than recommended by traffic engineers). The road is set to a 30 mph speed limit. A quick Google search suggests stopping distance at this speed is about 75 feet. Typical reaction time being 3/4 of second gives you another 1.25 seconds to come to a stop at this particular signal. If, at the point you hit the brakes you are more than 55 feet (1.25 x 44 ft/sec) and less than 75 feet away from the light, you physically cannot stop the car in time nor can you get through the light in time, so the city has created a 20 foot “no-win” zone. Again, this isn’t a design for safety, it’s a money grab. I personally go out of my way not to ever go through that particular intersection anymore.

  33. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I agree with #5.

    But mostly, I’m mad about badly programmed red lights. The ones that make you sit forever on a red at 2a.m. while it shows green to empty roads. I hate pointless waste, including pointless waste of my time.

    It should be legally possible to treat such lights as a ‘Stop’ sign. Stop, look in all directions, and if nothing else is coming, then go.

    There is no compromise with safety in doing that; after all, if the intersection normally experienced such a low level of traffic, a Stop sign is all it would have anyway.

    This is why I like roundabouts (rotary intersections) – when they’re not busy they don’t hold you up.

    cr

    • rod
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      in parts of canada after a certain hour lights switch to flashing yellow/flashing red so that you treat the intersection as a yield/stop. goes back to regular red-green cycle during daylight hours.

      no shift key,sorry

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 4, 2019 at 5:00 am | Permalink

        I had heard of some arrangement like that. It is an excellent idea.

        cr

        • Posted June 4, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          +1. That’s smart design.

  34. Posted June 3, 2019 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    A variation on #5:

    The prescribed punishment for breaking a law is the cost of breaking the law and getting caught. Thus, the cost of breaking the law is a certain risk of that punishment.

    Whoever sets those punishments does so, explicitly or implicitly, with knowledge of how likely offenders are to get caught, and the precedent they’re working from doesn’t include large-scale automated detection.

    If you install a lot of speed cameras, the consequences of driving over the speed limit may suddenly become (let’s say) 10x more severe, not because the fines got any higher but because you’re now much more likely to get caught if you do it.

    So if you feel like the consequences of speeding without large-scale instllation of speed cameras are roughly proportionate to the harm it does, then those speed cameras will feel like an injustice because a formerly-fair penalty just got (in effect) enormously more severe.

    (On the other hand, if you feel like the consequences of speeding have always been too light because sometimes it results in people getting killed or maimed, you may be all in favour of cranking them way up by installing lots of speed cameras.)

    Another variation on the same theme, nearer to what others have said:

    Everyone knows that many many drivers drive a little way above the speed limit a lot of the time. “Everyone” here includes the people who set the speed limits. So they get set conservatively, driving a bit faster than the official limits is reasonably safe, the police know this and are usually lenient, and everything kinda works out even though it means the law is being broken all the time.

    But speed cameras can be configured to be much less lenient, and (especially if they become a revenue stream) they may well be, and now you have speed limits that have been set on the assumption that they will commonly be broken, but enforcement that means they can’t be, which means that in effect all the speed limits are now slightly too low.

    If you think actual road use has usually struck a good balance between safety and convenience, then large-scale speed camera installation will feel like it’s pushing speeds further down than safety really requires, and slowing down everyone’s day without sufficient reason.

    (On the other hand, if you think actual road use is shockingly unsafe and everyone should be driving slower, you may be all in favour of reducing speeds by installing speed cameras that require people to drive slower than they had to when enforcement was occasional and human-mediated.)

  35. Historian
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not red light cameras reduce accidents is a matter of debate and arguments can be found on both sides. A researcher, Justin Gallagher, did a study in Texas and concluded:

    “In a study I co-authored with economist Paul J. Fisher, we examined all police-recorded traffic accidents for three large Texas cities over a 12-year period – hundreds of thousands of accidents. We found no evidence that red light cameras improve public safety. They don’t reduce the total number of vehicle accidents, the total number of individuals injured in accidents or the total number of incapacitating injuries that involve ambulance transport to a hospital.”

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/red-light-cameras-may-not-make-streets-safer/

    Maybe this is why red light cameras are now banned in Texas.

    So the public is skeptical that red light cameras reduce accidents. Rather, it is believed that their main purpose is to raise revenue for the municipality. If they do reduce accidents, municipalities are doing a poor job of convincing the public.

    My main objection to red light cameras is that I am afraid I may be involved in a rear end collision. As I approach a red light camera I am afraid that the light may turn yellow and I may need to slam on the brakes out of fear that the light will turn red as I enter it. Conversely, I am afraid that the driver ahead of me may slam on the brakes. Chicago has many red light cameras and is a main reason, aside from the atrocious traffic, that I avoid driving there. Driving where there are many red light cameras is a nerve wracking experience, which can contribute to accidents.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      “My main objection to red light cameras is that I am afraid I may be involved in a rear end collision.”

      I gather because one or more human primates driving behind you can’t be bothered to follow at a safe distance?

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      In the UK, if the light turns amber (as we call it) as you approach the junction, you must stop. There are two exceptions:

      1. you have already partially crossed the stop line

      2. stopping suddenly will cause a collision.

      On the other hand, if the lights turn red, you must stop. Presumably, at that point, the risk of being rear ended is outweighed by the risk of being T-boned. Even if you enter the junction to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle when the light is red, you are breaking the law.

      It seems to me that, if you are approaching a traffic light controlled junction, you should be aware of the fact that you may be required to stop and you should adjust your speed accordingly.

      • Posted June 4, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        “It seems to me that, if you are approaching a traffic light controlled junction, you should be aware of the fact that you may be required to stop”

        Bullseye.

  36. Filippo
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read all the comments, so someone may have mentioned the rather higher frequency with which drivers roll through or run through stop signs. On a local street one sees signs saying, “Drive Like Your Children Live Here.” Are Amuricuns further manifesting an already rather impressive sense of personal sense of entitlement? They rail about speed bumps on neighborhood streets through which they wish to drive at excessive speed, but along which they do not live, and take offense at being required to drive the speed limit.

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Rolling stop signs is also terrible where I live.

      There are many locations where the default behavior is to roll without pausing — just take a free turn like they have the right of way. They only stop (slam on the brakes) if they absolutely have to. Many are happy to endanger the cross traffic and make you (the one with the right of way) have to slam on your brakes, rather than stopping as the law requires.*

      My son is driving under his learner’s permit now and I have admonished him about this. He now says, as he’s driving, when he sees someone approaching a crossroad stop sign, “he isn’t going to stop!” And usually, he’s right.

      It’s amazing.

      I think it’s the same phenomenon I watched in Seattle in the 1980s. Traffic began to get seriously worse. People were in denaial about it so just did whatever they wanted to “get ahead”.

      I think this is happening here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area now.

      (* As I have told my son, if you pull into traffic and the approaching car has to brake for you, you have made a mistake.)

  37. Roo
    Posted June 3, 2019 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I think it depends on the context. I think I’ve gotten two of those tickets at some point… one was in a small town off a major highway where they probably had to deal with a lot of traffic from travelers pulling off at the exit for food and whatnot (can’t remember the town, but I remember that’s why I was there, so many others probably were as well). I wasn’t any more annoyed than I would have been by any other ticket. Another was in a place notorious for questionable parking tickets (You’re too close to the curb! Now too far! Now to medium!) and speed traps, and my first thought was “Yeah right, I’m sure this is legit, uh huh.” Maybe it was, but if you have your doubts and you can’t verify it (can you really remember exactly how fast you were going at 5:14 on a particular spot on a particular road three weeks ago?) then I think it instantly builds mistrust in the machines. If you get pulled over in the moment you know if you were speeding, if it’s a machine you’re inclined to think you were treated unfairly.

    Besides, teenagers can now use them to harass teachers!

  38. Posted June 3, 2019 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m a cyclist (as well as a car driver). I often point out that I face more negative feedback as a cyclist than as an atheist. (My own experience, others probably have different kilometerage)

    Just about any discussion of cycling that comes up online, a good percentage of the comments will complain about “scofflaw cyclists” whether it has anything to do with the story or not.

    So I’m amused when motor vehicle operators are upset at the notion that they might get caught doing something strictly speaking illegal, whether the transgression is ‘reasonable’ or not.

    For the record I think just about everyone breaks the law on occasion and we mostly break the law when in our own opinion it’s ‘reasonable’ and safe. But for some reason to a car driver speeding or rolling through a stop sign is reasonable but a cyclist rolling through a stop sign is a barbarian with no consideration for others.

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I too am a regular cyclist (as well as car driver): Minnesota, Mpls.-St.Paul area.

      When cycling, when I approach a stop sign and there and cars around, I stop. If there is no one around, I do not stop. The impact for a cyclist to stop and have to re-accelerate is hugely different than for a car.

      When driving a car, I stop.

      I get peeved at cyclists who:
      – Roll stop signs when cars are queued
      – Cross intersections against traffic lights
      – ride in the traffic lane for no apparent reason (chatting with you companion is no sufficient reason)
      – Ride in the traffic lane where there’s no shoulder and the IS a bike path within 10 feet of the roadway, running parallel.

