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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Stop and go

It's been a few years since the General Assembly voted against a pilot program for red-light cameras in 10 Indiana cities, but the idea just won't die. Lafayette is the latest city to consider the cameras:

The Lafayette Police Department wants to have cameras installed at as many as ten intersections throughout the city.  Sergeant Max Smith said after seeing the results from a 24 hour test camera at Kossuth and Main Streets, a "camera cop" is needed.

"There were some 8,500 cars that went through the intersection that day.  We had 135 vehicles that were registered as showing that they violated the intersection by entering into the intersection against the red light," Smith said.

I've been following the studies of red-light cameras ever since the City Council here considered the idea, and the results are all over the map; whether you're for or against the cameras, you can find a study to bolster your case. Here's a report of studies from Philadelphia and Virginia Beach, for example, that say the cameras are very effective. But some studies say accidents actually increase at intersections with cameras. Considering all the studies, it seems fair to say that, maybe, the cameras decrease t-bone crashes but cause an increase in rear-end crashes. But the increase in rear-enders is smaller than the decrease in t-bones, which are the more dangerous collisions. So, on balance, there seems to be a marginal public-safety benefit.

But there's another effective way to reduce crashes, and it doesn't cost anything: Increase the duration of the yellow caution light. In some jurisdictions where the red-light cameras have been added, they've actually decreased the duration of the caution light. That means more people running the red lights, more people caught on camera, more citations, more revenue. One of the options being considered in Lafayette is a proposal from a company that would install the cameras at no charge to the city -- it would get part of the citation fees as its compensation. Bad idea -- that will add to the probability that the cameras will become more about revenue than safety.


Thu, 05/29/2008 - 9:44am

Let me tell you of my experience. I am a victim of the Red Light Camera Program here in NYC: On April 7th I was ticketed for going through a YELLOW light. A few weeks later, I got the summons in the mail with two photos showing exactly that. It was not enough to beat the summons in NYC's kangaroo traffic court. Several weeks later through the mail, the judge gives me a thumbs down. Included was an "technician's report" refuting that the camera malfunctioned (under misdemeanor penalty of perjury). This vile injustice was upheld. That very night I head off to work - this time in the other direction. Just past the crosswalk, the light turns yellow. What do you think I did? I hit the brakes: YELLOW light = red light ticket. I knew the camera was there playing hardball; the woman behind me? Yellow light = hit the gas, it's about to turn red. The result? Kapowww!!! I was rear-ended and sent flying across the intersection nearly knocked unconscious. It was five minutes before I crawled out of the car. I was in full uniform. The police took my gun (I'm a federal peace officer) and emergency medical techs immobilized my head and spine. I now suffer from a herniated disk, and I don't know what my future holds. I may be in chronic pain for the rest of my life because New York City is downright ruthless in imposing an extortion plot. My car is totaled; the woman behind me? Her car totaled - mushroomed up to the top of the windshield. Oh, and BTW she has no insurance. I owe a $1,000 deductible AND as I have no gap insurance on my lease - maybe another $3,000 since my insurance will only pay book value. The woman is a turnip nobody can bleed. Can any of you who support Red Light Cameras honestly say that this is right?

My normal defensive driving habits would have prevented all of this; but I tried to stop at the crosswalk on the YELLOW light. This past week has been a nightmare, and it's only started. What happened to my civil rights? Habeas Corpus - the right to confront your accuser in court? No luck there, it