Red Light Camera Rant

red light camera sign

I recently started a new website named BastropTexas.org in response to receiving a red light ticket from that town. I honestly had no clue that I had received said ticket until it arrived in the mail. I was annoyed by this occurrence to say the least. I think my more precise thoughts were along the lines of those chicken shit SOB’s.

Bastrop has long had the reputation of having an over exuberant police department used as a profit center. This is frequently the case with small Texas towns. It is similar to little man syndrome in a person. The town elects to flex its muscles through law enforcement with the rationale you better not misbehave in our town and if you do you deserve what you get. For lack of a better word, it is a common hick mentality, although this thinking isn’t exclusively the domain of rednecks.

I have become far more disturbed about red light cameras in my process of researching for the new website. 40% of all U.S. contracts are administered by one company based out of Phoenix named American Traffic Solutions. This company claims accidents drop by 24% in locations with red light cameras and the majority of citizens support their usage. The latter fact is contracted by the fact that red light cameras have been defeated 22 of the 23 times they have been put to a vote. Studies saying red light cameras prevent accidents are contradicted by just as many studies saying they increase accidents.

Since the efficacy of red light cameras as a tool to increase safety is dubious at best, why do municipalities continue to adopt these systems? As usual, the answer is money. American Traffic Solutions offers to install the cameras and initially process infractions for a mere 25% piece of the action. This equates to millions over time. In fact, ATS demanded over 20 million dollars from the city of Houston when their voters elected to remove red like cameras. The city was able to settle the case for a mere 4.8 million dollars in the end. This wasn’t a bad deal though considering the cameras had collected well over 40 million dollars worth of fines in the few short years they had been in action.

Even more disturbing revelations relate to the lobbying efforts of American Traffic Solutions. Until recently, ATS was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council along with numerous other large corporations. If you are interested in learning more about the connection between ATC and ALEC, I recommend reading Sourcewatch.

Why Don’t We Stand Up?

Obviously, running a red light is a dangerous practice. The real concerns here involve the privatization of a public duty, corruption and the invasive actions of big brother. Red light cameras lead to speed cameras. Then cameras are added to school buses to ticket cars that pass while children are being unloaded. The next steps involve drone surveillance. The underlying message all along is you have nothing to fear unless you are breaking the law. This is bullshit. I have plenty to fear from an invasion of privacy. Even if you are a saint who never breaks the most minor of law, your children likely will. Yes, the same children that you might be trying to protect are going to face increasingly severe penalties as a result of the overarching reach of government.

Another significant problem results once municipalities become hooked on this tax revenue. Once they start counting on these funds and using them to fund new programs, they will fight tooth an nail to protect them. After all, wouldn’t you fight to protect your job.

Anyway, these trends are disturbing. I certainly hope my generation will start to protest against these intrusions to build a government that actually works for the people.

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