Watch your rear -- red light cameras are coming

Last night KHOU-11's lead 10 p.m. story was about red light cameras coming to Houston -- soon.

And today Matt Stiles has a story in the Chronicle about the revenue-generating, uh...safety cameras:

"They are going up, you bet," said Mayor Bill White, during a recent news conference. "Every time that somebody is killed or seriously injured in an intersectional collision, where somebody was speeding through a red light, I and council members take that as a personal responsibility."

The timetable isn't certain for setting up the cameras, which the City Council approved in December. The goal is to have some working by the end of the year, city officials said.

What will Mayor White say the first time someone is killed in a rear-end collision due to a red light camera? He could have tried lengthening yellow light times, but dismissed that proven option. Councilwoman Addie Wiseman is quoted in the story as saying she wished the city would have studied yellow light times.

KHOU's story last night said the city will begin receiving bids within the next 30 days, to be followed up by test cameras at several intersections.

The citations would be civil documents technically issued against a car's owner rather than its driver, and would carry lower penalties than tickets written by officers who witness infractions.

The camera fine likely would be $50 to $75, compared with the criminal penalty of $215.

It's not hard to predict that city officials will raise those ticket prices down the road -- you know, in the name of safety. And, of course, the mayor will eventually proclaim the cameras a tremendous success (providing little statistical backup, la SAFEClear), and say that Houston needs cameras at MORE intersections. That's what is going on in Washington, D.C.

The city which might give the vendor a cut of ticket revenue to save money on the installation also is exploring the option of setting up decoy cameras in some places to serve as deterrents, officials said.

Even decoy cameras or signs have their drawbacks, as one town in Ohio recently discovered:

A truck spilled gallons of corn syrup yesterday at the intersection of Yankee Road and Verity in Middletown, Ohio after its driver, Todd Hellrigel, panic-braked after seeing a red light camera sign. He wanted to avoid being ticketed.

[snip]

The sudden stop popped open the seal on the top of the trailer causing 4,500 gallons of corn syrup to begin spilling on the road, which had no red light camera -- just the sign. It took most of the day to clear the sticky substance from the intersection. Police did not cite Hellrigel who said that he was not speeding.

RELATED: Getting Rear-Ended by the Law (The Weekly Standard)

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 06/13/05 07:37 AM | Print |

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