Monday, March 9, 2015

Dallas Morning News Red Light Cameras

Red-light cameras have caught a lot of folks in the act, but they’ve also succeeded in changing behaviors — making people hit the brakes, not the gas.

Of all the innovations that have made life safer for us, I wonder which one is the most hated.
I remember lots of grumbling about seat belts in the beginning. And so many motorcyclists hated helmet laws that Texas threw out the mandate.
I’m sure construction workers still gripe about some OSHA protections. I know I’m irked at times by all the safety paraphernalia on my lawnmower.
But I’m going to bet that the least-loved lifesaving innovation is the red-light camera.
Last week, a judge in Tarrant County cleared the way for Arlington voters to decide on a ban of red-light cameras in their city. A legal challenge arose after a petition drive put the matter on the May ballot.
In Chicago, red-light cameras have emerged as a major issue in the runoff next month between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Garcia has promised he will rid the city of red-light cameras on his first day in office.
Me, I’ve always liked red-light cameras.
Many hate them down to their toenails, however. And while I’ve never understood that level of revulsion, I do get the milder forms of distaste.
There’s something a little Big Brother-ish about an automated system that catches and convicts us of our wrongdoing. It’s so cold and remote — and relentlessly effective.
The things never rest, while cops seldom seem to have the time for traffic enforcement these days.
But I guess it comes down to picking your poison. Would you rather have the irksome cameras keeping watch over us? Or would you rather turn intersections into a free-for-all?
Just last week, I easily stopped when a light ahead of me turned yellow. The car behind me whipped around and shot through the fully red light.
That’s not a common sight these days, but I can remember 10 or 15 years ago when it became rampant. When a signal light turned green for you, it was routine to see a car or two zip through the intersection on red before you could go.
That was the situation that brought red-light cameras into widespread use. And I believe the cameras succeeded in changing behaviors. People began to hit the brakes, not the gas, at yellow lights.
The debate over red-light cameras has gotten bogged down in conflicting studies over how much they increase driver safety. Some studies find that decreases in side crashes are offset by an increase in rear-end crashes.
But those tend to be minor — and they illustrate the extent of our problem. They happen when the driver of the second car has every expectation that both he and the driver ahead will blow through a changing light.
I don’t really care what the studies show. I’m satisfied with what the cameras show — and that’s people plainly, clearly, boldly driving through red lights.
That is so dangerous to my family and to yours that I would think we’d welcome almost any measure to stop it.
Another rap against red-light cameras is that they produce so much revenue for both cities and the camera companies. Again, to me that just illustrates the frequency of the violations.
Now, I’m completely sympathetic to complaints that some red-light cameras have been operated unfairly — with unusually short yellow lights, for example.
Every state should set clear regulations on how cities can use the cameras — giving a little extra yellow light time, if anything, at monitored intersections.
I don’t love the cameras. But I have visited countries where red lights are treated as suggestions and intersections become a game of chicken.
I love that even less.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Constitution vs. Red Light Cameras II

Article VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. 

Really, you want us to draw a jury for a $20 civil municipal case.  It is important to know the value of a dollar.  Back in colonial days $20 was a lot of money.  A $20 piece of currency in 1800 is worth $356 today. The gold alone in a $20 gold piece is probably worth over $1,200 alone.  So as you can see the monetary values have an effect on what is reasonable when considering drawing a jury.  However, you are still entitled to a jury trial in a civil case if the case is federal, not local.  A good illustration is the OJ Simpson trial not the criminal but the civil, he got a jury.

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Due process!  If you run a red light and hit and kill someone you are going to get more due process than you can handle.  Ms. Kowlonski ran a red light and killed Mr. Clark and crippled his passenger for life at the corner of Green Oaks and Cooper. Both were 21 yrs. of age.  She was caught on a RLC and is doing 28 yrs. in a federal prison. 
7th Circuit Idris   “It is enough to say that photographs are at least as reliable as live testimony, that the due process clause allows administrative decisions to be made on paper (or Photographic) records without regard to the hearsay rule.  And that the procedures Chicago uses are functionally identical to those it uses to adjudicate parking tickets, a system sustained in Van Harkin v. Chicago.”  “substantive due process depends on the existence of a fundamental liberty interest, and no one has a fundamental right to run a red light or avoid being seen by a camera on a public street.” 
6th Circuit  Mendenhall   “The Akron ordinance as well as its implementation, satisfies due process concerns.  First the ordinance provides for notice.  Second the ordinance provides for a hearing.  Third a record is taken at the hearing and Fourth the ordinance provides for the right of appeal to the Common Pleas Court…on an adverse decision.”
Conclusions: We have discussed the 4th 5th 6th 7th and 14th amendments and we have learned through these precedent setting decisions that no Constitutional Rights are being violated with the use of RLC’s.  I have given you decisions from the Supreme Court, the 5th 6th 7th Circuit Courts and Texas State Law.  So it is important to realize that those people screaming about their Constitutional Rights being violated are all wasting their collective breath.  These are simply lies.  To them a goat simply has 5 legs.