Monday, December 22, 2008

Putting the Brakes on One Red-Light Camera Scenario, and Another One That Needs to Be Stopped

I've already expressed my disdain for red-light cameras in many posts on this blog (click the tag with that title at the bottom of this post to see more), so I was happy last week to see that a judge reaffirmed a ruling that would appear to help ensure that the companies running the cameras are totally above-board:
A state district judge reaffirmed his ruling today that the company providing red-light cameras to the city of Dallas is required by the Texas Occupations Code to have an investigations license.

While the ruling could eventually affect the millions of dollars in fines collected from motorists for running red lights in Texas, the judge as well as attorneys for both sides of a civil lawsuit said there is no immediate impact.

“The city has outsourced some of its responsibilities,” said State District Judge Craig Smith, adding that his ruling “has no legal impact until we get a final judgment.”

The ruling, originally made by Judge Smith in November, is part of a lawsuit filed against ACS State and Local Solutions by Dallas attorney Lloyd Ward after his wife, Amanda Ward, received a citation in 2007.

Mr. Ward also has filed class-action lawsuits against two other companies that operate red-light cameras for dozens of Texas cities.
Good for him, and good for Judge Smith. If you really want to catch the most egregious red-light runners, put more officers on the street. While the cameras may have prevented a few more T-bone collisions, they've been shown in various locations to increase rear-end collisions for people who stop on yellow to avoid a ticket, and no driver should ever be put into the position of having to choose between what is legal and what is safe. And besides, if this really were all about safety and not revenue, cities wouldn't be taking down some of the cameras that weren't making money.

And while we're on the subject, Instapundit links to a report of some Maryland teenagers using speed cameras (perhaps an even more odious cousin of the red-light cams) to play a very expensive prank on other people:
As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.
Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.
Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.
Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.
"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.
The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.
You almost have to give these kids some very minor props for their cleverness, even while hoping that their creativity and energy will be used for a higher purpose in the future. But if their actions draw attention to the negative aspects of the camera program, perhaps there's a sliver lining after all.

All caught up: I've taken advantage of the holiday to catch up on some unfinished posts from the last few days; here are the links to them, both to save you the scrolling time and so that all my work isn't for naught:With any luck, I'll be posting in a timely fashion for at least the duration of the holiday.

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