I'm a fan of red-light cameras, despite cursing them for the $600 they cost me for a San Diego intersection photo op and online traffic school instruction.
My wife and I were on our way back from the airport when I came upon
the turn off North Harbor Drive onto West Laurel Street. I call it the
Intersection From Hell, where two streams of oncoming traffic,
controlled by two stop lights, divide. Traffic was light that day, and
we were engaged in a spirited conversation. While crossing through the
IFH I asked my wife, "Did I just run a red light?" She said, "I think
I was certain she was wrong after several weeks of opening the mail
with baited breath. Two months had passed before I received the photos
of me at the wheel. They were taken from three different angles of our
Honda caught in the middle of the intersection while a red light beamed
in the background.
After briefly considering a court appearance, pleading old guy
confusion in hopes of a reduced fine, I decided to use the painful
episode as a learning experience. It not only taught me to be more alert
behind the wheel, but to pay closer attention to speed limits and amber
I'm not unhappy with the absence of red-light cameras in Carlsbad.
Maybe there are fewer serious accidents caused by stoplight violators.
But using technology to improve traffic safety makes a lot of sense.
California drivers are famous for ignoring speed limits, refusing to use
turn signals, and engaging in rolling stops. Traffic cops need all the
help they can get to keep us safe on the road.
The most effective use of technology for traffic safety I've seen is
the digital speed limit signs showing your current speed together with
the posted speed limit. What makes them so effective when standard speed
limit signs and your own speedometer give you the same information?
Edward Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, explains why. The blinking of
their message catches your eye with its instant feedback and displays
your speed to other drivers, producing peer pressure to drive within the
Aviara Parkway has digital speed limit signs lining the road as it
passes Aviara Elementary School. They light up when you approach the
speed limit and begin blinking, SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! when you exceed
it. Unlike red-light cameras, you don't get your picture taken and
slapped with a fine a few months later.
Red-light camera objectors claim they make too many mistakes, that
they create more rear-end collisions, and that they're just a scam to
enable cities to collaborate with private companies to pick our pockets.
There's plenty of evidence red-light cameras are more helpful than
harmful, but maybe expanding the use of digital speed limit signs and
other technology that changes bad driving behavior, rather than simply
punishing it, will be both more effective and more acceptable to those
who fear Big Brother.