Police

Putting the Brakes on Red Light Cameras

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Traffic cameras—those pesky devices that take pictures of vehicles running red lights and mail tickets to the registered owners a month later—are currently in use in over 450 communities in the U.S. But with evidence mounting that the cameras don't necessarily increase safety, raise expected revenue, or meet legal requirements, many local governments are finally getting rid of them.

Pay up, Dave

Earlier this month, after enduring complaints from various activists, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer allowed the state's two-year-old contract for speed cameras to lapse, effectively shutting down the system of fixed and van-mounted camera speed traps.

The 76 cameras in Arizona didn't produce the revenue stream politicians had anticipated. According to the state, less than a third of the 1.2 million tickets mailed out were ever paid, which meant the government received just $78 million in fine payments—not the $120 million it projected.

Anti-camera activists are also winning in South Carolina and Indiana. And while it may still be a long time before the tide turns completely against traffic camera tickets, some motorists have found ways to beat them in court. From the July/August issue of the National Motorists Association's Driving Freedoms newsletter:

In fighting a red-light camera ticket in Seattle (WA) Municipal Court, Mr. Eros laid out 55 distinct issues in challenging the constitutionality of photo tickets. (His case was dismissed on a technicality, allowing the judge to dodge the need to rule on his motion.).

Among the points made by Eros were a) the denial of the right to confront and cross-examine adversarial witnesses, b) the presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle is guilty, regardless of who was actually driving, thereby destroying the presumption of innocence, c) an unverified chain of control of the alleged (photograhpic) evidence, and d) the lack of scientific reliability of the cameras to warrant unquestioned acceptance into evidence.

The article goes on to cite examples of other motorists winning on similar grounds. Of these, the case of Gant Bloom may be the most applicable:

Bloom's defense was startling in it's simplicity. The photo evidence from the city provided an image of his car, but not of the driver. He testified that both he and his girlfriend drove his car at various times, and since the ticket came in the mail a month after the actual incident, Bloom could not remember which of the two was driving when the car went through the red light.

Casting doubt on the identity of the driver was sufficient for Bloom to win his case. Driving Freedoms suggests that because the cameras hardly ever capture a shot of the driver, this argument is one of the best ways to beat a camera ticket.

Read more from Reason on red light cameras here.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Experimental Economist Bart Wilson on the Meaning of "Fair"

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  1. Is that meant to be “brakes”, or is the title of this blog post a subtle incitement to violence against the machine overlords?

    1. Them’s the brakes, sometimes.

  2. A more freedom-loving people would disable the cameras for those local governments. When did we become such pussies?

    1. It’s kind of hard to disable one of these when it’s right in the middle of downtown. If it’s out in the middle of nowhere, just shoot it, but you can’t do that in the middle of the city.

      1. See Santa video below.

      2. I was wondering what would be required of a laser to damage the video equipment. I imagine it would require some serious power.

        Sciencey people?

        1. S3 Spyder Arctic. It’s $200 and can set shit on fire. Plus, it looks like a lightsaber.

          http://www.wickedlasers.com/la…..96-37.html

      3. Hmmm. Lasers? EMP? Cleansing fire?

        1. Spray paint? Salt water? Righteous anger?

          1. Paintball Guns.

            1. That might not be a bad idea. Rather than actually destroying the cameras, just make them labor-intensive as hell to maintain. And I suppose the fines would be lower for mere “painting” as opposed to destroying. Maybe there’s a free speech argument in here if the bullet leaves a logo or something?

            2. How about balloons filled with paint? Launched by aerial drones armed with catapults?

              1. Now you’re just being silly.

                1. If there’s one thing this site will NOT tolerate, it’s silliness. Stop it this instant.

                2. Well, we’ve got balloon technology. We’ve got paint technology. We’ve got drone technology. And we’ve had catapult technology for quite some time.

                  I don’t see the problem.

      4. Oh, so now we’ve graduated from merely speaking out against the state actions we don’t like to destroying public property. Scratch a libertarian, find a coercitarian.

        1. Disable =/= destroy.

          It is an awesome hyperbole move though.

          1. I’m fine with destroying them as well though.

          2. Last I checked, libertarians weren’t supposed to support disabling, damaging, destroying, darkening, or defecating other people’s property. So it’s a distinction without a difference.

            1. So putting up a giant tree that stops my neighbors dish from reception should be wrong?

              Using the word libertarian as a broad sweeping term is a little silly.

              I’ve also never seen the government defined as a person.

              1. That would probably be a matter for civil courts rather than criminal law, but yes, if the dish was there first and then you block it, you should have to pay your neighbor any costs associated with restoring their connection.

                1. You realize courts have ruled the other way? I should have to compensate someone for what I do to my property? If my neighbor doesn’t mow his lawn and statistically my home value drops I should sue him? Oh wait we have a slew of retarded ordinances for that. (which by the way proved you can beat city hall, three times, in county circuit court)

                  1. A drop in property value is not tangible, demonstrable, quantifiable damage in the way that blocking television service would be.

                    1. Really? Because property value seems tangible, demonstrable, quantifiable enough to tax me.

                    2. Frankly, I wouldn’t offend people with drones armed with paint-balloon-throwing catapults.

                    3. Not even congresscritters?

              2. not a very neighborly thing to do.

