Thanks to the Iowa Supreme Court’s August ruling in favor of Davenport’s effort to catch red-light-runners using surveillance cameras, the issue is back on the agenda in Cedar Rapids. The Gazette’s Rick Smith has the skinny in this morning’s paper:
Red-light cameras may be coming to a crash-prone intersection near you.
That’s because the Police Department is dusting off a 2005 idea and will talk to the City Council at noon today about using cameras to catch those who run red lights.
The intersection cameras – both touted as a way to reduce accidents and renounced as a Big Brother tactic to try to generate city revenue – operate in Iowa at some spots in Council Bluffs and Clive in suburban Des Moines, where the two cities issue tickets based on what a camera catches there.
Davenport has done the same, has cameras in place and is readying to reactive them while Sioux City will have cameras installed by March.
I understand the arguments in favor of cameras. Backers cite studies showing a reduction in crashes at monitored intersections. The article points to a Davenport study that showed a 40 percent reduction in crashes related to running lights.
They also generate revenue, although backers try to downplay that fact because it makes citizens mad. I don’t blame cash-strapped municipalities from trying to make a few extra bucks, especially when state lawmakers are largely indifferent to their struggle.
But I can’t help but cringe every time we surrender a little more freedom/privacy to technology and safety.
I don’t like the fact that camera tickets are based on license plate numbers, so if I let a buddy borrow my car and he runs a red light, I get the ticket. The police don’t care if they get the right guy, as long as the fine gets paid It’s a civil infraction, which means officials can get around all those pesky criminal rights issues.
And if we’re going to start a camera crack down, I hope it coincides with a city effort to better coordinate signals to the flow of traffic. I don’t know how many speed limit rides to work I’ve spent stopped at virtually every light. It’s a big complaint among drivers, and studies show poorly timed lights waste gasoline.
Cameras are coming. There’s nothing we can do about it. And frankly, privacy has become quaint in an era where people put their whole lives on Facebook etc. for the whole world to see.
But we can at least let local leaders know that we expect them to be used in a limited and responsible way. And we hope that remote-control policing isn’t unduly expanded in the future.