Monday, March 31, 2008

A New Set of Eyes

I'm not writing anything too long or heavy to get the week started, but there was that caught my eye on a local level.

As my sidebar states, I live in New Orleans and I attended college up North at Howard University. When I moved to DC that first year two things about the city really shocked me. One, they crammed a lot of cats into that little ass city. Two, very few of those people can drive.

Now my Chocolate City folks are not going to like me saying that, but, they are some of the most aggressive, rule-breaking drivers in the world. Look, in New Orleans we don't have much room to talk since everybody here knows that signaling is only an option when making a turn, and that one-way signs are more of a suggestion than a rule. But, in DC they took things to a whole 'nother level when it came to driving.

Navigating the Beltway was a bloodsport, and even in the city proper people seemed to view their cars as gas-powered weapons of mass destruction. But, the biggest adjustment was getting used to the fact that very few people in DC paid attention to traffic lights. Seriously, a traffic light could be red for a full 30 seconds and people would still fly through it like it was green. Crossing the street on foot or in a car required the ability to keep your head on a swivel like a linebacker.

Now, when I first encountered this practice it was fairly jarring because at the time people in New Orleans obeyed the traffic lights even if we thought murder was a misdemeanor. But, since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents seem to have picked up a few bad habits from all the places the "visited." I guess people must figure that if governmental assistance after a natural disaster is optional, well running a red light must be just fine.

This new belief system hasn't gone unnoticed by city officials, and their response has been to install a whole bunch of these.

I'm not sure how I feel about these red light cameras.

On one hand, I've found that fear is a great motivator for most people, and the fear of spending up to $400 will convince a lot of people to obey the traffic laws. As a reporter, I've seen far too many traffic accidents, and I know just how dangerous right angle collisions can be. While I may have issues with mandatory seat belt laws, I do support most other rules that make the streets safer for drivers.

But, a certain part of me kind of feels like it's cheating for the police and the city to get to write tickets when they haven't put in the time to catch criminals. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a young lady in college. The girl was from Philly and she told me that she'd gotten a massive ticket for speeding one time while commuting from school to her home.

What made her ticket so memorable was that she didn't get stopped by the cops, but rather she got a letter in the mail noting that she had been speeding and owed a fine. Apparently, when she used her EZPass at the toll booths on the highway a computer somewhere logged the times when she arrived at each booth. The computer then calculated her speed by dividing the distance traveled by the time elapsed.

She got a ticket based on Algebra y'all!

Just like that EZPass scam, this whole red light camera setup just seems like a moneymaker for municipalities and other entities. I mean, according to the article, the red-light cameras are only going to be set-up at a few intersections. Consequently, most people will continue to run red-lights and endanger other drivers, while the city makes a few million in new fines. If the lights really won't have a big impact on safety, can the city justify the fines and fees they assess on a struggling population? Or, is the city justified since folks are breaking the rules?

What do y'all think?

6 comments:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

they cant help it on them small azz streets

Truthiz said...

Why do you keep doing this to me?_LOL!

Once again, I'm having to expose myself (if you will) as a crazy mix of "GEEK" and socially-conservative activist_lol!

Oh well, here goes...

First and foremost, it's a matter of Safety, in my opinion.

I have friends now living in Florida and they've got countless Horrific stories concerning auto-accidents caused by practically everybody down there ignoring traffic lights, speed limits and the dangers related to driving while cell-phone talking!

Going back to childhood, I've made more visits D.C. than I care to remember. As an adult, I've made numerous trips to Atlanta and Baton Rouge (home of my best friend).

Driving in D.C. is bad. Baton Rouge is somewhat managaeble. But Atlanta is a real nightmare! Honestly, I could NOT live there!

If advanced technology allows for closer monitoring of speeding-drivers who put themselves and Everybody else at risk_I say so be it.

Hopefully, if the word gets out that drivers are being tracked more closely, in time, we'll begin to see a real decline in traffic violations and thus a decline in auto-accidents.

Big Man said...

You made a good point Truth.

I'm just skeptical about how much of an impact these red light cameras will have.

WNG said...

They've made a difference here, Big Man. They cut down on people running lights so much at the worst intersections that now they're spreading like kudzu all over Hampton Roads, VA.
I'm not a big red light runner anyway, and the one time I tried to get away with it I got busted by an actual cop...so I'm not too bothered either way.
If it works and it means cops can be making sure bigger things don't go down, I'm cool with it.

T.A.N. Man said...

I think I'm for the cameras--at least they can't racially profile you that way. It always bothers me when I think that the misdemeanor traffic laws are being enforced against me because of my race. The complaint is always, "You're over here playing Miami Vice with traffic violations and there are real crimes going on somewhere in the city." This way, the police can spend their time earning their pay, instead of getting over of us low-risk misdemeanor offenders.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Big Man, I now live in DC Metro (Virginia), but I can tell you my first year of driving here was an adventure.

Then I got two of those tickets and I had to remember where I was when the "offenses" occurred.

I got one of the tickets kicked because I challenged them on the function of that camera that actually caught someone in a traffic violation but was not ticketed.

The other I'm still fighting because if you're too lazy to catch me in the act of a traffic violation, you should have to prove I committed the violation, and until you prove I did it, I'm not paying the ticket.

I no longer own the car I was caught in anyway, and I don't drive DC unless absolutely necessary, because the public transportation here almost makes it unnecessary.

Raving Black Lunatic