            2. The last time I tried defecating a security camera, I ended up with 96 stitches.

              1. Tulpa, temporarily blinding a red-light camera with paintballs does not equal climbing the pole and taking it out with a ball-peen hammer. One is a prank, the other a violent act against property.

                1. Really? Then you wouldn’t consider it a property crime to shoot paintballs at a parked car’s windshield, since it renders the car undrivable only temporarily (and I guarantee it’s easier to remove paint from a vehicle windshield than from a camera lens).

                  I’m not disputing that they are different levels of crime. But they are both crimes.

                  1. Not the same thing in my book, Tulpa. One would inconvenience a private individual car owner, and the other would inconvenience an arm of the state.

            3. Personally, I see no problem with destroying a device whose sole purpose is to invade the privacy of others, generate revenue for an over bearing state, is installed on public property, and which creates a safety hazard that endangers the general population.

              These cameras should be destroyed.

              1. I suppose you consider parking meters fair game for target practice, too, since those generate revenue and are on public property.

                You also have no expectation of privacy when you’re driving on public streets (at least as far as the exterior of your vehicle, including license plate, is concerned). The safety hazards are only created by idiot tailgaters.

                1. Privately owned or public parking meters? (you can guess where that’s going)

                  If it’s a public parking meter why am I paying multiple times for the same thing. I’m paying taxes for the street, a price to park, taxes for the mechanism to regulate parking. Seems like a bit of a sham.

            4. Last I checked, libertarians weren’t supposed to support disabling, damaging, destroying, darkening, or defecating other people’s property. So it’s a distinction without a difference.

              Ummm, no, libertarians aren’t OK with doing such things to objects not being used to initiate aggression against them.

              Red light cameras are being used to initiate aggression if their prime purpose is extracting revenue.

              Are you srsly arguing that libertarians would object to, say, someone destroying a gun being used by a robber to commmit a robbery?

  3. Poor intern.

    Good article, alt text yay, title fail.

    1. on second thought, title fail, or title genius?

  4. I liked the Top Gear episode where they figured out how fast you would have to go past a photoradar to avoid getting your picture taken.

    1. mythbusters? Never seen TG do it. Not that they wouldn’t have the machines to do it with.

      1. Mythbusters. I saw that one.

        1. Ah. Mythbusters. For some reason I was thinking Top Gear.

          1. Top Gear did it on the first episode of the “new” format, Series 1 spisode 1, in 2002.

      2. There was a TG episode where Jeremy held up a paper mask when driving past photo-speed-traps. Pretty funny.

        1. Skyline v. Japanese public transport.

          I think.

  5. The unidentifiable driver defense is easily solved. Just change the regs to allow for the ticket to be served to the registered owner, and make him/her liable. That is what Ontario did.

    1. So, its illegal to own a car that someone else breaks the speed limit with?

      I thought Americans were turning into a nation of pussies, but if the Canucks put up with this, they have us beat.

      1. …just like it’s illegal to own a car that someone parked in a handicapped spot or in front of a fire hydrant.

    2. Please. Stop. Giving. Them. Ideas.

    3. I suppose the diff here between US and Ontario is that we’ve purportedly got this Constitution thingie with “amendments” and stuff that supposedly say the gummint can’t do what you’re proposing.

      1. They do it with parking tickets.

        1. Tulpa, you giant vagina, do you own stock in traffic camera manufacturers, or are you just here to troll?

    4. Doesn’t work in the U.S., WS, due to that constitution thingy. Issuing tickets to registered owners rather than the person proven to be driving the car is what got the Hawaii traffic cams tossed out by the courts.

  6. I do believe that this Christmas season I will be organizing a Santa Brigade…

    *Honey we are going to need to increase the funding of the bail your husband out of jail account.*

  7. Only $78 Million. At, what? $75 – $100 a pop? Only in law enforcement and tax collection is that considered failure.

  8. There is something seriously wrong with our country when law enforcement is considered a revenue stream, and not a way to keep people safe.

    At least they were honest in this case, and didn’t try to hide behind “It will save the lives. Of the CHILDREN!”

  9. The brakes are not exactly being applied here in Saint Louis.

    http://blogs.riverfronttimes.c…..ticket.php

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/t…..abc5a.html

  10. with evidence mounting that the cameras don’t necessarily increase safety, raise expected revenue, or meet legal requirements, many local governments are finally getting rid of them.

    I don’t see this becoming much of a trend, since the statist big brother spy thing outweighs any of that other crap.

  11. I wonder if it is possible to attach a paint-ball gun to a remote control toy helicopter to … a … you know … touch up some hard-to-reach places on my house siding.

    1. Jack the pressure up high enough and they shoot a little straighter.

    2. There’s a guy who has a table at Knob Creek who makes belt fed .22 LR caliber machineguns. He had a very curious piece of equipment at his table last October. It looked like an electrically actuated belt fed .22LR gun, very lightweight. In fact it was. When I asked, he said it was a prototype that he was developing for UAVs. The idea being a UAV could carry an extreme load of .22s and the recoil during firing wouldn’t adversely affect the flight characteristics like a larger caliber would. I wonder if he’s sold any to some agency or other.

      Anyway, I’m sure a model plane could be built to carry a payload of paintballs and a lightened launcher.

  12. We paid people to build them, paid people to install them, and now we’re paying people to remove them. My god, think of all the jobs we could create if we could keep this going all over the country.

  13. Ok, I have a question that is going to tick some people off, but it’s a tension in my libertarian leanings that troubles me so I hope someone will provide a serious answer.

