Nanny State

The Monkeys vs. the Red-Light Machines


The Washington Post Style section, when not producing in-house fisticuffs or front-page examinations of A-Rod's snot, is capable of some useful reporting. Such as within this feature today on red-light cameras:

A handful of cities used them a decade ago. Now they're in more than 400, spread across two dozen states. Montgomery County started out with 18 cameras in 2007. Now it has 119. Maryland just took the program statewide last month, and Prince George's is putting up 50. The District started out with a few red light cameras in 1999; now they send out as many automated tickets each year as they have residents, about 580,000. […]


Red-light or speed cameras or both are banned in all or part of 14 states. The Republican governor of Mississippi kicked them out of the Magnolia State earlier this year. The Democratic governor of Montana did the same in July. Sulphur, La., put the issue to a vote in April—and 86 percent of the populace voted to get rid of them. […]

Nationwide, there have been something like 11 elections on automated enforcement. Your vote total: Revolting Peasants 11, Machines 0.  […]

One guy who lives outside of Phoenix, Dave Vontesmar, hated the cameras so much he put on a monkey mask to drive to work every day, to keep the front-facing cameras from identifying him. Racked up 37 tickets that could amount to $6,500 in fines. Says the state can't prove it's him, which it has to do in his state. […]

Fairfax County, which got rid of its cameras several years ago, saw bigger reductions of fatal accidents than Montgomery County did with its cameras—fatal traffic accidents were down in Fairfax by 19 percent in 2007 and another 46 percent in 2008. (The cameras have since been reinstalled at several intersections in Northern Virginia.)

Fatalities in Montgomery County's camera zones, meanwhile, inched up, from two to three. Pedestrians struck by cars went up, too, from a four-year average of 15 to 22 last year.)

Reason on red-light cameras here.

NEXT: America Only Seems Polarized

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  1. Where is Charlton Heston when you need him?

  2. These stories always remind me of the Colombo episode with Dabney Coleman.

  3. I’m offended.

  4. That pic and alt text is racist.

  5. What? No linky to videos of one of the greatest rock acts ever? Color me depressed.

      1. Thanks Tulpa. I liked him better with the J. geils band.

        1. With all apologies to Peter Gabriel, I think this is the group and song you were actually looking for. Read that alt-text tag again.

          1. I’m not old enough for those dudes to even be on my horizon. There’s some stuttering monkey action in the Gabriel song, too.

            1. It’s not the stuttering action that gives it to The World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band, it’s the “I’m a Monkey” bit.

              Peter Gabriel’s lyrics may implore the listener to shock the monkey, but do not expressly identify the singer as the monkey in question 😉

        2. J.Geils Band? Really? Looks like you may need to check your Peters (twss).

        3. Peter Wolf was in the J.Geils band. Peter Gabrial was in Gensis.

  6. LOL< wow, those are some pretty smart monkeys dude!


    1. You’ve seen it, anonymitybot’s admiration is greater than his sense of amusement at the antics of these noble car-apes.

      1. Umber is the smartest and most accomplished of the Beanos. He’s like the Doyle McPoyle of the Beano clan.

      2. He’s on his own territory: Mask = anonymity y’know.

  7. Pay your tickets you god damned dirty ape.

    1. Arizona was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago.

  8. Abe Lincoln had a car??

  9. I live in Sulphur, LA and I didn’t vote that day. It would have been 87% if I had been in town. Can you imagine 87% of people agreeing on anything?

  10. When did the TireMonkey learn to drive?

    1. Are you thinking Trunk Monkey? I love those.…..133929840#

  11. When does the SWAT team kick the ape dude’s door down so they can search for the monkey mask?

    1. I would be surprised if wearing a monkey mask while driving doesn’t violate a whole host of traffic laws in its own right. I can’t imagine the visibility while wearing that thing is very good.

      And frankly, it would be pretty easy for the cops to target a guy wearing a monkey mask with a rosary draped over the rearview mirror and a giant “BUCKTOOTH Racin'” decal on the windshield of his Ford SUV.

      1. In today’s PC world it is super hard to catch a perp dressed up as a monkey.

        Think about it. You are a cop and you see MonkeyMan speed by you at 100 mph drinking whiskey right from the bottle. Do you really want to get on the radio and broadcast that “I’m going after some monkey looking asshole!”?

        You would never get the chance to explain. Your career would be over by the time your thumb let up on the transmit button.

        In fact, you think some smart black guy would have already used this disguise to get out of everything.

        Defense Lawyer: Can you describe my client when you saw him robbing the bank?

        LEO: He looked like a monkey.


        Defense lawyer: So you think my african american client looked like a monkey? I rest my case.

        1. Sort of like the end chase scene in Johnny Dangerously. Be on the look out for a car painted in, get this, duckies and bunnies, everyone meet at the bar, I’m buying.

        2. This is a TV show or comic or short story just waiting to happen.

        3. If the mask don’t fit, you must acquit.

    2. And will they still shoot his dogs if *they*’re wearing monkey masks?

    3. Actually, the po-po got tired of him. They ran surveillance on him and have footage of him putting the monkey mask on. I applaud his efforts, but he’s going down on this.

