Camera cops are watching our streets

Traffic cameras like this are watching the streets of Lufkin, looking for red light runners.

In the blink of an eye, you’ve not only run a red light, but now you’re facing a automatic traffic ticket. Since moving to East Texas, it’s been hard to find an intersection that doesn’t have a set of electronic eyes watching and waiting for a car to run the red.

Photo-enforced intersections aren’t as new as you’d think. Larger cities have seen widespread use of cameras, some since 2003. Here in Lufkin, they’ve been around for about a year, but the debate still centers around two questions. Do they really improve traffic safety and are they even constitutional?

Most court cases involving the traffic cams have ruled that they are legal and that regardless of who is driving the car, the owner will receive the ticket.  There are ways to appeal a ticket, but it seems like a lost cause.  Most systems use lasers and radar to pinpoint the exact speed of the vehicle as it approaches and enters the intersection.  High quality cameras then snap a few frames of the car’s license plates. It’s one of the “gotcha” situations you can slip out of because of human error. There’s no human, remember?

Here’s the interesting part. The municipality’s police department isn’t the one doling out the tickets. Generally, the cameras are operated by a private “contractor” of sorts, that charges the police department a fee for each photo snapped.  The city, in turn, passes along the cost to the violator in the form of a ticket.  Most results released by cities show that the number of accidents in monitored intersections has been drastically reduced.  Many critics complain the results are not independent, therefore biased information.

I came across a website tonight that actually sells a product that can “protect” you from a red-light ticket.  The product claims to provide a spray-on film that makes your plates so shiny, it reflects the flash in such a way that prevents someone from reading the numbers on your plates.  It also claims the only way someone can detect if you’ve used the product is if you show up in a violation picture. The products maker claims they do not cater to people who intend to break the law, only protect people when they accidentally skip through the signal.

I’ve never had a problem stopping for a red light, but I understand that sometimes you can’t help it. It’s all in the timing. In case you’re wondering…no, my motivation for writing this post is not because I got a ticket.  I’m curious to know, have you ever been ticketed? What are your thoughts on the constitutionality of the cameras? Here’s your chance to speak out. Leave your comments below.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KTRE/KLTV-TV or Raycom Media.  They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2009 Lane Luckie

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2 responses to “Camera cops are watching our streets

  1. I have received one ticket at Copeland and the Loop and I must admit I did run the light, albeit, to keep from getting hit by the 18 wheeler than was behind me that appeared to have no intention of stopping. I understood Copeland to be a problem for the city but in the recent article in the Lufkin Daily News in the year before the cameras there were only 6 accidents and in the year since there have been 6 also…

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  2. I have been in the same situation as David in his comment above. Cars or trucks barrelling down on you and the light ahead turns yellow. You have to do some fast thinking and I agree that a ticket is safer (and ultimately cheaper) than to be rear-ended at a possible high rate of speed.

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