    Let’s deal with just the red light camera to keep things simple and let’s assume that the local government has not done anything to the light timing to generate revenue. I understand completely the problems with not being able to confront the witnesses, identifying the driver etc. But here’s what troubles me.

    I believe government’s job should be to protect me from the folks who might do me harm in one way or another. Let’s face it, I am most likely to be harmed (physically) by somebody behind the wheel of a car than I am from any other source. There is no way for the police to effectively monitor the number of stoplights out there AND the general attitude of most people is that driving laws aren’t like other laws. They’re basically guidelines and breaking them is simply not the same as breaking “real” laws. Again this is in spite of the ample evidence that I am much more likely to be harmed by someone breaking a driving law than any other law.

    So I guess my question is why would I not decide that the infringement on my individual rights was necessary for government to more effectively do its job protecting me from those who would do me harm?

    1. Let’s face it, eventually someone might shoot me. So why would I not decide that the infringement on everyone’s individual rights in banning all guns from private citizens is necessary for the government to do its job of protecting me?

      1. While I understand the argument the fact remains that as long as I avoid certain behaviors (e.g. engaging in the illegal drug trade) my chances of being shot are orders of magnitude less than my chances of being hurt or killed in a traffic accident.

      2. What rights are infringed by red light cameras?

        1. Tulpa,

          I think you’ve struck at the heart of my issue. There is no right to violate traffic laws. It seems like this area of law is treated differently than others.

          Steve

        2. What rights are infringed by red light cameras?

          None.

          1. You are 100% correct that a red light camera, just hanging there, does not violate your rights. But once you use the photos as evidence of a “crime”, the problems start.

            If the driver is not visible enough to identify, then the burden of proof needs to be on the State, not the accused. Otherwise you are deprived of you right to due process.

            Evidence should not be admitted if the technology has not been proven reliable, hence the inadmissabilty of polygraph results. To admit unproven technology as evidence again violates your right to due process.

            And the problems with chain of custody and security of evidence violate your rights to due process.

    2. The problem is that they do monkey with the timing.

      1. There are ways of getting that under control without scrapping the entire idea of red light cameras.

        Just because police have been known to abuse their authority doesn’t mean we should scrap the idea of having a police force.

        1. libertymike should be along any second to argue that point.

    3. Biggest problem is that studies do not show that these increase safety.

      I’ll look for links.

      1. I haven’t vetted this one, but it links to five separate studies.

        1. Thank you. One thing I notice after a quick glance is that red light cameras appear to actually increase the number of rear end collisions. Does this not lead one to the conclusions that a) yellow light timing needs to be adjusted and b) perhaps people have been trained to see a yellow light as something that needs to be beaten rather than slowing down in preparation to stop?

          1. There are red light cameras all over the fucking place in the UAE, even at high-speed and highway-like intersections. Rear-end collisions are consequently pretty high and rising all the time because people are petrified of getting too many citations.

            They ain’t giving up the cameras, but they’ve clearly needed to change things. The yellows aren’t particularly long, but definitely vary by road. Their solution is an experiment, adding another state to the cycle. For three seconds before the yellow, green flashes at one second intervals (it’s really noticeable), then goes yellow for the normal amount of time.

            It’s something I haven’t seen here in the States, and it takes some serious getting used to, because the instinct there is to slam on the brakes at a yellow (again, people are petrified of running a red, especially ex-pats, mostly because it’s punished much more harshly in the UAE than in their native countries). What I’ve noticed is that it does seem to get people acting more cautiously in general, but the initial instinct upon seeing the flashing green is to treat IT as a yellow and slow down as if it were one. To those accustomed to the sequence, they mash the accelerator like lots of people do here on a yellow.

            1. Rear-end collisions are consequently pretty high and rising all the time because people are petrified of getting too many citations.

              I think you mean they’re increasing because drivers aren’t maintaining the proper distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead of them. Rear end collisions are also different from typical intersection collisions in that they are never the fault of the driver who is approaching the traffic light.

              1. Tulpa, have you ever rear-ended someone who is too fucking lazy to replace all three burned-out brake-light bulbs on their POS Hyundai Accents?

                Happened to me. Guess what the prick was driving, and who got the ticket.

                1. That’s one of those situations where the person who gets the ticket is not necessarily the one held responsible for the collision. If you hit a jaywalker, you’re still responsible for the damage even though they were breaking the law and may get a ticket.

                  1. Still, I don’t think you’re getting the flavor of telling the cop “the SOB had no brake lights”, while the evidence just sits there, crushed into bits, and useless as fuck.

                    Oh, and said SOB slammed on the brakes because he *thought* the intersection had red-light cameras. The light was still green. Did I mention that?

                    Anyway, that was shitloads of fun.

              2. The people hit in these rear end collisions are innocent folks who stopped for the red light. Let’s not downplay the injuries caused by this.

                1. Lamar, if those folks can’t pony up a few dollars for brake-light illumination, maybe they deserve a good rear-ending.

          2. Rear end collisions tend to cause less damage than the head-on and t-bone collisions that are caused by running red lights. So simply comparing collision counts is irrelevant.

            1. T-bone accidents increase too (actually, they fail to decrease at the rate of non-camera intersections). Red light cameras don’t just cause people to slam on their brakes. They also cause people to hit the gas when they see the yellow light. They also cause hesitation at inopportune times. They cause people to cut through neighborhoods. I can only speculate as to why accidents increase, but it is my understanding that the T-bone crash defense is a canard.