      1. Take that, citizenry!

  12. Actually, the po-po got tired of him. They ran surveillance on him and have footage of him putting the monkey mask on.

    Another fine application of police resources.

    1. This definitely falls under the category of pour encourager les autres. If they let one joker skate by with a monkey mask, pretty soon rush hour will be nothing but monkey masks. We can’t have that, can we?

      I figure he’s lucky they didn’t ask for a no-knock warrant to search his house for the monkey mask.

      1. I see it more like oderint dum metuant.

      2. That sounds like the best rush hour ever, actually. Plus it’s a potential spontaneous intersection party, y’know? Drivers start looking around, everyone’s wearing monkey masks. So they all get out of their cars. A few of the younger monkeys turn their stereos up, and soon there’s a bumpin’ party in the middle of the road.

  13. Another fine application of police resources.

    They must have taken care of all the actual crimes in that part of Arizona. Good for them!

  14. Fairfax County, which got rid of its cameras banned indoor smoking several years ago, saw bigger reductions of fatal accidents than Montgomery County did… down in Fairfax by 19 percent in 2007 and another 46 percent in 2008.

    Somehow I seem to recall a lot of articles around here criticizing this kind of claim.

  15. I’m betting Neu loves the traffic cams. It seems just his kind of caring paternalism.
    And let me save you the trouble, Neu:
    “Fuck you, CN!”
    Not that you’d ever say “Fuck you!” of course.

  16. Somehow I seem to recall a lot of articles around here criticizing this kind of claim.

    Not the same, NM. The claim by advocates for red light cameras is safety benefits. By providing a counter argument based on the statistics, it pokes a hole in the safety argument.

    One could also note the effect of red light cameras would presumably be more immediate than the changes in heart disease and cancer mortality rates from a smoking ban. It doesn’t take years for traffic statistics to adjust.

  17. Love the idea, unfortunately it wouldn’t work in a lot of states because a) wearing a mask on non-holiday occasions is illegal in many jurisdictions [unless you are a cop of course] and b) in many states, the photo of the car’s tag creates a “rebuttalble presumption” that the registered owner of the vehicle is the driver in the picture, at which point the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove someone else was driving. Courts say it’s not unconstitutional burden-shifting because a traffic fine is an “administrative” not a criminal sanction. More BS made up by the courts to get around the Constitution.

  18. Monkey Man

    I’m a fleabit peanut monkey,
    All my friends are junkies,
    That’s not really true.

    I’m a cold Italian pizza,
    I could use a lemon squeezer.
    Would you do?

    But I’ve been bit, and I’ve been tossed around
    By every she-rat in this town.
    Have you, babe?

    Well, I am just a monkey man;
    I’m glad you are a monkey woman, too.

    I was bitten by a boar,
    I was gouged and I was gored,
    But I pulled it on through.

    Yes, I’m a sack of broken eggs,
    I always have an unmade bed.
    Don’t you?

    Well, I hope we’re not too messianic,
    Or a trifle too satanic.
    We love to play the blues.

    Well I am just a monkey man.
    I’m glad you are a monkey, monkey woman too, babe.

    I’m a monkey!
    I’m a monkey!
    I’m a monkey man!
    I’m a monkey man!
    I’m a monkey. . . .

  19. Pablo – wearing a mask on non-holiday occasions is illegal is some localities? I wouldn’t put anything past the bastards, but I’ve never heard of this.

    1. CN–It’s Georgia Code Section 16-11-38. Many if not most states have similar laws. I had no idea until I started practicing criminal law and actually read the entire criminal law code. Anyone who does that in their state will be amazed at all the things that are illegal. We are basically all criminals, which I guess is the whole point of the exercise.

      1. What about Nancy Pelosi? She wears a mask all day every day.

        What? That isn’t a mask? Really?

        Well she should wear one then.

      2. Aimed at the Klan, IIRC.

    2. Pablo – wearing a mask on non-holiday occasions is illegal is some localities? I wouldn’t put anything past the bastards, but I’ve never heard of this.

      Couldn’t you get around that with a ski cap? The ones that cover your face but leave your nose and mouth exposed?

  20. I’m surprised the tickets are linked to the driver and not the vehicle. If you watch the show “Parking Wars” the PPA in Philly don’t care whose car it is or even if it’s the right car all tickets are linked to the tags.

  21. Pablo – so which holidays? Just those the state of Georgia recognizes? Everybody can wear a mask on Robert E. Lee’s birthday?

    1. And what about a hijab?

  22. I’m still questioning this, Pablo. What about the full-face winter ski masks common in northern climes? Or maybe it’s just a Southern thang?

    1. Dude, I didn’t write the law. It’s open to your interpretation, and anyone else’s. You know, the Humpty Dumpty approach.

    2. In NYS it’s illegal to enter a place of business wearing a mask, except on Halloween. (and yes, this includes ski masks and such.) This is one of the few weird-sounding laws I actually think is a good idea, for the same reason as the law against painting your license plate black is a good idea.

