I really miss red light cameras.

These cameras were really gaining traction a few years ago. They began to appear at traffic signals all over the place. The concept seems sound to me – it just takes a photo of any vehicle cross against the signal, and then captures their license plate. The owner of the vehicle is automatically sent a ticket in the mail. You get the fine, but you don't get points on your license.

redlightThere are a couple of things wrong with the concept. First, you don't really know who's driving. So you have to throw out a certain amount of tickets if they're contested in court. Second, they're susceptible to "plate cloning," which students did in Maryland to get revenge on people they didn't like. I love plate cloning – you just find a similar vehicle and print out fake plates to tape over the real ones. Then you drive around and run lights. Awesome. Third, some people feel it's a very "Big Brother-ish" privacy violation. Normally, this would be a very compelling argument for me, but if you're blowing through red lights, I want you to be fined.

There's one light right near me. People fly through this thing all the time. When we had active cameras, I enjoyed watching them break the law knowing that a letter would be on its way to them with a nice, shiny fine.

The only problem is this: Maine banned the use of red light cameras back in 2009. Richard Cebra introduced the bill.

"While on the surface these cameras may appear to increase public safety, recent studies have shown that they actually increase the occurrences of accidents at intersections where the public is aware that there is a camera," Cebra said in a statement. "The placement of these cameras is also a civil rights issue, creating the issuing of a summons and possible fines and jail time to the owner of a vehicle and not necessarily the actual driver of the vehicle. In many places around the country, these cameras have become nothing more than a money-maker for municipalities."

Now, I understand that there have been a few bad eggs. In fact several cities actually shortened the time of the yellowintersection (amber) light so they could get more revenue from violations. There's only one thing shown to decrease the likelihood of traffic accidents at a traffic signal – increasing the duration of the yellow light. Shortening the light makes an intersection more deadly. So, to increase profit and at the risk of harming motorists, they shortened the yellow lights. That's a little rude; even I understand that.

However, I don't like the idea that we've banned these cameras just because it's a civil rights issue. Driving is a privilege, not a right. That's what my driver's ed teacher always used to say. We agree that only those who learn and accept our set of laws will drive on our publicly maintained streets. One of those laws says that you can't blast through a red light. If it takes cameras to enforce that, then I think we should use them.


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