          3. Does this not lead one to the conclusions that a) yellow light timing needs to be adjusted and b) perhaps people have been trained to see a yellow light as something that needs to be beaten rather than slowing down in preparation to stop?

            Perhaps yellow light timing needs to be adjusted.

            Whether or not I choose to step on the brake pedal or gas pedal upon seeing a yellow light depends on how far from the intersection I am.

            1. I worry about the a-hole whose wife will kill him if he gets another red light ticket will react.

    4. I actually have little problem with there being a fine for running a red light. But…

      -The fine should not be going to the enforcement arm of the law or to their masters.

      -Yellow lights should be longer, not shorter.

      -Running a light as it is turning red, or turning left after it has turned red and you are in the intersection is not “running a red” light.

      -Common sense should prevail. Running a red light in the middle of the night after you have stopped and seen that the traffic is clear for as far as you can see is not “running a red light.”

      -Speed cameras are pure bullshit under all circumstances.

      1. Jumping to the whole traffic violation business, the fines should not be used as a source of revenue. The TREMENDOUSLY corrupting influence that’s had on law enforcement cannot be understated. Drop the WoD and remove the profit center that is traffic fines, and maybe we’ll see some improvement in law enforcement.

        1. Agree that the revenue is corrupting, but how else do we remove the incentive to break the law?

          1. Well, the fines could go somewhere less exciting to the local government. Or some other punishment could be used.

            1. I bet organizations like MADD would be happy to get some of that action.

          2. If you run a redlight you might die from a semi broad siding your Neon. That’s deterrent enough for me.

            Why are manufacturers allowed to sell cars that exceed 70mph? Why don’t all vehicles have breathalyzer ignition interlocks? I mean, if you don’t break the law you have nothing to worry about right?

            1. If you run a redlight you might die from a semi broad siding your Neon. That’s deterrent enough for me.

              Uh, what’s the disincentive if you’re driving the semi?

            2. Why are manufacturers allowed to sell cars that exceed 70mph? Why don’t all vehicles have breathalyzer ignition interlocks?

              Because it is not the duty of manufacturers to make it impossible for their products to be used illegally.

              And of course, you can legally drive drunk and/or at any speed you want so long as you’re doing it entirely on private property whose owners have given you permission.

              1. “And of course, you can legally drive drunk and/or at any speed you want so long as you’re doing it entirely on private property whose owners have given you permission.”

                Not in Minnesota.

                1. Not in Minnesota.

                  Really? I mean, obviously if there are people walking around in your path of travel and you’re weaving around all over the place at 100mph, then you could be charged with reckless endangerment, but you’re saying that simply driving drunk or over the speed limit on private property is illegal?

                  1. Google “DUI driveway”. People get them in their own driveways all the time, all across the country.

                    1. Google “DUI driveway”. People get them in their own driveways all the time, all across the country.

                      Even in cases where it was conclusively shown that they had not driven on pubic roads when drunk, nor attempting to do so.

                      (Drunk people who start their cars in the driveway and whose engines break down before the car reaches the road would be guilty of attempted DUI.)

            3. Of course you do. The fact is that if you follow all of the traffic laws perfectly it’s the OTHER drivers who aren’t who put you at risk. I don’t run red lights. I’m the guy other people are flipping off because I don’t accelerate when I see a yellow. I err on the side of caution but I go when my light is green and that puts me at risk of being hit by the Neon driver who’s running the red.

            4. Yeah, no way semi gets up to speed enough to hurt anyone.

          3. Agree that the revenue is corrupting, but how else do we remove the incentive to break the law?

            They have this nifty new invention called “police officers” who can monitor traffic and pull over the ones driving the most dangerously. And if the fines for that pulling over are not high, the police don’t have any incentive to pull people over excessively.

      2. Good list, but you left one out:

        -Getting a ticket for a legal right turn.

      3. The fine should not be going to the enforcement arm of the law or to their masters.

        Interesting opinion. Not sure if you’re one of my anarcho friends, but isn’t this the model that justice corporations are supposed to follow? ie, making their profits off of fines?

      4. -Running a light as it is turning red … is not “running a red” light.

        Well… actually… yes, it is.

        Take a look at your state code. A yellow light does not mean “sneak through if you can make it before the light turns red.” In fact, yellow means, if you’re not already in the intersection, stop if you can do so safely. Red means stop, period. So if you’re approaching the intersection and the light turns yellow, if you’re far enough away that you’ve got time to stop at the white line before it turns red – even if you could sneak through as it turns red – you’re supposed to stop.

        In reality though, around here, everyone runs red lights – and I mean truly, genuinely running the light. I’m talking my light already has turned green and the people coming the other way are still barrel-assing through the intersection – so you know their light has been red for several seconds at least and they had plenty of time to stop.

        So – a prudent person does not jack rabbit away from the line the instant the light turns green. You watch both sides of the intersection to make sure some idiot isn’t going to try to squeeze two more seconds off his best time getting from the Arby’s to the bowling alley by squeaking through that red light. When the light turns green, I always wait a second and watch before taking off, to avoid getting creamed.

        1. I do the same, but this is precisely my question. All of those people are not only violating the law but are endangering other drivers. Short of hiring thousands of traffic cops to patrol every single intersection, why aren’t cameras a reasonable answer to this problem?