      Last night, as I was doing my normal time-trial on my bike for exercise, I saw two cyclists coming towards me. This was on a rather rural two-lane with no shoulder, generally very low traffic, and no bike path (I’m riding on the white line). They were taking up the entire oncoming lane by riding side-by-side. 3 cars were coming up behind them. They, me, and the cars became coincident on the road. I figured, here goes, I’m going to be run over as the cars pass these yahoos. I prepared to roll into the ditch.

      Finally, after causing the cars to come nearly to a stop, the dopes got into single file.

      And cyclists wonder why car drivers are annoyed by them!

  39. Posted June 3, 2019 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Red Light cameras have been a major source of fraud and corruption from the beginning.

    Chicago officials *lied* about the number of lives saved, refused to show their study. (Said it’s “confidential.”) There was an large *increase* in rear end collisions as people brake suddenly to avoid a ticket.

    The middle of 2011 saw a suspicious number of “unexplained” spikes in ticketing, that the City and the company claimed didn’t know about. These were cause by deliberately changing the yellow light timing, shortening it to *guarantee* more tickets.

    Continual bribery/corruption scandals resulted in conviction of one former city official for taking $2 million in bribes. City will have to give back approximate 39 million those ticketed.

    Tribune did a timeline on the scandal beginning in 2002 under Mayor Daley, to increase of usage under Rahm Emanuel to 2016.
    http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/news/local/red-light-timeline/

    2017
    City reaches $38.75 million settlement in red light ticket lawsuit – Chicago Tribune

    • Posted June 4, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I’ve had one CHI interlocutor (FB “friend”) express that everyone should run the red light because the car behind them intends to run it and will rear-end you.

      This is absurd.

      If the light turns yellow, you damned well better be prepared to stop.

      I have gone over pretty far on the “stop” side of things. I used to push it a bit when I was younger; but it just seems like a completely stupid thing to do. Risk a wreck so you don’t have to wait one light cycle?

  40. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 4, 2019 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Why are people angry about red light cameras?
    For the same reason that 90% of people think that they are better than average drivers, they simultaneously consider 95% of the drivers in their sight on the road to be worse-than-average drivers.
    As I’ve said before (and tried one of those government petitions to get it legislated), I think people should get their driving license for (about) a decade, and then you lose it, automatically, no appeal so you have to re-sit your driving test under the day’s test rules, not the rules when you first passed your test.
    Some flex for allowing a window in which you can choose to surrender (permanently) your license on turning up at the test centre before your due date to re-sit your test, but every decade you have to prove that your driving skills are up to the level required.

    A lot of people don’t like the idea of continually proving one’s competence. I don’t particularly like going through the “washing machine of helicopter underwater escape training every few years. But it’s considered acceptable for people handling dangerous machinery. Which vehicles are.

    That petition – I think it got 6 signatures including my own. People seem very attached to their driving licenses and cars. That’s got to change.

  41. Lurker111
    Posted June 4, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Steve Lehto, of Lehto’s Law videos on youtube, had this to say:

    Red Light Cameras Are Evil! – Lehto’s Law Ep. 5.42

    Worth watching. Also, a lot of his other vids are pretty interesting too. You’ll thank me for wasting your time. 🙂

  42. Charles Sawicki
    Posted June 4, 2019 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    It’s #5 for me!

  43. merilee
    Posted June 4, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Waaaaaay OT, but too good not to share:
    https://11points.com/11-great-moments-math-science-class-history/

  44. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted June 6, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    In the UK there are two types of camera system used to enforce speed limits. The more widespread type – ‘gatso’ – measure your speed at the point of passing the camera whilst the other type are ‘average speed cameras’ where there are two or more cameras along a stretch of road and the time for your vehicle to travel between the two cameras is measured. The former type tend to cause drivers to brake as they approach the camera and speed up again after they have passed it so arguably they encourage driving behaviour that may increase the risk of accidents. The average speed cameras are very effective at bringing the speed of the entire traffic flow down to the prescribed level. Despite the fact that they are evidently better at regulating traffic speeds these average speed systems are used much less – mainly on major trunk roads where temporary speed limits re in force. I imagine they are more costly to install/operate or they would be more widely used.

  45. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted June 6, 2019 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    I had a frustrating situation several years ago when I received a number of ‘fixed penalty notices’ for failure to pay the toll on the Dartford road crossing over the river Thames. I live about 300 miles from this bridge and had definitely not been across it. On each occasion the accompanying photograph showed a car that had the same number plate as mine but was clearly a different make. I contacted the police to inform them that I believed someone was driving a car with false number plates that happened to match mine but they concluded that in fact the problem was due to the fact that the car who’s toll violations I was getting hit with had the same number plate as mine except for the final letter which was an ‘E’ on my car and a ‘C’ on the other car. The rivet holding the plate onto the other car was in the middle of the ‘C’ causing the automatic plate recognition system to misread it as an ‘E’.


%d bloggers like this: