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Cities View Red Light Cameras As Profit Centers

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the criminalize-everything-spread-the-guilt dept.

Privacy 740

Houston 2600 writes "Chicago could rake in 'at least $200 million' a year — and wipe out the entire projected deficit for 2009 — by using its vast network of redlight and surveillance cameras to hunt down uninsured motorists, aldermen were told today. The system pitched to the City Council's Transportation Committee by Michigan-based InsureNet would work only if insurance companies were somehow compelled to report the names and license plates of insured motorists. That's already happening daily in 13 states, but not here."

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Denver uninstalled their cameras (4, Informative)

bensafrickingenius (828123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225725)

because of the DROP in revenue. People weren't running enough red lights to pay for the system any more.

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225765)

Solution: Create more laws for people to break.

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226725)

"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens' What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957

I don't even think Rand, in even her most paranoid fantasies, ever imagined that the government would last long enough to achieve the level of corruption required to add ambiguity to laws against running red lights.

And yet, here we are.

Did you stop before the line and make a right turn on the red light?
Did you stop after the line and make a right turn on the red light?
Did you not come to a complete stop and make a right turn on the red light?

Funny, the pictures don't seem to tell the difference. Here's one of your car before the line. Here's one of your car partway over the line. Here's one of your car over the line.

Sure, we could build a camera that captured video instead of stills, which would unambiguously (or at least, to within one frame of animation) answer the question of whether (and where) you stopped, but that might exonerate you. Sorry, but all we can "afford" is this still-camera system that takes pictures once every second.

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226789)

Honestly it's already against the law to drive without insurance in many states. The insurance companies lobbied and paid for these laws to FORCE YOU to buy insurance on your car.

It's another way for insurance companies to force their way into more lives.

Side effect (4, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225777)

But boy is it safe to drive in Denver now. That's the problem with cities getting greedy, they don't see the positive side of their efforts.

Re:Side effect (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225907)

It's "safe to drive in Denver now"? Red light cameras have been shown to increase the number of accidents at intersections.

Re:Side effect (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225951)

Why?

Re:Side effect (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226039)

Because when you stop for the light, some idiot rear-ends you.

Re:Side effect (2, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226545)

Worse yet:
- You try to stop for the light.
- You don't make it.
- Some asshat rear-ends you, pushing you into the intersection
- Some OTHER asshat floors the pedal and t-bones your already rear-ended car.

Now the intersection's REALLY clogged.

I watched this happen a couple years back. Shortened yellow light, guy with bad brakes... so he tries to stop, and he's halfway into the intersection. Next thing he knows, one of the two drag racing motherfuckers coming through the intersection from the other side slams into him (this was one of the "freeway underpass" sections with plenty of room to get moving before an eastbound car would hit a northbound car, and some genius apparently tried to "synchronize" the lights so that the eastbound green lit up while northbound still had a yellow). With a longer yellow light, he'd have had the time to realize he wasn't making it and instead hit the gas, but he decided to stop where he was instead. I have to think the fact that it was a redlight-camera intersection had something to do with that.

The intersection in question, in case you are interested or want to claim I'm 'lying' about this, is I-45 at Almeda-Genoa in Houston TX.

Re:Side effect (4, Funny)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226667)

And the guy who was pushed into the intersection is given a ticket for running the red light.

Re:Side effect (1)

giverson (532542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226073)

I can't confirm his claim that the total number of accidents increases, but studies have noted that rear end accidents go up even as the t-bone accidents go down with the cameras.

Re:Side effect (5, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226313)

I can't confirm his claim that the total number of accidents increases, but studies have noted that rear end accidents go up even as the t-bone accidents go down with the cameras.

OTOH, don't accidents that take place with the front/back of one car meeting the front/back of another car tend to be far less dangerous than a T-bone? Mostly because of the extra crumple zone protection that is available. Before side airbags was common a number of injuries were caused by people banging their heads sideways against pillars and doors and windows. A lot of research has gone into making cars safer against the T-bone, but there's still less room for metal to give sideways...

Re:Side effect (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226419)

Only safer if your has these features.

Re:Side effect (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226631)

Not really - safety features help in either case, but the simple fact is that virtually every car in existence has more crush room before getting to an occupant in the front/back of the car compared to the sides. The mere design of automobiles makes this true, aside from any added safety features.

Re:Side effect (5, Informative)

EmTeedee (948267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226107)

Some cities decided to shorten the yellow phase to have more violators and therefore more profit from those cameras. It's just too tempting. See reports here http://www.motorists.org/blog/6-cities-that-were-caught-shortening-yellow-light-times-for-profit/ [motorists.org] and here http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/trolling-for-trouble-in-the-red-light-district/ [nytimes.com]

Re:Side effect (5, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226229)

Houston, TX installed "red light cameras."

Then the greedy-ass city council wanted more revenue, so they shortened the yellow-light timing. They now have yellow-light times that are around 2 seconds on most of the camera-watched intersections. Other cities have done the same thing [motorists.org] .

The problem is, the shorter a yellow-light timing, the more accidents. Study after study has shown this. Shortening the yellow light timing (to trap motorists "still in the intersection") to get more ticket revenue also makes for more accidents.

It's literally blood money, coming at the expense of people injured or killed in those accidents, but the city councils don't care because it's "their" blood money.

Re:Side effect (1)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226427)

Houston, TX installed "red light cameras."

Nothing wrong with that, even if it is a profit center for the city.

Then the greedy-ass city council wanted more revenue, so they shortened the yellow-light timing.

This is the bad part, if it's true. I'm not a traffic engineer -- there may be other reasons for adjusting timings, but trading safety for revenue is immoral at best.

Re:Side effect (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226437)

Then the greedy-ass city council wanted more revenue, so they shortened the yellow-light timing.

Makes me glad that where I live, traffic rules are a federal matter. How long a yellow light needs to be is a matter of simple physics and physiology, and there should be no wiggle room for greedy local governments to fill their coffers by tweaking the rules a little.

Did you even read the summary? (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225915)

...in your mad dash to be first post?

Summary says: "...to hunt down uninsured motorists"

I've got no sympathy at all for uninsured motorists.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225953)

Yeah that's why TFA summary says the Uninsured Motorist Cameras and not Red Light Cameras. Next?

Re:Did you even read the summary? (0, Troll)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226617)

You fail at reading. Period.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226179)

"I've got no sympathy at all for uninsured motorists."

I don't either, but, I also don't want the cities photographing, id'ing and logging everyone as they drive about just to catch the few people out there that are driving w/o insurance. That is just WAY too large a dragnet.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226197)

Single payer is the only way you'll eliminate that problem.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (0, Flamebait)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226393)

I guess you'll want the insurance companies compelled to give up a database of all delinquent bill-payers so the cops can make productive use of their on-duty time. FOR A CHANGE.
OTOH I don't support the NAZI manifesto nor do I wish law enforcement to be a profit center. Your mileage apparently varies.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (2, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226589)

In the UK all cars are registered with the DVLA, so vehicle tax status is centrally controlled, and all insured drivers are entered into a industry wide database, so insurance status is centrally controlled.

And it works brilliantly (nope, no sarcasm) - if the car is untaxed or uninsured, and you are stopped because of that, you are liable.

Re:Did you even read the summary? (0, Flamebait)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226685)

Yeah, god forbid someone should choose to not pay their protection money.

Seriously though, isn't insurance is able to bring people back from the dead if they were killed in a manner that the insurance is supposed to cover?

And on top of that, it's not like insurance companies ever refuse to pay when someone makes a legitimate claim against them, right?

--Jeremy

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225923)

Snellville, GA did the same thing and it really pisses me off. I wouldn't mind them taking the cameras down for legal or ethical issues but to take them down because they're working? That's almost as bad as the politicians complaining that tax revenue gained from tobacco sales is down because the increased taxes are actually getting people to stop or at least cut down on smoking (which was the stated purpose of such taxes in the first place).

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225949)

In other words, the system worked so they are getting rid of it.

Re:Denver uninstalled their cameras (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225985)

Some suburbs of Atlanta are considering the same thing, since the state government passed a law lengthening yellow times for 1 second. It turns out that actually giving people enough time to react to the yellow decreases the number who end up running the red! Gee, who'da thunk it?!

Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are broke (3, Insightful)

Grax (529699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225987)

You can't get blood from a turnip. Much of that money will not appear as the uninsured motorists have no money. It may be great for enforcing the law and getting them off of the road but not a great source of income.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (2, Insightful)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226113)

They may not have money, but they have a vehicle. Confiscate it.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (2, Interesting)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226213)

Let's just go one step further and outlaw poverty by making it a crime to be poor. Oh wait, done and done.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (5, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226377)

While I'm under the poverty line, I still make sure my car insurance is kept up. Before I could afford a car, I rode the bus.

This isn't discrimination against the poor; it's the poor trying to live beyond their means by operating a car before they're financially able. I have about as much sympathy for those folks as I do for the folks that took out mortgages they couldn't afford... or is that "discrimination against the middle class"?

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

Grax (529699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226481)

I have always kept my car insurance up also. My point isn't about fiscal responsibility, only that the idea of using this as an income center is a silly one.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (4, Insightful)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226515)

Let's just go one step further and outlaw poverty by making it a crime to be poor.

How about we don't exaggerate to make a flimsy point. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and if you can afford a car then you can afford to insure it.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226563)

In this country, driving is a privilege in the same way that needing a job is a privilege.

Silly me, I think that if you work a full-time job, you should be able to afford a modest apartment and a safe car no matter who you are.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226757)

The point still stands - if you can afford a car, you can afford to insure it - simple as that. Liability insurance is all that's needed to keep legal, and when talking liability only, car insurance is pretty cheap. I've seen prices the neighborhood of $25-30 per month if you're a safe driver. If you "need the car for work" then you obviously have some source of income and that is part of your required bills. End of story. It's as much required as the gas you need to fuel that car. If you DON'T need it for work, then take the insurance off and park the car - you've got more important things to pay for anyways.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226717)

Having possession of a car and being able to afford the insurance are not mutually exclusive.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226787)

My brain is obviously off as I can't think of the right way of putting that..

I'll STFU for now..

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226695)

They can afford a car and gas, but not insurance...?

Methinks insurance evasion isn't 100% about money.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226263)

"They may not have money, but they have a vehicle. Confiscate it."

They actually tried doing that down here in New Orleans...back before Katrina. The measure got thrown out as that it was branded a 'racist' ordinance. That just blew me away. I don't care what color you are, if you can't afford to have lawful insurance on the car, you shouldn't be driving one. A car costs money (fuel, repair and insurnace)...if you can't afford one, don't drive one.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226453)

That's a really easy opinion to hold until you try riding public transit four hours each day to and from your menial minimum-wage job. And I'm not making this up, I know someone with a college degree who is in this position.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226569)

"That's a really easy opinion to hold until you try riding public transit four hours each day to and from your menial minimum-wage job. And I'm not making this up, I know someone with a college degree who is in this position."

Well, life is tough my friend. And in the US, equal opportunity, does NOT mean equal results [culture11.com] . Things (like owning and driving a car) cost money, and you have to work to earn it. Some have to work a little harder for do to luck of the draw at birth (genetics, parental skills of parents, etc)....if you are poor and want a car, then work that extra time to educate yourself. If you blew it the first time around it was offered to you, well yes, it will take more effort when you're older, but other people have done it, and so can you.

If you cannot afford to follow the rules for a private car, they you should not have one.

Re:Stupid Idea as many uninsured motorists are bro (1)

rev_g33k_101 (886348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226655)

or you live in an area like the suburbs of Chicago where there is no public transportation (like buses) anywhere! if you don't have a car you don't get a job because there is no other way to get to work.

some people will say to ride a bike, or call a cab..
but there are no shoulders or sidewalks on most of the roads to safely ride your bike, and a cab is going to cost you more money then you make if you have a job but can not afford a car.

Re:Punitive Transit (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226797)

The system is engineered to force all to pay for a personal car and insurance whether they can afford it or not. After mortgage and insurance is paid, I literally come up short on food and beer, and sometimes have to make some truly horrifying decisions.

Driving as right vs. privilage (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226689)

if you can't afford [a car], don't drive one.

Some parts of America are blessed with good transit systems. You can go your whole life and never drive.

Others have no mass transit to speak of. The choice is rent a taxi, mooch off of friends, drive, or move.

Let's try this on:

I'm a middle-income head of household. I just paid off my car and have a mortgage and lifestyle appropriate for my income. My wife's car is 2 years in.
I get laid off, and the best work I can get in this economy is flipping burgers by day and working at a movie theater by night. We've got 3 toddlers and the best job my wife can get wouldn't cover the added costs of day care. We've resorted to moving to a much smaller/cheaper house, selling one car, selling furniture and other assets we don't need, and doing everything but dipping into retirement accounts. My wife has started babysitting. It's still not making ends meet. We cash in what little retirement savings we have and pay the taxes, but that only extends life a few months.

We've been in this situation a couple of years and are still hemmoraging. Our choices are:
1) Give up one of the kids for adoption, knowing just talking about it will get sympathy and donations to cover the kids, freeing up enough to make ends meet.
2) Start cheating on our taxes and not declaring my wife's day-care income for social security and income tax purposes.
3) Stop paying car insurance.
4) Other things even more unethical than #3.

The bottom line:
In today's day and age when transportation is required to get to and from work and other necessary services, governments have an obligation to either provide affordable transportation such as a good bus system, or to subsidize private car ownership and operations for those who are too poor to afford them.

This is a Tax (5, Interesting)

Gates82 (706573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225757)

It drives me nuts when traffic violations are used as tax rather then for public safety, and these things typically get passed under the guise of safety.

--
So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

Re:This is a Tax (4, Funny)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225823)

Yeah, but it is a tax on the nasty lawbreakers right? Especially those nasty minority lawbreakers or those nasty lawbreakers who happen to drive flashy extravagant cars. Everyone needs to be taxed except me.

Re:This is a Tax (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226053)

Well, really, there already is a "tax" of sorts called the Uninsured Motorist premium. Look for it on your insurance next time it comes due. This one may be marginally more productive, if the enforcement isn't too obnoxious.

Re:This is a Tax (5, Insightful)

arcmay (253138) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226139)

Screw uninsured motorists, IMO. If you can't afford compulsory insurance, you can't afford to drive, period. Take the bus. I don't care if this particular move disproportionately affects minorities, if they are the ones disproportionately breaking the law.

This is a good use for traffic cameras, much better than for catching red light running or speeding, because there's always room for subjective calls on what was safe under the particular circumstance of the infraction. If you are uninsured, that is just a fact and you should not be on the road in the first place. End of story.

I agree that this probably isn't much of a revenue stream, since if you can't afford insurance you probably can't afford the fine.

"Take the bus" = "Let them eat cake" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226785)

For some, "take the bus" means losing 4 hours a day for what would be a 30-minute trip. That's 4 hours they can use to hold down a 2nd job or be their for their children.

For others who live in cities without mass transit, "take the bus" means moving.

Did you know there it at least one city in America with over 1/3 of a million residents but no public transit system?

Re:This is a Tax (2, Funny)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226799)

I don't care if this particular move disproportionately affects minorities, if they are the ones disproportionately breaking the law.

I agree.

Also, whites shouldn't be business owners. The current economic crisis demonstrates that whites can't be responsible in their business dealings. I don't care if this particular move disproportionately affects whites, if they are the ones disproportionately wrecking the economy.

Re:This is a Tax (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225883)

It is not a tax, and this the use is not for traffic violations but for civil law violations, specifically insurance requirement for licensing a vehicle.

Please go take a reading comprehension course.

Re:This is a Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225945)

They often lower the length of the yellow, so is it a civil law violation if they change the rules? It sounds like asshatery to me.

Re:This is a Tax (1)

the_crowbar (149535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226831)

Is maintaining state required minimum insurance not a law? I think having and maintaining insurance is required to legally operate a vehicle on the road. The fact that a police officer can give you a ticket for not possessing valid insurance would indicate that it is not a civil matter.

Cheers,
the_crowbar

Re:This is a Tax (2, Insightful)

Grax (529699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226009)

What could be smarter than a tax on broke people?

Re:This is a Tax (1)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226141)

Seriously.

Speed traps as profit centers are ridiculous, too. A speed trap almost always means your speed limit is too low.

Auto insurance is mandatory in my state. To me, that makes auto insurance a tax, too, and if the state isn't actively setting maximum rates, then it's acting as if insurance companies are its main constituents.

Here in Michigan, we also have something called the Driver Responsibility Fee ( http://www.michigan.gov/driverresponsibility )which the state issues you after a variety of offenses, some serious, and some very fairly trivial.

This is a fee you owe to the Treasury after being convicted of traffic offenses. As a Treasury fee, you cannot appeal it, and it is not considered a court fine. There is no hardship clause. Given that one of the big offenses is No Proof of Insurance, what it effectively does is add a $200 court fee, payable two years in a row for a total of $400.

Given that No Proof of Insurance is so frequently an offense committed because of financial hardship, and that the state doesn't have a hardship clause for the fee, and failure to pay the fee can result in ... more fees ... ... it's pretty much a tax on the poor. And since these things are passed by state legislatures whose constituents aren't going to be bothered by increased court fees (or non-judicial fees such as this despicable Driver's Responsibility Fee) because after all, nobody PLANS on getting traffic or insurance violations, and that these are the sorts of things that happen to other, bad people who break laws and are dangerous to society (!!!), nobody holds their state legislatures to account for turning our court systems into a revenue center for both state government and the insurance industry.

Re:This is a Tax (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226205)

That's OK, just wait until the next "terrorist" action and the military will step in and take it all over...revenue angle solved.

Transporter_ii

Re:This is a Tax (1)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226723)

It drives me nuts when traffic violations are used as tax rather then for public safety, and these things typically get passed under the guise of safety.

It drives me nuts when people consider red light violations to be okay as long as no one is looking. Shenanigans like decreasing the yellow light time are dirty and underhanded and need to be decisively stopped, but anything that reduces red light running is a fantastic idea. If the city gets revenue from it, too, then so much the better. Bad drivers get no sympathy from me -- let them pay for my street signs and other public works projects.

Better still would be to make the fines progressive and based on your annual income. This would effectively crack down on the David Lettermans of the world who simply pay the fines because they're negligible.

So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

Thanks to the Compy, we may never know.

Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225815)

I saw this on the main page:

News: Cities View Red Light Cameras As Profit Centers

That's news?!? Are you sure?

Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (3, Informative)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225819)

Ahh, sorry, I have an update coming in. That should be "too bad for the motorists that Chicago is not a bastion of integrity".

You'd think more people would be worried when law enforcement is publicly billed as a revenue source.

It's why they'll never end the war on drugs or even legalize pot: the departments couldn't afford to lose all the free money they get from drug related forfeitures. And pot heads make very easy targets. Which do you think a cop would rather bust: a vegged out pot head or a well armed group of Mexicans with a meth lab in the middle of a corn field?

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225995)

Racist! Why do they have to be Mexicans? Americans are the ones doing meth and pot. (BTW: I am American and don't do any!)

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226169)

Duradin is one of the premier GNAA trolls, but once in a while he screws up.

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226679)

Racist! Why do they have to be Mexicans? Americans are the ones doing meth and pot. (BTW: I am American and don't do any!)

Country-ist, thank you very much. Regardless of what race they are, a lot of the major meth labs around here are run by people from Mexico. Which would make them, *drumroll* Mexicans. People in America (aka Americans) are consuming the product but a lot of it is produced by foreigners though not necessarily on foreign soil.

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226087)

The whole system is broken. Police should never see any of the money they get for drug busts. Cities should never see any money for parking enforcement, red light cameras, etc. All of that money should be evenly divided between all of the tax payers and given back. It's the only way to prevent corruption. Even if you move the money to some other program, like schools, you'll inevitably end up with some kind of magic accounting that shuffles the money around.

It'll probably only add up to a few bucks per person but the idea here isn't to reimburse people. It's to stop the government from engineering those crime prevention tools into sources of income.

It's straightforward accounting, no magic (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226225)

Actually, the accounting is pretty straightforward:

"Starting this year all money from drunk driving fines will go to car crash victims"

Last year:
County hospital spends $1M on car crash victims. It manages to collect $0.8M in insurance. The rest is reimbursed from county general revenues.
County: collects $0.2M in fines for its own general revenue.

This year, after pledge:
County hospital spends $1M on car crash victims. It manages to collect $0.8M in insurance. It collects $0.2M from dedicated drunk-driver funds. It doesn't need anything from general revenue to cover crash victims. Hooray!
County: Good news is we don't have to spend $0.2M to cover hospital deficit, bad news is we lost $0.2M in what used to be unrestricted income.

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (3, Insightful)

mishehu (712452) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226265)

Remember this: In Chicago, when Mayor Daley announces that city government will be downsizing, and therefore laying off or firing from various departments, there is one office that never downsizes: The Dept. of Revenue (notorious as the issuers and collectors of many forms of tickets/citations).

My recommendation if you're visiting Chi and are not familiar with the city: if in downtown, park in a garage, forget about parking on the street. Also, read every sign on the same side of the street within a block of where you park.

Re:Too bad Chicago is a bastion of integrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226745)

It's why they'll never end the war on drugs or even legalize pot

I'd say the reason they'll never end drug prohibition has a lot more to do with the billions prohibition generates for the executives at the top of the power pyramid, rather than the thousands or millions it generates for lower and middle management. Remember who's calling the shots here.

Make no mistake, drug prohibition is bigger business than the drug trade itself, and that is exactly why government will continue with prohibition despite its destructive consequences.

countdown (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27225917)

I still argue that installing walk/don't walk signs with a countdown that turns yellow on zero does more to discourage red light running than the cameras do. Sometimes you just don't know how long the yellow will last or how long the hand is going to blink. Using the countdown I have a decent idea from about 50 ft away and can act accordingly. I feel safer as a result and I think most people would agree.

Cities don't want this, however, because they don't like to think that something they've spent so much money on to catch "evil red light runners" doesn't serve it's purpose as well as a simple countdown.

Re:countdown (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226209)

The handful of places I've seen the countdown for the walk signal I've really liked it. It'd definitely make even more sense for drivers. Particularly when you're driving someplace you're not familiar with. With a yellow light there's no way of knowing whether it's safer to slam on the breaks or try and get through the light. A few seconds can really make a difference and a timer would make that decision more clear.

Sadly my experience so far is that cities like to spend money on making driving even less intuitive. Here we've spent tons of money replacing a simple and intuitive system for yielding when turning left with one that no one understands. I've seen people sit through almost an entire light cycle totally confused about whether they could go... I'm not holding my breath for nifty yellow light timers.

Re:countdown (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226651)

Here we've spent tons of money replacing a simple and intuitive system for yielding when turning left with one that no one understands.

Out of curiosity: (a) What was the old system? (b) What is the new system? (c) Where is "Here"?

$300-500 fine (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225943)

My insurance company already hits me with one of those twice a year for my wife's modest car. I can't imagine if she was driving something extravagant. I guess the laws are for motivating low-income people to get insurance.

