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Red-light cameras | OPINION
Timmy Eyman’s at it again. (I’ll call him Timmy until he shows an adult’s sense of social responsibility.) Each time Timmy backs something, I get such a knee-jerk reaction to lean the opposite way that I have to sit back to inspect my own position. But he did get me to try to reason through the hoopla surrounding Monroe’s attempt to install red-light cameras at two intersections.
When someone suggested that Eyman, who lives in Mukilteo, should keep his nose out of Monroe’s business, he countered with, “An injustice is an injustice every place.” Watch out, it can’t be long until Timmy visits Marysville to save us from ourselves.
With such zeal to undo injustice, you’d think Timmy would focus his energy on the nation’s capitol or maybe defending helpless refugees in Darfur. Lord knows there’s no shortage of injustice but it’s only when Timmy I-Man senses that government might be putting its hand in someone’s pocket that he bristles with moral outrage.
Aren’t red-light runners (RLRs) breaking the law, and wasn’t that law put in place to keep us from plowing into each other? Or is running red lights a right that must be preserved? Some must think so since it spawned the organization, Seeds of Liberty, to preserve a driver’s right to play chicken with legit drivers after lights change.
One of our stellar citizens explained it to me this way. He said, “Red-light cameras would be just another impediment to traffic flow and government’s way to extract more money. As many cars as possible should be encouraged to get though on any light sequence,” he said. “Cameras would only serve to further clog roadways.”
Call me naïve but something’s the matter with that picture. As RLRs chain together in seamless flows of metal to hold green lighted traffic at bay, do you suppose they suspect that it is they, themselves, that might be impeding traffic? Not likely. For that to happen they’d have to drop their road-domination mind-set and consider the needs and rights of the cross-traffic they’re blocking.
But just for the fun of it, let’s say they have a point. Say that robo-ticketing, as they call it, is an infringement on personal liberty. The red-light camera motive, they say, has nothing to do with public safety but is a shameless attempt to pad city coffers with ticket money. It seems that they’d rather have flesh-and-blood officers on the scene to observe and chase them down. After all, a person has a right to personal service when busted and to look his accuser in the eye.
Don’t stop there. We may be onto something bigger. How about those intrusive cameras that spy on users of ATMs? You’ve probably been hearing that it’s become fashionable for enterprising criminals to install gadgets on ATMs that lift card data that can be used to empty ATM users’ accounts. If I should decide on a new career as an ATM scammer, those cameras, like red-light cameras, would pose a threat to my personal liberty if I got nailed. Then Timmy Eyman and the Seeds of Liberty could take up my case and scream bloody murder to the press?
We might be on a roll here so let’s take to the next step. If photographic robo-ticketing is a wrong-headed idea then the whole body of photographic evidence is bogus. Think of how many photographs were instrumental in landing suspects in the pokey. Assaults, burglaries, car-prowls. Everywhere you look photographs infringe on personal liberty!
RLRs’ thinking must go like this. It’s worth arguing, they say, that if a tree falls in a forest but there’s no one to hear it fall, it will make no noise. Therefore, if one runs a red light but there’s no camera to record it or cop to witness it, there’s no offense. Barring a collision, it’s a case of no harm, no foul, so forget about it.
So how hard-edged should traffic law enforcement be? Should tickets be the logical consequences of infractions? If a law states that thou shalt not enter an intersection when the light is red, is it okay to do so whenever a driver figures he or she has a better than even chance of not smacking another vehicle? Don’t forget the pre-driver’s training lessons young passengers pick up as RLR moms and dads teach by example.
On the other hand, when members of The Seeds of Liberty converge on Monroe’s city hall to vent displeasure over traffic cameras, I do hope the cops are there with cameras in hand to give them the full paparazzi treatment. Whenever a mob forms to defend the rights of law-breakers, it is sure to include a fair number who delight in tweaking the nose of laws of all kinds, likely some of them with outstanding warrants.
As to putting it to a vote, that voting is done every day at every controlled intersection where an overwhelming majority of lawful drivers do the right thing.
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