Better Than Red-Light Cameras?

Red-light cameras punish, sometimes wrongfully, bad driving behavior. Digital speed limit signs may be a better way to keep us safe on the road.

I'm a fan of red-light cameras, despite cursing them for the $600 they cost me for a San Diego intersection photo op and online traffic school instruction.

My wife and I were on our way back from the airport when I came upon the turn off North Harbor Drive onto West Laurel Street. I call it the Intersection From Hell, where two streams of oncoming traffic, controlled by two stop lights, divide. Traffic was light that day, and we were engaged in a spirited conversation. While crossing through the IFH I asked my wife, "Did I just run a red light?" She said, "I think so."

I was certain she was wrong after several weeks of opening the mail with baited breath. Two months had passed before I received the photos of me at the wheel. They were taken from three different angles of our Honda caught in the middle of the intersection while a red light beamed in the background.

After briefly considering a court appearance, pleading old guy confusion in hopes of a reduced fine, I decided to use the painful episode as a learning experience. It not only taught me to be more alert behind the wheel, but to pay closer attention to speed limits and amber lights.

I'm not unhappy with the absence of red-light cameras in Carlsbad. Maybe there are fewer serious accidents caused by stoplight violators. But using technology to improve traffic safety makes a lot of sense. California drivers are famous for ignoring speed limits, refusing to use turn signals, and engaging in rolling stops. Traffic cops need all the help they can get to keep us safe on the road.

The most effective use of technology for traffic safety I've seen is the digital speed limit signs showing your current speed together with the posted speed limit. What makes them so effective when standard speed limit signs and your own speedometer give you the same information? Edward Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, explains why. The blinking of their message catches your eye with its instant feedback and displays your speed to other drivers, producing peer pressure to drive within the limit.

Aviara Parkway has digital speed limit signs lining the road as it passes Aviara Elementary School. They light up when you approach the speed limit and begin blinking, SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! when you exceed it. Unlike red-light cameras, you don't get your picture taken and slapped with a fine a few months later.

Red-light camera objectors claim they make too many mistakes, that they create more rear-end collisions, and that they're just a scam to enable cities to collaborate with private companies to pick our pockets.

There's plenty of evidence red-light cameras are more helpful than harmful, but maybe expanding the use of digital speed limit signs and other technology that changes bad driving behavior, rather than simply punishing it, will be both more effective and more acceptable to those who fear Big Brother.  

Richard J. Riehl writes from La Costa. Contact him at fogcutter1@yahoo.com     

Link to Muzio article:


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crazy January 05, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Well Richard, you are focusing on the overt Big Brother, but you don't realize that your little essay shows that you are completely controlled by covert Big Brother. You've probably drunk so much fluoride, HFC, aspartame, eaten so much GMO and pesticide residue, and had so many vaccinations and pharmaceuticals, that you can't even discipline yourself to operate the machine safely by avoiding "spirited conversation". But of course, this is just sappy happy go lucky behaviour "oops I got a red light ticket", the kind of conditioning that's downloaded from the programming box in the living room, and reinforced through the various herding devices of social programming media. Those are the things that need to be addressed for us to be safe on the road, not appealing to Mommy/Daddy/Nanny for fancy devices to think for those that won't. But, the bottom line here is that you got an order to pay up for doing absolutely nothing. Even though you were oblivious, it was obviously safe for you to proceed as you did. Who is the injured party? Whose rights were violated? What damage did you cause, that can be redressed? Did anyone provide factual evidence that you were required to take orders from a light? Yeah, I know - I'm thinking outside the box everyone has been herded into.
Getting Riehl January 05, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Well crazy, thanks for setting me straight about my covert Big Brother. I read your post while sipping a flouride cocktail laced with HFC, aspertame, GMO and pesticide residue, feeling grateful for my flu shot, and reminding myself to renew my simvastatin prescription. Yes, my covert BB seems to be in complete control of my life. On the other hand, because of CBB I still have all my teeth, I can count on my seat belt to save me from dying or being maimed in a minor accident, and I can be grateful for drivers who take orders from lights instead of flaunting the law. Maybe that tin hat you're wearing doesn't have very good reception.
crazy January 05, 2013 at 09:04 PM
HAHA Richard! You even use the terminology you're given to counter with. I'll bet "conspiracy theorist" would be the next thing to flow from your fingertips. Of course, if you were to do some research on the things I wrote, you could formulate a constructive argument. However, I bet you would have a better understanding of what I'm talking about. Greatful for a flu shot? Do you know what's in those things? Do you know the flu shots have been proven to have zero efficacy, but instead do major damage to the brain? I'm glad you feel your seat belt keeps you safe. Would you tell me how someone else not wearing one would effect your safety? So much that one should be punished? Do you even know what "the law" is? Here's a hint: it ain't statutes. Where's the injured party? Sorry to hear you're taking a statin. Ask your doctor what that is supposed to be doing for you, then do your own research. Whose the better driver: one who takes orders from sign and lights, or one who uses a clear mind and takes operating the machine seriously? Tin foil hat, indeed.
Teresa January 23, 2013 at 12:51 AM
I know of several cities (including my original hometown of Pasadena) that have discontinued use of red-light cameras because 1) they show no corresponding increase in public safety, 2) people ignore the citations, and 3) program maintenance is expensive. Before supporting red-light cameras in Carlsbad, I would like to see evidence showing that they are effective in increasing public safety, which I think should be the point here. Until then, I am fine with digital signs, speed bumps, and traffic cops.
Getting Riehl January 23, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Just to clarify my position, I'm not calling for red-light cameras everywhere. Just where there's evidence that they'd be effective in reducing accidents. Sounds like Pasadena did the right thing and Carlsbad, too.


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