      I’m not sure about wearing a mask driving or just walking around out in the open, though. As I stated above, it probably violates V&T laws because it reduces visibility.

  23. What if you have to wear a bag over your head (uh…like a friend of mine, ..yeah, a friend) cause your so freakin’ ugly that you can’t get even get laid by a fat girl? Wouldn’t that infringe on my “pursuit of happiness?”

    1. I’m pretty sure your friend could still make out with Mariah Carey if he’s really desperate. Which is why it’s strange the guy in that commercial is boasting about it…it’s like, if you made out with her 15 years ago that would’ve been something, but as it stands today, not so much.

  24. Uh, I meant to say “Wouldn’t that infringe on my FRIEND’s “pursuit of happiness?”

  25. Don’t forget to have everybody call you “handsome dan” once you start wearing the bag.

    Oh, I mean, start calling your friend “handsome friend” after he starts wearing it.

  26. Red light cameras are cropping up all over Seattle. There’s one down the street where I live. Yes, I know this is purely anecdotal, but I’ve seen a lot more false starts and near accidents after the installation.

    What I’m seeing:

    Light with no left turn signal, yet has ‘left turn lane’ go figure. Because of constant long streams of oncoming traffic, often times you sit through light 3, 4, 5 cycles (because Seattle drivers don’t know how to make unprotected left turns– another discussion). Because people get fed up sitting at light through 5 cycles, they ‘push’ the envelope and slip through the intersection just after it goes red. A technically illegal maneuver, but not necessarily unsafe.

    Post red light camera:

    Now what I see are people too afraid to go into the intersection at all, but as the light goes yellow, the make a panic, herky-jerky rush to make their left turn without consideration of traffic because their eye is on the light, not on the oncoming cars. In the last six months since the camera was installed, I’ve personally witnessed more near-accidents than in the five years I’ve lived in that neighborhood.

  27. Says the state can’t prove it’s him, which it has to do in his state. […]

    I wish we could do that.

    In Illinois, red light camera tix are treated like parking tix. Whoever the plates are registered to is on the hook for them. It doesn’t matter if you were driving or not — you are responsible for whoever is driving your car.

    The upshot (if you can call it that) is that it isn’t treated like a moving violation, isn’t reported to insurance and doesn’t go on your driving record.

    1. The upshot (if you can call it that) is that it isn’t treated like a moving violation, isn’t reported to insurance and doesn’t go on your driving record.

      Yeah, they can’t have it both ways. Either they’re ticketing the car, or ticketing the driver. If they’re ticketing the car (ala parking ticket) then you can’t be getting nicks on your license and insurance for unsafe driving.

  28. BTW, I read the fistucuffs link and came across this gem:

    Medford told Allen that Brauchli had said that this was a new era at the Post and we can’t have violence in the newsroom.

    So… during the old era they did have violence in the newsroom?

  29. Revolting Peasants

    Of course, they’re revolting. Are the rebeling?


  30. I just went to traffic court for a red-light camera violation in Fremont, CA. The fine was about $450, with another $50 for traffic school. The CA legislature gives the judge zero discretion to lower the fine. The only acceptable defense is that you aren’t the driver.

    The red light I ran is on the widest, best-lit, best-paved intersection in the entire city (Fremont & Mowry). Thus, it is the safest intersection in the whole city. I ran the light because I was distracted by a weaving driver in the lane next to me, who I was afraid was going to suddenly veer into my lane. Because I was driving the speed limit of 40MPH instead of the standard 50MPH everyone usually drives on Mowry, I missed the yellow light by 0.2 seconds. So, basically, I’m being punished for choosing the safest route home, for driving the speed limit, and for watching a hazardous driver who might’ve hit me instead of a traffic light.

    I’m seriously looking into how I can get a ballot initiative to ban these cameras in my city.

    1. Of course the state will ignore all that because safe drivers don’t run red lights. When a LEO looks at you, it’s about the little infractions, not the whole story. When LEOs are looked at, we suppose to ignore the little infraction and look at the whole story.

    2. Go with a 308 for the cameras. I think its a 10 day wait in Calif…

      Oh wait, you said BALLOT?

    3. To be fair, Tim sometimes cops are just as bad at being common sensical about things.

      About a year ago I was at a red light waiting to turn onto a street with a center divider. I get my arrow and begin to turn right when a semi starts to proceed into the intersection (he was waiting for the other lights to turn red rather than waiting for his own to turn green). I was already in the intersection and the only thing I could do to avoid the truck was to turn on the wrong side of the divider and get out of the intersection.

      After the truck passed through I turned around and U-turned back to the correct side of the divider. And that’s when the blue lights went on and I was pulled over.

      He didn’t give me a ticket because it was clear I hadn’t been drinking and I probably was going to be a pain in the ass in court. But I can’t imagine what he was doing to make him think I was the one that needed to be pulled over.

  31. That those things haven’t all be taken out, with paintballs, at least, is a sad indictment of Americans.

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