Not so bad... (2, Interesting)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 5 years ago | (#27225999)

I'm generally opposed to this sort of stuff, but this particular application doesn't seem so bad. Uninsured motorists are a problem for everyone. If you're going to drive a car, you should have a license and your car should be registered, insured, and inspected according to state laws. Yes, this makes money for repair shops, insurance companies, state government, and the police. However, all of this is important for having safe roads and keeping down the cost of insurance.

Don't stop now (1)

Anna Merikin (529843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226363)

I'm generally opposed to this sort of stuff

I am old. I've been driving for 50 years. About half that time, I've been a good, insured, licensed driver. The other half, I was a good, uninsured or unlicensed (long story) driver.

I have never (that is not even once in about 25 years) had an accident or been pulled over by a cop *for any reason* when unlicensed or uninsured.

I have had three minor fender-benders when insured and licensed. I was cited for speeding twice in two different states while insured and licensed.

Do I drive carelessly when I know I am legal and insured? Not consciously.

Do I drive more carefully when I need to "stay beneath the radar?" Yes, I am always aware of my illegal status.

Licenses and insurance do not necessarily make for safer streets.

Re:Don't stop now (4, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226623)

Pardon the confusion, but you said:

Do I drive more carefully when I need to "stay beneath the radar?" Yes, I am always aware of my illegal status.

Makes sense, but then you said:

Licenses and insurance do not necessarily make for safer streets.

Not to play the part of Captain Obvious, but even if you DON'T have insurance, you know you SHOULD, and so drive with more care. The little piece of paper may not change your habits itself, but the thought of it does...

Personally, I like the German system {as I remember it circa '82}. State-sponsored driver's ed, around $700.... MANDATORY. You lose your license? You go back to driver's ed. Driving wasn't seen as a "right" as perceived in many places; it was seen as a privilege and responsibility. Man, I miss the Autobahn.

Re:Don't stop now (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226801)

the driver's education is a bit more expensive nowadays.
also, you won't get license plates for your car if it is not insured.

Re:Not so bad... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226367)

They went up for "public safety" here. Then they started loosing money because they worked. People stopped running red lights. Instead of screaming what a great "victory" for "public safety", the town council started bitching about the lack of revenue. So much so, that a few cops started manning the control boxes and making the yellow lights change much faster than normal to make people run red lights. At least until the State Highway department caught the cops doing it on tape. (irony I know)

Re:Not so bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226429)

Please don't think for a second that mandatory insurance is there for your benefit.

Insurance is mandatory simply because it forces everyone who wants to use a car to get around (and there are places where it's exceedingly hard to get around without one) to participate in the insurance pyramid.

The more people they have participating the more money they can make while still paying out people's claims.

If you get any benefit whatsoever from everyone having insurance, that's just a byproduct and a good way to sell the system to the rubes, but it most definitely is not the reason it exists.

Most laws like this exist because there's money to be made. The cameras are no different. Very few people really run red lights, most run yellow lights that are about the turn. This creates aggravation in the driver's wanting to go from perpendicular directions, but unless they see the car coming and jump out in front of it just because it's their turn, I doubt many accidents occur this way. I'd be willing to bet that most red light accidents occur from people who were going to run the light regardless of the presence of cameras, or who just weren't paying attention.

How wrong can you be? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226777)

Insurance is mandatory because people who don't have it can hit things with their car and ruin other people's lives.

If your insurance premium seems high, it's most likely because of insurance fraud, not because they don't have enough customers.

PS: More customers = more fraud.

Re:How wrong can you be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226845)

My point is the origin of mandatory insurance. It wasn't because concerned citizens lobbied the government.

It came about because insurance companies fought to make it mandatory so they could increase their profit margins and spread out the risk.

Also, people with insurance ruin people's lives as well.

There are better ways to handle it (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226485)

In some states, I think the cops can repossess your license plates for failure to pay insurance.

In other states, you have to show proof of insurance to get a drivers' license, whether you have a car or not.

I'd recommend having repeat-offender insurance scofflaws' licenses and license plates expire every 30 days unless they pre-pay for more than 30 days of insurance. Or, require auto-lease companies to hold an insurance escrow similar to a mortgage escrow and don't a title transfer or new title unless the person has pre-paid 6 months of insurance or entered into a wage-garnishing or similar escrow agreement with the state, and prohibit short-term rentals without liability insurance being bought at the time of the rental.

Between this and "real time insurance checks" at routine traffic stops, the problem goes way down.

ya think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226045)

photo traffic enforcement, public safety or cash cow? *shakes 8-ball* "all signs point to cash cow."

