Friday, January 14, 2005

They like to watch

Huntsville city councilmen Thursday joined a growing chorus of lawmakers pushing for Alabama to allow the automated ticketing of drivers via traffic cameras.

A bill by state Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, would permit $250 fines and mandate the erection of signs warning drivers that cameras are monitoring the intersection. Drivers wouldn't have to pay court costs, the tickets wouldn't cost points on a driver's license, and insurance companies would be barred from raising rates due to a camera-assessed ticket. The bill seems to be inspired by a desire to counter the atrocious driving habits of many Alabamians, some of whom decide on an impromptu, case-by-
case basis which traffic lights actually have authority over them.

From a public safety standpoint, this bill seems like a reasonable compromise that would help keep the more maniacal element of our society in check while not unfairly surprising people with tickets from hidden cameras. I'm still a bit troubled that drivers could be fined without an officer notifying them of their violation in person, but the provisions about court costs and insurance rates help to mitigate that concern somewhat.

One of civil libertarians' main worries about the cameras is that they would invade motorists' privacy, but courts have made it pretty clear that you can't expect much privacy when you're in your car. Of course, there's also the slippery-slope argument, noted in The Huntsville Times by Rep. Ray Garner, R-Monrovia: "Where does it stop? If they do red lights, they may move on to something else."

Oh, like staring down women's blouses and zooming in on their buttocks, you mean? Nah, surely that would never happen.

It seems like only a matter of time before enough legislators climb aboard the camera train to make automated ticketing a reality in Alabama. For our sake, I hope someone manages to keep an eye on Big Brother while he keeps an eye on us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have officially hit superstardom: a link on teh blog.

But, yeah, this sounds fari enough, and the insurance provision was a nice one. Still makes me a little uneasy, though...could these be appealed? You might have said so, but I have the attention span a gnat.


3:29 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

The story doesn't say anything about appeals, and neither does the prefiled bill. I assume drivers' right to appeal these tickets would be the same as with ones given the old-fashioned way (i.e., you can try but you'll probably fail).

If you're interested, you can access the text of the bill here. Click "Get Firsts" for the House and scroll down to HB 15. You can click that button to select it and then click "View" to see the PDF version. Don't worry; it's not as complicated as I made it sound.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The system works like this: Sensors at camera-equipped intersections trip the camera when a vehicle goes through a red light without stopping."

Maybe there's some weird terminology when dealing with red lights, but when a driver "goes through a red light," we can assume that he didn't stop at the red light, so the "without stopping" seems redundant. And if the driver runs through the red light, he doesn't need to stop in the middle of the road.

It's good that the city would erect signs to warn drivers that Big Brother is afoot, but my problem with it is that the system would not be as lenient as a police officer might be. Sure, running a red light is a moving violation, but if a cop saw you run a light but no cars or pedestrians were at or near the intersection at the time, he MIGHT let it slide. Of course, if it was near the end of the month, he probably won't, but we all know that "quotas don't exist." Sure.


P.S. I don't quite know the guy that wrote that other article, but he does nice work.

11:46 PM  

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