oos E-Newsletter #140: Lock, Stock, and Barrel


The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida published an editorial in its September 6, 2011 edition that is unabashed in its support for red-light cameras. “Red-light cameras are lifesavers” uses many of the buzzwords and catch-phrases we see every day from camera companies and auto insurers.

Editorials are designed to express a point of view. We don’t think it is asking too much, however, for responsible parties like newspaper editorial boards to dig a bit under the surface – under that layer of overly-fertilized topsoil often times known as propaganda – to reach a basic understanding of the issues involved.

A few excerpts from the editorial and oos observations:

Some 500 counties and cities across the nation . . . use cameras as a cheaper and safer alternative to having officers stationed at intersections to pursue red-light runners . . . A few locales have abandoned their use of cameras but they are still a tiny minority.

A cheaper and safer alternative to red-light cameras has long been identified: implement proper yellow light intervals to reduce red-light running violations by more than 50 percent and as much as 92 percent (Loma Linda, California). No need for police to be stationed at every traffic signal. And no need to issue scores of tickets to drivers who use their best split-second judgment about proceeding through a yellow light or braking to a sudden stop.

By the way, the 500 communities that run red-light camera programs represent a tiny minority, about 1.5 percent, of all the incorporated municipalities in the US.

Some critics of red-light cameras contend that local governments install the equipment solely to generate revenue from fines. (Interestingly, one of the opposition groups — the Oostwestthuisbest — makes money by, among other things, selling its ‘guide to fighting speeding tickets.’)

We make no apologies for allowing supporting members to download our “Fight that Ticket!” ebook for free, or for making our detailed advice available to others for just $9.95. If that encourages more people to seek justice in traffic court and to avoid or minimize unfair ticket penalties, then we have accomplished one of our primary goals as a drivers’ rights organization.

Should local governments and law-enforcement agencies stop those public-safety practices because they generate revenue from fines? Of course not.

Actually we could have rephrased this statement and used it in response to the preceding bullet point. A question for the Herald-Tribune’s Editorial Board: Shouldn’t the violation of a motorist’s due process rights, as noted in the oos Objections to Red-Light Cameras (Items 2 through 5), be enough to reconsider the use of photo enforcement?

There is more in the editorial to pick apart, such as the wholesale support of the IIHS report earlier this year that estimated how many lives were, or could have been, saved by red-light cameras. Just check out the oos and TheNewspaper.com debunkings of the report for more information.

A good way to conclude this newsletter is to quote the online responses of two Herald-Tribune readers to the pro-camera editorial.

Dean: “I find it absolutely hilarious that red-light cameras are even being debated in the US . . . look at the way the camera systems are purchased, or should I say rented. A high percentage of revenue goes to the camera company. These cameras are a way to make money for cash-strapped governments and nothing more.”

Scott: “Really? You discount the oos but quote the IIHS, a group funded by insurance companies? Gee, they have absolutely no reason to want to see an increase in tickets (insurance rates, anyone?). Your editorial lost all credibility in my book when you use statistics from IIHS.”

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