"wipe out the entire projected deficit for 2009" -- you could also do that by eliminating all the graft and corruption, this is Chicago after all, but don't hold your breath on that one. This is chicago after all.

fines should not be used for revenue (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226047)

Criminal and administrative fines and for that matter, "punitive" damages in civil suits, should not be used for net revenue for the agency attempting to collect the fine. It creates a conflict of interest.

The best solution would be to hold back just enough to cover most* of the cost of enforcement, and put the rest in a big pile and torch it. Since that's not going to happen, donate the proceeds to a charity that has no ties to the collecting agency, such as one that doesn't serve local clients and who doesn't have any local people on its boards.

*The local police dept. or city should kick in some of the cost of enforcement, after all, it's the local city that wants the laws enforced.

False positives? (5, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226063)

Wouldn't there be an ungodly number of false positives from a system like this?

... would work only if insurance companies were somehow compelled to report the names and license plates of insured motorists.

So the system would scan a license plate, see if it appears on the list of insured motorists and, if it doesn't, then fire off the ticket/fine? They would be basing this scheme on the absence of information?

For many reasons, that just doesn't seem right.

Re:False positives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226565)

There are false positives, and even though there is generally an officer that looks at the photos/videos taken, there's still some amount of stupidity.

I have a friend that got slammed by a speeding camera. Funny part was he was in the center lane, going the speed limit, and cars on either side of him were speeding. Both of those cars obviously sped by him in the series of photos, none of the photos showed the other license plates clearly, my friend got the bill... Good thing he contested it, it got dropped.

I'm pisses at red light runners. (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226223)

There are many times, when the lane I'm in has a green light, traffic is moving and actually in the intersection, and there's still some asshat who runs the red light from the other direction! There are accidents every week at this certain intersection near where I live and it's always some idiot running a red light.

I always stop and I actually slow down for the yellow lights so I can stop at the red. I can't count how many times some asshole behind me has a hissy fit because I didn't blow through the yellow. I've actually had idiots, go around me after I stopped for a red light, and they themselves run the light.

My point? As long as the camera is accurate and not ticketing folks who just stop beyond the white line (as been reported in some cities), I'm all for them - even if the city is making money.

Red light cameras CAUSE ACCIDENTS (2, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226277)

Running a red light is not like speeding. People concisouly decide to speed - because they are in a hurry. No one wants to run a red light. People are not stupid, they know it is dangerous.

This means that:

1. People run red lights because either a. The light is POORLY timed, creating the accident. or b. They have made an error they truly did not want to do.

2. Case B is RARE. In fact, it happens so rarely that it is never profitable. The cost to install and maintain the red light camera always exceeeds the number of tickets you get waiting for case b.

3. This means that in order for red light cameras to be profitable, the lights they are installed in must be poorly timed.

pre-camera, the police would fix the red light. They used to do examine the red light timing every time they gave a ticket. Post camera, they pay a camera company to deal with the light - both the camera and the red light timing. Surprise, surprise, they don't fix the light's timing. If they do, the camera ceases to be profitable - and the company goes out of business. --------------

I don't like speed cameras because I think they subvert the justice system - but at least they don't cause accidents.

The lights slowly become badly timed, creating more tickets - and more deadly accidents.

Re:Red light cameras CAUSE ACCIDENTS (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226445)

From what I've read about the speed limit enforcement cameras in the UK they do actually raise the risk of accident. It just takes two careless drivers. The first one to be speeding and slow down suddenly for the camera when they see it and the second to be traveling at the same rate or overtaking the other, and either following too closely or not looking when the first drivers brakes hard to avoid the ticket.

Re:Red light cameras CAUSE ACCIDENTS (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226751)

1. People run red lights because either a. The light is POORLY timed, creating the accident. or b. They have made an error they truly did not want to do.

I wish I lived where you live.

Unfortunately, this just isn't the case everywhere. In my city (New Haven, CT), people run red lights because - well, I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because they're in a hurry (to get to the next light). Maybe it's because they're too lazy to move their foot.

It is essentially standard practice here to run red lights. Drivers expect it. I've learned to expect it, which means waiting for one or two cars to clear the intersection after my light has turned green. Every time I walk outside in this city, I am nearly guaranteed to see at least one person run a red light (and no, usually there are not people behind them).

It is a blatant disregard for the law and safety. Or maybe it's stupidity. I don't know, but one thing is for sure - it's dangerous. Dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers (and I am all three of those at various times). The police department has better things to do, like dealing with shootings (or patronizing prostitutes while on duty, as it turns out).

Before I moved here, I used to be opposed to the idea of red light cameras. After living in this city for about two years, I would welcome them.

The Internet runs on... (2, Funny)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226321)

Most of the profit centers on the internet are red light district cameras, and very few people complain. I don't see how this is any... ... oh.