        2. In California, intersetions with lights have “limit lines”. Once your car crosses the limit line, it is in the intersection and may complete its action, turn left, proceed straight, etc., even though the light is red.

          In my area, the camera monitored intersections only flash if the sensors detect someone crossing the limit line after the light has turned red.

    5. One of the problems with enforcing every law, all the time is a matter of “degree”. For example, I could use your entire argument to justify installation of surveillance cameras along all the sidewalks to catch spitters. Spitting on the sidewalk is a nasty and unhygenic act. Catching all the spitters and fining them (REVENEUE, woo hoo!) would make our environment so much more nice for us all, wouldn’t it? Now let’s move on to litterers, and those who use obscene gestures, and just generally rude people: more REVENUE, woo hoo!!!! Jaywalking: more REVENUE, woo hoo!!!!!!

      Where does it end? Maybe we should implant a camera in every person’s head at birth to monitor their every action. More REVENUE, woo hoo!!!

      Fuck the whole notion. I prefer jaywalking, and rude behavior, but that is just me. I don’t want to live in a place where some creepy fucking city councilman is looking over my shoulder all the time.

  14. I believe government’s job should be to protect me from the folks who might do me harm in one way or another.

    Right there is your problem. How far are you willing to push might into someone else’s rights?

    I have no problems with them issuing me a voluntary citation, the privacy issue is pretty much settled law even if it’s disturbing.

    1. The use of “might” here is admittedly problematic after rereading. I guess what I’m trying to say is that driving is the most dangerous thing I, and many other people, do on a day-to-day basis. That danger comes to some extent (based on how good a driver you are) from other people. There are laws to protect me but the enforcement of same is extremely lax as compared to miles driven and/or frequency of laws being violated.

      1. Steve, your best defense is to use your brain and your senses. No camera is going to protect you from some other guy’s behavior. Let’s be honest, these traffic cameras are not there to protect you, they are there to generate (REVENUE, woo hoo!!!!).

    2. What rights are violated by red light cameras?

      1. I don’t know, but they sure do cause a-holes to drive even worse.

      2. Is it due process or redress. None the less I have a right to confront my accuser, so unless the camera starts talking or has a cop sitting behind it that right is gone.

        1. So if a burglar is caught on a security camera footage at 3 AM, that evidence has to be thrown out in court, as the defendant can’t cross-examine the security camera?

          1. Well, if the camera only shows his red hoodie, then you can’t really arrest any random person with a red hoodie.

            1. If red hoodies had unique license tags on them, this would be an apposite analogy.

              1. Uh, I wear my hoodie like I wear my car. So loaning my hoodie with a its totally awesome hoodie license tag to steve could never happen.

              2. No, it’s a good analogy. Just because your hoodie was involved in a crime doesn’t mean you were wearing it and criming up the place.

                1. I was being sarcastic. Well trying to be sarcastic.

          2. Did they send the burglar a bill in the mail or give him a chance to defend himself in court after being investigated for the burglary? Was the only evidence video? I’d question the validity of the evidence, but I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say exactly why it would be questioned.

            1. Nope, they got a picture of a red hoodie, so they arrested the owner of the red hoodie without any idea whether somebody else was wearing it.

            2. I would think that in most 3 AM burglaries there is going to be no evidence identifying the perp other than video. Under the legal regime you propose there would be absolutely no purpose in having security cameras running overnight.

              And it’s quite possible that the burglar won’t be apprehended until a month after the crime is committed, so the time period the defendant in the RLC case was complaining about is irrelevant.

              1. Sounds like you have a tough case.

        2. Is it due process or redress. None the less I have a right to confront my accuser, so unless the camera starts talking or has a cop sitting behind it that right is gone.

          So how is security camera footage admissible in court? Are not red light camera footage the same type of evidence as security camera footage?

          1. correct me if I’m wrong, but it is generally not submitted as the only evidence and only given limited weight?

      3. What rights are violated by red light cameras?

        None, if their electronics are disabled.

        Plenty, if their primary purpose is to garner revenue for the government, rather than traffic safety.

  15. They tried speed cameras here several years ago and they were going along nice and happy until a person who got a ticket went to the statute books. Turns out that Alaska law requires that to ticket a violation that does not cause an accident the violation must be witnessed by a sworn peace officer. And the cameras didn’t count. They had to haul down the cameras and run away with their tails between their legs.

    1. Florida just changed its law to allow cameras, but before that, the law was similar to Alaska’s. Cities got around the law by making red light violations a code enforcement issue, like a parking ticket.

  16. The argument that is missed with Arizona is that the revenue was significantly less than projected but interestingly from my view of the roadways the speed has also dropped somewhere between 5-10 mph. Already since they have been off I see it creeping up a little – not a lot yet but a little.

  17. Casting doubt on the identity of the driver was sufficient for Bloom to win his case. Driving Freedoms suggests that because the cameras hardly ever capture a shot of the driver, this argument is one of the best ways to beat a camera ticket.

    Not really. Orlando has a red light camera program that fines you like a parking ticket (i.e., not a moving violation, no points on your license, less due process, no requirement that the owner be driving the car, etc.).

