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A resounding no to red-light cameras
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Editor, I read your article about Hinesville City Council’s decision to postpone the vote on red-light cameras. It was surprising to read that Chief Stagmeier has been trying to get these cameras for two years.
Here are my thoughts on why red light cameras are a bad idea.
1. The driver of the vehicle is not positively identified. The ticket is mailed to the registered owner, who may not have been driving the vehicle.
The state is required to prove the crime was committed; the owner is innocent until proven guilty or admits guilt. Read Amendment five to the Constitution.
2. There is no certifiable witness to the alleged violation. For all practical purposes, there is no “accuser” for motorists to confront, which is a constitutional right (Sixth). There is no one that can personally testify to the circumstances of the alleged violation, and just because a camera unit was operating properly when it was set up does not mean it was operating properly when the picture was taken of any given vehicle. There is no way to question a camera; it won’t talk back to you and a picture can be interpreted any number of ways.
3. Ticket cameras do not improve safety. I have studied this and there are many reports that indicate traffic engineering can solve the red light running problem. For example, the most touted engineering solution is to use the following standards for yellow-light timing based on the speed of traffic on the road:
The minimum yellow-light time shall be three seconds for intersection signals on streets with actual 85th percentile approach speeds of 25 mph, or less. (The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of free-flowing traffic is traveling.)
The yellow-light interval shall be increased half a second for each 5-mph increase in 85th percentile approach speeds above 30 mph.
All signalized intersections under camera surveillance with 85th percentile approach speeds of 45 mph or higher must be preceded by caution lights actively warning motorists the light will change before they reach the intersection.
The traffic lights could also be so all signals stay red for two seconds before the next signal turns green. Then every vehicle is stopped before anyone proceeds into the intersection.
4. Cameras do not prevent most intersection accidents. Intersection accidents are just that, accidents. Motorists do not casually drive through red lights. More likely, they do not see a given traffic light because they are distracted, impaired or unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even the most flagrant of red-light violators will not drive blithely into a crowded intersection, against the light. Putting cameras on poles and taking pictures will not stop these kinds of accidents.
5. Cameras are for raising revenue, not for public safety. Redflex Traffic Systems touts the revenue generation and the ease of enforcement on their Web site but does not talk much about safety enhancement. Don’t make law enforcement into tax collectors with guns; their job is public safety and catching criminals not raising revenue. If the city wants to raise revenue, bring more business and industry to Hinesville.
I have documentation of what I say if one of the city council members would like to check before they make this fateful decision. For information, contact the Courier.

Ralph Barnes
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