Friday, September 4, 2009

Red means stop

A hot topic in Florida, and many other states, is the use of red-light cameras for traffic enforcement.

Many cities and counties have installed the cameras and are generating revenue from the program. Opponents of the cameras cite Florida law, which does not allow the cameras to be installed on state right of way and requires a law enforcement officer to be present if a citation is issued.

The cities and counties have worked around the legal requirement by making the running of red lights code violations, which do not appear on a person's driving record.

I believe the red light camera issue comes down to a question of technology getting ahead of the laws. Lawmakers did not anticipate a technology that would cite red light violators without a law enforcement officer being present.

The technology allows cities and counties to photograph the license plate of the vehicle running the red light and the driver as well, and send the owner of the vehicle a citation.

Opponents of these systems are crying foul, saying the system violates their privacy and is not supported by state law. Lawsuits have been filed in a number of locales and legislation to address the issue is being kicked around several legislative committees.

I think it comes down to a simple fact. If I run a red light and the city or county I am driving in photographs me and my vehicle, they have a right to send me a notice telling me I have violated one of their laws and require me to pay a fine.

To me, it doesn't matter if a police officer was present or not. If they have photographic proof that my vehicle was involved in a potentially life-threatening act, I am responsible. If my vehicle was loaned to a family member of friend, I am responsible.

When will the time come when people take responsibility for their actions? There is a simple solution to those who oppose red light camera enforcement -- don't run red lights.

David Fierro is a transportation public affairs consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor and worked for the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation. He resides in Sanford, Florida.

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