Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So what's the problem with red light cameras anyway?

There was a story earlier this week over at the excellent tech website Ars Technica that looked at the very contentious issue of automated photo red light cameras. The story is a pretty balanced one that looks at the benefits and pitfalls of such systems.
After having rapidly risen to cities large and small across America, citizens and members of local government are starting to ask themselves the same questions that Mayor Marsh is asking: are these cameras actually making our communities safer? And is it a good idea to use speeders’ fines to pay for a system designed to catch them? Plus, are all laws even meant to be perfectly enforced?
Via Ars Technica

I am always leery when you introduce any sort of financial incentive into enforcement efforts. It's just way too easy to jettison fairness in enforcement efforts in order to chase the dollar. Automated red light cameras are a lot like asset forfeiture in that respect.

It's also important to note that the best law enforcement occurs as a cooperative effort between the police and the public they serve. The visceral objection to red light cameras may stem from the idea that these devices are akin to playing dirty pool. No one likes getting a traffic ticket but it's really offensive when you feel that the ticket was not given fairly and honestly.

Of course the best way to improve traffic safety is better traffic engineering practices that improve traffic safety without resorting to the dreaded traffic ticket. This is also much less likely to result in an angry tirade from citizens would who have gotten one of those tickets.

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