  18. a) the denial of the right to confront and cross-examine adversarial witnesses

    I guess that means security camera footage of a 3 AM robbery has to be thrown out of court also.

    b) the presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle is guilty, regardless of who was actually driving, thereby destroying the presumption of innocence

    Ditto for leaving-the-scene-of-an-accident charges, I guess. This isn’t really a presumption of guilt so much as a presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle has control of the vehicle at all times; if he contends that someone else was driving the vehicle, he should have no trouble identifying the driver and testifying against them.

    But, here at Reason we’re automatically against any novel attempt to enforce the laws. Here I would have thought libertarians would prefer a system which enforced traffic laws without requiring a traffic stop (with all the civil rights issues that traffic stops create). But if you guys would rather experience the warm human touch of a police officer hell-bent on making as many drug busts as possible than the cold gaze of technology, that’s up to you.

    1. if he contends that someone else was driving the vehicle, he should have no trouble identifying the driver and testifying against them.

      so if you’re falsely accused of murder, you’re OK with serving the time unless you find the perpetrator and bring them to justice, rather than the state having to meet that pesky burden of proof?

      shorter: so you want accused to prove their innocence rather than the state proving their guilt?

      1. Well, the penalties for murder are severe enough that you need a higher amount of evidence anyway. But if there are witnesses or videos clearly showing the driver of your vehicle pointing a gun out the window and shooting someone, and you don’t have a reasonable explanation that it wasn’t you driving the car, you’re probably screwed in a murder case even.

        1. the penalties for murder are severe enough that you need a higher amount of evidence anyway.

          Yes, since this is only money, the state can ignore presumption of innocence.

    2. I guess that means security camera footage of a 3 AM robbery has to be thrown out of court also.

      Or the people reviewing the footage or operating the camera should be called to testify and court. Under the Supreme Court decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachussetts , criminal defendants have that right.

      This isn’t really a presumption of guilt so much as a presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle has control of the vehicle at all times; if he contends that someone else was driving the vehicle, he should have no trouble identifying the driver and testifying against them.

      So true.

    3. This is a very different situation. In your example, it’s very easy to prove that a gun was fired at a person in a certain area, especially if there are witnesses. The evidence that a crime was committed is separate from the evidence that a specific person committed that crime.

      With a redlight camera, the camera and its associated instrumentation and software are making the determination that a crime was committed. That hardware and software can be altered in hard-to-detect ways to turn lawful behavior into crimes.
      Finding a wounded person or a corpse on the street with a bullet in them is a little more reliable evidence that a crime was actually committed.

  19. But, here at Reason we’re automatically against any novel attempt to enforce the laws for the express purpose of extracting more revenue from the proles.

    Yeah. Yeah, we are.

    1. Ah, so whether an action of the state is just or not depends on the good intentions of the state actors who put it in place. If I didn’t see the handle I’d have thought you were a leftist.

      One of the benefits of libertarianism is that it does not care about the intentions, sincerity, or moral standing of the people in charge. It’s designed to work under both angels and demons.

      1. Ah, so whether an action of the state is just or not depends on the good intentions of the state actors who put it in place

        Since when did state actors have good intentions?

    2. Interesting point, Tulpa.

      So, since the intentions of a state actor make no difference, you don’t care whether a cop who guns down somebody in the street did so because the little mofo dissed him, or because they pointed a gun at him?

      I mean, the only difference is the intent of the state actor, right? Whether he intended to defend himself, or intended to teach some mouthy punk a lesson, good and hard?

      1. You’re not dealing with intentions, but with circumstances. Big difference. If the person pointing the gun was black, and the cop was a racist white man who was glad the little mofo pointed the gun at him so he could shoot a black person and get away with it, that doesn’t affect my view of the justness of the shooting.

        And of course I would support any citizen defending themselves from a person unjustly pointing a gun at them, not just a cop, so the fact that the cop is a state actor doesn’t even enter into it.

  20. the cameras helped ensure safety on the roads, and they are greatly missed by concerned citizens

    1. No they didn’t. The cameras were there to raise revenue, safety be damned.

  21. I can’t WAAAAIT for the intersection-by-intersection safety data here in seattle. The intersection at the bottom of my hill, in my personal observation, has become markedly more dangerous since the installation of the red light cameras.

    I lived in that neighborhood for five years and never saw an accident. Within 8 months of that camera being installed, I’ve seen at least three SEVERE injury accidents including one rollover.

    I have also witnessed several near-misses on vehicles hitting crossing pedestrians.

    Reason: People are watching the light, not oncoming traffic. When the light goes yellow, they panic and make a run for it to avoid the ticket, oncoming traffic or crossing pedestrians be damned.

    1. I used to live in a neighborhood near a red light camera intersection. My once-quiet neighborhood street became a drag-strip for self-important a-holes who couldn’t be bothered to stop at a red light. They simply cut through my neighborhood. People said, “call the cops if you have a problem”. So I did. Know what the cops did? They installed one of those radar signs that tells you how fast you’re going. It really adds to the cozy feeling of the neighborhood!

      1. They have two of those radar camera on that same street in my neighborhood now.

        1. Oh, plus a sign with a woman and kids crossing the street with groceries flying through the air, caption at the bottom reads: Think of the impact you’re making.

          1. That would make me want to hit the kids more.

            I’m reminded of the days back in the 90s when Radio Vlaanderen Internationaal from Belgium used to broadcast on shortwave. One person who got interviewed distressingly often was from some Belgian road safety organization, and literally wanted speed limit signs fitted with some sort of transponder, and cars fitted with governors that would receive signals from the transponders to prevent them from going faster than the speed limit.

