Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This Isn't About Revenue, But It's Not About Safety Either (At Least Our Safety)

Before I start my main rant today, I should mention the happy thing I read (which doesn't seem to have gotten a lot of publicity around here): A Lubbock legislator has filed a bill that would outlaw red-light cameras in Texas:
s College Station is expanding its red light camera program, a state representative is trying to stop it.

A Lubbock legislator has filed a bill that would end red-light cameras in Texas, and a local driver is offering help.

Lubbock did away with its red-light cameras last year when the citizen group that oversaw the cameras, determined the cameras hadn't made Lubbock's streets any safer.

At that time, the cameras also hadn't made Lubbock any money. A College Station man is supporting that Lubbock legislator; he says money is what the cameras are all about.

Jim Ash has been fighting College Station's red-light cameras in court, through a website, and with his G-P-S, since being issued a citation last fall. Now he may be taking his case all the way to the Texas capitol.

State Representative Carl Isett, of Lubbock has filed a bill to outlaw red-light cameras. "I immediately contacted him," said Jim Ash.

If the bill makes it through committee, "i'll go and testify to what I know about the red-light cameras here in College Station," said Ash.

Ash thinks he knows a lot, because he's been doing a little homework.

"This is about 2000 pages of documents," said Ash. Ash said he obtained the documents through a public records request. "I've reviewed every single line of it." Ash said the documents all relate to College Station's red-light cameras. "This stack of paperwork on my desk, 90% of this is about the money and protecting the income stream."

Its a conclusion Ash said he finds infuriating. "When they tell us its about safety and every document I have says its about revenue, it's wrong."
Agreed. (Click the "Red-Light Cameras" tag at the bottom of this post to read my thoughts on this subject.)

There are some good back-and-forth comments at Michael Silence's blog. I feel especially bad for commenter "billl," who got caught in a no-win situation:
turning left with the green arrow in tucson. pedestrian in cross walk taking his time. light turned and got my pic taken. couldn't run over -ped . screwed $300

But that's not my main traffic topic for today. This is: The fairly recent traffic law here in Texas that requires motorists approaching an emergency vehicle to either vacate the lane next to that vehicle or slow down to 20 MPH below the speed limit. (The story at the link says that the law went into effect in 2003, but it's only gotten a lot of publicity in the past few years.)

I understand why they did it--it makes it safer for the officers and whomever they might be helping/ticketing/etc. But as more people have become aware of the law, it's caused a nightmare for the "innocent bydrivers" on the road.

My trip to Waco this past weekend was a great example, as I ran into ridiculous traffic jams in the oddest of places. West, for example. The Central Texas town is known for things like Westfest and the Czech Stop--not a Dallas-like traffic jam on a Sunday afternoon. But that's what we had on my trip down on Sunday, and the reason only became apparent after several miles of brake lights: An officer had pulled over an 18-wheeler, and people in the right lane were either 1) slamming on their brakes to slow down to 20-below, or 2) trying to pull into the left lane, which caused people in that lane to also slam on their brakes (assuming they hadn't done so already as a copycat move when the people in the right lane did it). This was not what I would call a safe situation, all in the name of being able to issue a single traffic ticket.

But a few miles down the road, on the outskirts of Waco, the same exact thing happened again. Only this one was even more frustrating, because the officer in question didn't even have anyone pulled over; he was simply sitting on the right-hand shoulder with lights a-flashing, for absolutely no reason. This was not a safe situation either, and there seemed to be no explanation for it.

Don't get me wrong--I'm all about keeping our public safety officers out of harm's way; they do a dangerous and necessary job. But surely there's a way to keep them safe without endangering the rest of us. Many people seem to slam on their brakes in the presence of a law enforcement vehicle anyway, and this law just makes it worse.

I'm at a loss, though, for ideas as to exactly how to do this, but there has to be a way. Any suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment.

Erin go blog: Happy St. Patrick's Day to my fellow Irish laddies and lassies (and aren't we all a bit Irish today?). Did you remember to wear your green today? (Admittedly, this would be more fun if it were a school day, as the kids go to great lengths to attach something green to themselves to avoid the inevitable pinching.)

No comments: