The cost of traffic tickets and the rate of being ticketed are both rising. A big reasons for the increase in the number of traffic tickets being issued is the proliferation of red light cameras. These red light cameras are there to take pictures of the license plates of vehicles that pass through an intersection after the light has turned red. Somewhere between two weeks and two months later a ticket is mail to the offender, often with his or her picture attached. The tickets can range anywhere from $30 to over $300. The private companies that supply and operate these red light cameras share the revenues with the municipalities where the cameras are located.
We’re told that these cameras are placed at intersections for our own good, and not for the financial windfall. The fact is there has been over 1 billion dollars in traffic fines issued to date because of these red light cameras. There are even people who swear that some of the traffic lights are calibrated to increase the number of red light tickets.
There are three huge flaws in this photographic ticketing system.
First, there is the obvious one of a camera malfunctioning and photographing a vehicle when the light has not yet turned red. How do you successfully argue such a case?
Secondly, what if there was a legitimate reason for being in an intersection when the light turned red. Maybe there was a pedestrian straggling through the crosswalk. Or maybe late, oncoming traffic prevented an intersection committed driver from making a left turn before the light turned red. Perhaps there was some obstruction in the road that caused a driver to have to slow down, and thus get caught in the intersection when the light turned red. These type of mitigating circumstances could be explained to and verified by a police officer who could then decide not to issue a ticket. But how do you explain anything to a camera?
Thirdly, there’s the problem of the time lag between the traffic infraction and the actual receiving of the ticket. It can be as short as two weeks or as long as two months. How is someone to fight a ticket for an infraction that he can’t remember, or didn’t even know he committed?
The case against the use of red light traffic cameras has gone to court and in some municipalities there have been moratoriums placed on their use. But, despite these little victories, there use continues to spread.
While the law wrestles with the legality of the red light cameras, the people have decided to fight back. The resistance is two-pronged: legal and creative.