            I wrote in to tell them I looked forward to the day when some hacker screwed with the transponders to force all cars on the motorways to go at stall speed, and cars in school zones to go 160 km/h.

  22. If I thought for a second that these cameras contributed to safety, I’d shut up about it. But I’ve seen too many self-important red necks see the yellow light, then speed up so that they could take a left turn before the light.

    It’s no surprise they increase danger. Cameras put in place a perverse set of incentives to drive erratically at intersections….which is when you should be driving extra carefully.

  23. He testified that both he and his girlfriend drove his car at various times, and since the ticket came in the mail a month after the actual incident, Bloom could not remember which of the two was driving when the car went through the red light.

    It was his girlfriend.

    1. Not if he ratted her out.

    2. Now, if this had been done in the Reason-preferred way of having an agent of the state chase the vehicle down, force it to stop, and create a traffic-disrupting safety hazard on the side of the road for 20-30 minutes, not only would we know for sure who was driving the vehicle but we’d also have a good idea of whether there was any contraband in it!

      1. Tulpa: So you are saying that a police officer can (1) defeat the purpose of running the red light by stopping the offender, (2) check the offender for outstanding warrants/stolen car, (3) check for booze and (4) administer a tougher fine with points on a license and no due process problems……yet we should be focusing on red light cameras?

        I suppose drunks and drug dealers should be in favor of red light cameras.

        1. Well, (1) is accomplished by the fine itself, while in the case of (4) I don’t see any due process problems with red light cameras anymore than I see with other types of security cameras being used as evidence.

          As for (2) and (3), I don’t think traffic laws should be used as fishing-expedition initiators. If you do support those purposes, then you fellate authority far more than I ever have (and I’ve been accused by some H&R denizens of being the red lipstick bearer at the authority rainbow party).

          1. Your problem is simple. You misunderstand the State’s case. The photo evidence is their entire testimony. They presume guilt byt mailing a you a judgment and if you contest it their case is soley the photo. Now, in a burglary there is a victim (the store owner) who can testify under oath, there is physical evidence (or lack there of in case of burglary) to be entered, and there is the camera, which only suplements the state’s case. The accused is just that; not immediately guilty but accused. The difference between a camera and a cop is that the cop will have to testify under oath and be cross examined (there were several easy shots there but i am being good in this post). So…it all boils down to the fact the if you are going to fine me/jail me/ violate my rights then you better damn well follow the law which has many procedures nad protections in place for a reason.

            As an aside, anyone could easily manipulate the photo evidence one way or the other…jsut sayin.

            1. Now, in a burglary there is a victim (the store owner) who can testify under oath

              The owner almost certainly did not witness the burglary himself (that is, again, the point of having a security camera), so his or her testimony is irrelevant. Physical evidence identifying the perp (ie, fingerprints) is very rarely available. The fact that items are missing does not identify the perp.

              1. The owner almost certainly did not witness the burglary himself …so his or her testimony is irrelevant.

                Not as to the stolen material.

                1. Actually, no. The owner can tell that sale totals are lower than the difference from his or her last inventory. If the video is disallowed as evidence, then the defendant can claim those items were stolen at another time after the previous inventory.

            2. As an aside, anyone could easily manipulate the photo evidence one way or the other…jsut sayin.

              And an officer can lie under oath saying you ran the red light when you actually didn’t…and that’s a much easier task than doctoring a picture without leaving artifacts. If law enforcement is dishonest with RLC usage, they can be just as dishonest with traditional enforcement.

            3. The difference between a camera and a cop is that the cop will have to testify under oath and be cross examined (there were several easy shots there but i am being good in this post). So…it all boils down to the fact the if you are going to fine me/jail me/ violate my rights then you better damn well follow the law which has many procedures nad protections in place for a reason.

              And similarly, when it comes to red light cameras, the D.A. can call the people responsible for the operation of the camera, and the people who reviewed the footage, and the defense can review the footage and challenge the reliability of that particular camera or the system as the whole. the Supreme Court recognized the right of criminal defendants to confront witnesses in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachussetts .

          2. Tulpa, as for (1) the purpose of running a red light isn’t to be $200 richer. So fining somebody doesn’t defeat the purpose. It merely provides a disincentive to red light running. As for (2) & (3), you don’t have to worry about getting checked for booze if you don’t run the red light. While this is similar to your argument above, it has the added benefit of actually increasing safety (getting drunks off the road) instead of creating more dangerous intersections. I don’t think checking for booze during a routine traffic stop is “fellating authority”.

  24. So here is an idea. Everyone OBEY the LAW and you will not get a ticket. Red Light Cameras are GREAT. Law breakers pay up.

    1. But people who want to avoid getting a ticket can easily get around the law by speeding up and making it through the intersection before it turns red. So when that idiot loses control and crashes into me and my innocent family, I have to object to the idea that only the guilty are affected.

      1. And under the non-camera regime, a person with outstanding warrants or contraband in the vehicle is likely to do the same thing as soon as they see the blue lights spinning behind them.

        1. Under a non-camera regime, which is what we have, crashes (all types) have been steadily declining. I can’t figure out why you want to upset that trend.

      2. But people who want to avoid getting a ticket can easily get around the law by speeding up and making it through the intersection before it turns red.

        And there would be fewer crashes if people could ignore red lights with impunity?