Red stoplight cameras. Excuse me.

Pimp your teacher (3, Interesting)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226345)

I forget where I read this, I apologize. Somewhere the High School kids figured out it would be fun to make copies of their teacher's plates and put them on another vehicle. Then they would proceed to run several red-lights with cameras. Teachers would get bill in the mail a few days later.

Re:Pimp your teacher (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226707)

While that's just mean to the teacher to cause them undue hassle. It could be put to good use mimic'ing various city polotician's tags.

Red Light/Photo Radar combo's. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226383)

In Calgary Alberta Canada, the Red Light camera's now have incorporated photo radar as well. They cash in either way...

Conflict of interest. (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226465)

When public safety is a profit center they will make decisions that make people less safe. And if I wanted to live in a police state, I would just move to China.

C O R R U P T I O N !!! (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226493)

Corruption can happen to organizations just as sure as individuals. It has the potential to happen whenever goals are placed in conflict, particularly invovling money.

Police and courts exist to keep order by administering justice fairly and impartially. When police or their political civic masters receive the fines levied, they are corrupt or at least can appear to be so. That undermines the entire justice system by undermining the credibility and impartiality of police.

Much the same happens with District Attornies. There the currency is not money but plea-bargains. The DAs can be corrupt by overcharging/oversentencing and offering a plea-bargain to make their jobs easier, reduce court costs, raise conviction rate and make themselves appear effective.

The worst corruption is that which happens openly yet no-one pauses to consider it.

Rare (5, Insightful)

visible.frylock (965768) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226557)

Rarely does a single article capture so much of what is wrong with a culture. We have:

- Broken window
- Excessive fines
- Government corruption/collusion with private businesses
- Legislated business models
- Original sin as defined by the One True Authority. And, of course, only they have the cure.

Disgusting if you think about it for more than 15 seconds.

Mr. Reality Check Here (5, Insightful)

Valen0 (325388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27226621)

Hello. I am Mr. Reality Check. Let us examine this proposal in detail.

Chicago, the shining star of all good and right [wikipedia.org] , wants to install a sophisticated network of cameras to (a) track every motor vehicle in operation in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, (b) record the license plate tag, location, and time of motor vehicle operation, and (c) cross reference the license plate tag information with a comprehensive insurance coverage database in in order to (d) send out $500 citations via mail to potential offenders.

Unfortunately, this system is not realistic and poses some massive privacy concerns. While it may be feasible to create the network of cameras described in (a), it is substantially difficult with current technology to implement the optical character recognition required to implement part (b). Furthermore, the privacy implications of tracking every motor vehicle in the Chicago Metropolitan Area are enormous. This network would take public surveillance to United Kingdom levels.

Assuming that (a) and (b) were implemented successfully, there are major jurisdictional and scale issues with (c). In order to assure a minimum of false positives, the State of Illinois would have to implement a comprehensive insurance-to-registration tag database that would be automatically updated by the insurance companies within seconds of issuing or changing a policy. The cost of this type of project are enormous. The coordination of all involved stakeholders is extremely difficult given the various processing cycles, business policies, cross jurisdictional politics, and potential for error. There is also problems with the handling out of state registration tags. The system must be able to effectively deal with the tags of every state in the United States. If this system only processes Illinois residents, there may be some serious constitutional repercussions under Amendment 14 (equal protection of the law).

Finally, after gathering the data in (a), processing the information in (b) and (c), we get to the collections portion of the process, (d). Now, assuming for the moment that this system works and is accurate, we can now send citations to every uninsured vehicle driving on the road way. However, since most citations carry the weight of a parking ticket, most people tend to ignore them [ocregister.com] . Since these uninsured motorists usually (i) can not afford the cost of insurance or (ii) do not want to pay for insurance, it is logical to conclude that they will not pay for their automated traffic violations. While the "more than $200 million" figure is impressive, I would be even more impressed if they managed to collect 10% of that number.

In conclusion, this system will not work. It is technologically, politically, fiscally, and logistically unfeasible given today's technology and political climate.

This is Mr. Reality Check and I am signing out.

Uninsured will just reroute around the cameras (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27226843)

Mayor Daley has stated Chicago has a goal of putting a camera on every street corner. Obviously there are not now cameras on every street corner, which means that red light cameras cannot even catch all the uninsured drivers; they can, at best, deter uninsured drivers from taking routes that would pass red light cameras that might report them. Being uninsured doesn't necessarily mean poverty - they just might not be able to pay for insurance because of a previous accident or number of outstanding moving violations - but it does mean that more people will likely be driving through the neighborhoods and staying off the thoroughfares. I anticipate this will lead to a significant increase in pedestrian fatalities particularly affecting the elderly and the young.
g=

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