Sunday, August 01, 2010

Red Light Cameras Might Just Be The Start

I still believe that we can do something about fighting traffic cameras.

I have no doubt that red-light cameras are just the start of a massive program for States and Cities to raise revenues through abusive punitive policies, which in fact are taxes, believe it or not.

Some say: "Relax, it's not as bad as it looks... just a new way of enforcing the law..."

Pundits said the same about Global Trade, US deficits, dismantling US industry, NAFTA, jobs outsourcing, and the mortgage looming disaster, and dozens of issues that are hitting us hard today.

We have grown comfortably accepting everything in the belief that "things will take care of themselves", that we live in the best possible world and nobody is going to change that, and other nonsense.

The truth is that every little issue and problem must be addressed and discussed. I firmly believe that, in time, Big Brothers will proliferate and prosper, at the expense of our liberties and quality of life. This is one notable example.

I totally agree with the following article, read in the Sun Sentinel on July 14, 2010.



Red-light cameras in South Florida – the start of an expensive ride?

Will cash-hungry governments keep expanding technological reach? With cash-hungry South Florida cities and the state in full money-grab mode, will red-light cameras be just the start?

"I don't see why they wouldn't do it for stop signs, too," said Daniel Karten, of Hollywood.

Or how about the state using SunPass transponders to detect speeding violations on toll roads?

Or how about cities using cameras to bust illegal U-turns?

"What's next? Probably speed cameras," said attorney Bret Lusskin, whose successful suit against Aventura's red-light cameras prompted the Legislature to rewrite state law and allow them. "If we don't stop this now, there'll be cameras everywhere, trying to catch anything you do."

Said Karten: "As a driver it stinks, but if I were a city council member sitting up there looking for revenue, it probably makes sense. They've got all this technology. All they have to do is start using it for different functions."

Karten was among dozens of readers who got in touch after I wrote about Hallandale Beach's red-light camera. The camera, on northbound Federal Highway at Hallandale Beach Boulevard, has rung up nearly $1 million in fines since January – a whopping 93 percent for slow-rolling right turns on red.

For now, Hallandale Beach is alone among Broward and Palm Beach County camera cities in enforcing right turn violations. But two cities in north Miami-Dade -- Aventura and Miami Gardens – have been mercilessly doling out right-turn tickets.

Karten said his wife has gotten multiple tickets at cameras near the Aventura Mall, as recently as June. I also heard from people who've been cited for slow-rolling rights at the corner of US 441 and Miami Gardens Drive. "Incredibly frustrating," said Karten.

Karten said he realizes people should follow the law, meaning coming to a full stop before turning. But in the case of these intersections, drivers making right turns often think they are acting safely because oncoming traffic is halted by the crossing street's left-turn signal. "They should put right-turn arrows in, so traffic can keep flowing when the other street has the left-turn signal," said Phil Kodroff, who got cited by the Hallandale Beach camera in May.

But that would cost money, instead of making cities money.

The new state law took effect July 1. It remains unclear what will happen to fines issued before that date, because an appeals court still must clarify that issue.

Still to be hashed out is the growing debate over right-on-red enforcement. The new law says drivers who make right turns in a "careful and prudent manner" may not be ticketed. But the definition of "careful and prudent" will have to be litigated, attorneys and city officials say. "Nobody knows what it means," said Lusskin. "If the cities keep issuing violations for right turns, I expect to challenge it."

According to the state's uniform traffic code, drivers must come to a full stop at a crosswalk or intersection before making a right turn on red. "There is no such thing as a 'rolling stop' and there is no grey area in state law," wrote reader Bruce Hogman, of Fort Lauderdale. Debbie Rozanski, of Pembroke Pines, wrote: "If people can't follow the law, then maybe we should stop allowing right turns at red lights." Mary Zervos, of Hallandale Beach, asked: "Why not have a sign installed, 'Stop here on red, then turn.'"

Under the new state law, a sign is required to mark red-light camera intersections, along with right-turn enforcement. In Hallandale's case, the sign is easy to miss, tucked 10 yards off the side of the road 130 yards before the intersection. "What driver is going to see that, especially at night?" Kodroff said when I showed him the sign last week.

Hollywood recently approved the installation of 10 red-light cameras by year's end, but it hasn't been determined if slow-rolling rights will be enforced. Ditto for Fort Lauderdale, which will have 11 cameras running by next month.

"When we gave approval, I never realized that cameras could be used this way," Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober said Wednesday. "I don't support playing 'gotcha' with drivers." Bober said he would like to see a middle ground, perhaps only ticketing those who go above a certain speed making a right on red.

"If you make a safe turn, but you're still going one mile per hour, I don't think that deserves a $158 fine," Bober said. "We should be trying to deter the most egregious and dangerous types of behavior, not giving people more reasons to hate municipal government."

From The Sun Sentinel - Michael Mayo - Columnist , July 14, 2010


Henry B. Nathan is a Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.


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