        1. No, there would be fewer crashes without the perverse incentive and timing alterations.

    2. yes, tina, let’s all OBEY every LAW, no matter how IDIOTIC or COUNTERPRODUCTIVE they are.

      see how all caps doesn’t make your argument stronger? glad we had this chat.

      1. No it doesn’t but bold does

        1. If I flash my headlights at oncoming traffic, warning them of a speed trap, am I a) doing a good public service or b) depriving the local government of potential speeding-fine revenue?

          You’d be surprised how many people have told me c) no, you’re interfering with law enforcement and should be arrested for tipping off dangerous criminals.

          1. I personally think it’s ridiculous to arrest people for doing that, but it isn’t entirely innocent. If people know where the speed is being monitored then they also know where the speed isn’t being monitored, and that’s where the safety problems arise.

            1. “Speed kills” is an old cliche, Tulpa. It’s also bullshit. We’ve been trained to drive at piddly highway speeds that must make the German Autobahners giddy with mirth.

              I drive a hundred miles a day, easily. It’s not speed that does the deed, it’s idiots who don’t know how to merge, how to keep up with traffic flow, how not to cut across two or three lanes of traffic because OH MY FUCKING GOD I HAVE TO TURN NOW!!! because there’s a sale at some goddamned store… you name it, I’ve seen it.

              Which brings me to the point that running speed traps is solely for revenue, unless we’re talking about residential neighborhoods where people definitely shouldn’t be doing 20 over the posted limit. But open highways… fuck that. Put the cops to better use.

  25. Arizona didn’t actually take down their cameras, they only stopped issuing tickets, but will continue to gather info on the number of violators – anyone want to guess which way those numbers are going to go now that word is out the state doesn’t believe in enforcing our traffic laws?

    1. I’m sure it will only be the illegal immigrants and Joe Arpaio that violate the red-light laws.

  26. The Hawaii van cams and red light cams all got shut down over the “cars don’t commit crimes, people do, so taking pictures of license plates doesn’t establish who is guilty” unintended but easily foreseeable consequence, first time that got ruled on by a judge.

  27. I don’t see how something that penalizes people for breaking the law (most of the time knowingly) and tickets them doesn’t create a safer driving environment. I know when I get a ticket, I certainly try my hardest not to do whatever it is I did again. Called learning from ones mistakes.

    1. I don’t see how something that penalizes people for breaking the law (most of the time knowingly) and tickets them doesn’t create a safer driving environment.

      See my post above. When you begin to understand the dynamic that begins to go on in a camera’d intersection, you’ll begin to see how it could very much have the reverse effect.

  28. why do all the sock puppets have gmail addresses. Tulpa seems to be the only “real” person objecting here, all the others are suspiciously fake.

    1. Bandit or bandit bandit?

      1. I see you have returned to your humble moniker with the small h.

        Toung lashings all around

    2. That’s cheeky coming from a person with NO email address. (and my email address isn’t real anyway…)

    3. I’m not a sock puppet, but I use my gmail address because it’s the one where I least mind if it gets flooded with spam.

      And I got the gmail address with the blog anyhow. It’s not as if I get enough comments on the blog. 🙁

  29. I got hit at a red light and I would have loved for there to have been a camera there. The uninsured driver concocted four witnesses I had to face in city court. I won, but it sure didn’t help me much with my racism issues.

  30. Our Brit friends are doing a bit more for liberty than we seem to be up for:
    http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm

  31. It’s hard to stop with a cock in your mouth.

    1. What do your eating habits have to do with red light cameras?

      1. Hey, don’t discourage her.

        1. What about the head light cameras? And cum detectors?

  32. This is how we deal with it in Europe.

  33. Call their bluff. If you get a ticket mailed to you, DO NOT respond at all. At all. The cops will then actually have to come to your door to make an arrest.

    1. Yeah, we all know how much cops hate going to people’s homes to make arrests…

      Make sure your dog is secured when they come, at least.

  34. I think the cameras reduce intersection collisions

    1. You may think your anus is a planet – that doesn’t make it true.

  35. In Houston the safety cameras are reducing red light collisions. It seems the only people here that are fighting the cameras are the traffic attorneys worried they will lose a revenue stream when there is irrefutable evidence.

  36. I don’t think the author has checked his facts. In Arizona this was all about politics. As soon as the cameras were shut off the state freeways were once again death traps.

    These systems have proven affective in reducing property damage and personal injury wherever they are in place.

  37. Having lived in AZ, I can tell you that the cameras were very effective in altering the driving behavior of an entire city. While they were operating, driving became a pleasant experience rather than survival of the luckiest. The removal has nothing to do with effectiveness. It had to do with gaining votes. I hope this misguided decision is reversed in the very near future.

  38. With nearly 1,000 deaths and 150,000 injuries nationally per year as the result of red light running, the use of red-light camera enforcement is a valuable pro-safety tool. The National Motorists Assoc. is anti red-light camera enforcement but also against DUI checkpoints, use of cell phone while driving laws, texting while driving laws, and seat belt laws – hardly a pro-safety agenda.

  39. Cameras have produced safety benefits every where they’ve been used, specifically cutting down on fatal accidents. I know that I feel safer when the cameras are up further discouraging people from running reds.

  40. This is completely skewed – let’s talk about the # of accidents that have gone down around the country because of red light cameras. Let’s talk about the change in driver behavior because the law is actually being enforced. That would make this at least a balanced article.

  41. Give ’em the green I say!

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