Of Red Light Cameras
All around town, as new traffic lights are installed at major and not-so-major intersections, infrastructure is being put in place for cameras which will snap a picture of the license plate of a car that runs a red light. The devices are causing a great hue and cry to rise up from the roadway, which is in some cases justified, but mostly, not so much.
I have a very simple suggestion for avoiding getting a ticket from a red-light camera. It will work every time.
Don’t run the light.
This seems to be great sport here more than any place I’ve lived, or maybe I just notice it more. Particularly on a protected turn at times of heavy traffic. The light will turn green for my lane of traffic ostensibly meaning that I can proceed through the intersection, but for three … four … five … sometimes as many as six cars that will continue to use the turn lane after the light has turned red. And you know, because of the way lights are timed, that the arrow turned red 3-4 seconds before giving the green light to the opposing lanes, because traffic planners know people are going to run the light.
They’ve tried to make it safer, and yet, either we have one of the highest concentrations of colorblind drivers in the nation, or people just don’t care.
I know how frustrating it is to have sat in a long line of traffic only to be the first car in line to wait for another green arrow. But in reality, it’s only two minutes at the most. 120 seconds. By running the light, at least in that instance, what you’re saying to the people who have to wait for you is “my time is more valuable then yours.” Perhaps true, but not likely.
But far more dangerous is the driver who, when he or she sees the light turn yellow, hits the accelerator rather than the brake. We’ve all done this. It’s very tempting to try to judge whether you can make it through on the yellow rather than stop for the red. But seriously, I’ve seen drivers accelerate to 50-60 miles an hour on Atlantic and Beach Boulevards and blast through a light that has long-since turned red. And maybe I feel so strongly about it because I came within a second or two of being killed by just such a driver on 3rd street at the beach.
I was waiting to cross 3rd at Florida on my bicycle going towards the beach. We get around a lot on bicycles at the beach, so drivers should be aware of them. There was a pickup truck beside me to my left. Our light turned green to cross 3rd street, and both the truck and I started into the intersection. The only thing that saved me was that I saw the truck stop short. A large, black SUV blasted through the light doing about 50 traveling south on 3rd street. And yes, I’d looked, but the SUV was so far back when the light turned green for me it didn’t even occur to me that it wouldn’t be stopping. With no policeman in the area, the driver of the SUV continued blithely along 3rd street either not knowing or caring that he had come within a breath of potentially killing two people. Had the driver t-boned the truck, it would have been pushed into me. If I hadn’t stopped when I saw the truck stop, I’d have borne the full brunt of the 4,000 pound SUV. My plastic helmet wasn’t going to be of much use in such an instance.
So yes, I have mixed feelings about red light cameras. I agree that there are potential issues concerning who was driving a vehicle when the violation was committed, and there’s that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing as well. I also understand that a red-light camera is something of a robo-cop, and does not allow you to face your accuser in a court of law should you decide to challenge the ticket. It’s impersonal. But (and I know I’m pretty much whistling in the wind here), if you don’t want to get a ticket for running a red light, don’t run the light. To those who say it’s just a scheme to add revenue to the city coffers … beat them at their own game and … don’t run the light. Meanwhile, be careful to whom you loan your car.
Other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will thank you.