Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red light re-re-visited

Following up on this post, and I'm too brain dead after a day of meetings to do maximum justice to this but let me take a stab at it anyway... Galveston County Daily News responded to my pleading in that post (and to their own initiative) by writing this summary piece about the cameras.

In trying to wrap my head around this issue from as many different perspectives as possible, here's a quick and dirty spreadsheet that I derived (and my apologies to GCDN if they have already done something of this type - I don't see the hard copy newspaper, only the online version, so they may have more analysis and graphics available in hard copy - I don't know):
Let's not bother quibbling over the numbers. 
Just contemplate the general principles that they hint at.
Taken at face value, these three controversial little cameras appear to be doing the following:
  1. Reducing crashes. 
  2. Saving money for innocent victims who are not responsible for their involvement in crashes (according to at least one source that I neglected to bookmark, about 50% of the costs of intersection crashes are borne by people who committed no wrong).
  3. Imposing financial penalties on those who break the law by running red lights.
  4. Smelling like something similar to a tax, but not a particularly grotesque or unfair one; in fact, the more I look at it, the fairer it looks to me.  My purpose in estimating that multiplier was to see if some of the hyped accusations of money-grabbing panned out when examined in absolute financial terms.  Any time the government institutes a policy that takes more money from the public than it saves via correspondingly-avoided costs, it's worth examining.  It's probably costing the public about four times as much to deploy this program as it is saving, BUT, the program as I understand it was never intended to save money as a primary purpose - it was intended to penalize law-breakers, and any savings to society were gravy on top of that.  Four doesn't strike me as a particularly worrisome enforcement multiplier, especially compared to other existing enforcement precedents (sorry I'm too tired to URL this post very heavily). 
Remember: the people bearing the burden of this thing that smells a bit like a tax do not include all of us.  The only include the ones who run red lights.  I personally find that I can live with that. 

I don't find the "Big Brother Is Watching" argument against these cameras to be compelling at all.  It strikes me as being a red herring. This is 2012, for crying out loud.  How many of the Big Brother complainants have HCTRA tags voluntarily stuck on their windshields?  I'm betting a lot of them do.  Do these people not realize that HCTRA tracks their every freeway move on a continual basis?  How else do they suppose these magic maps get produced?

It's a mess out there right now, as usual.
Screengrabbed from this site.
This system will track your automotive movements in a way that red light camera vendors and their client municipalities could never dream of.
My point is, I bet HCTRA could theoretically charge you with speeding for passing through two toll points more quickly than is physically possible at prevailing speed limits.  The notion that red light cameras represent something new and unprecedented and some potentially dangerous invasion of privacy just doesn't hold water with me.  Yoo-hoo - we were already there long before red light cameras.

And speaking of privacy, no red light camera could ever hold a privacy-invasion candle to the likes of this:
This is the approximate comparable level of detail that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) sees when they put you into one of those new body scanners at the airport.  Don't click this link unless you really want to know whether the man in the example TSA image was circumcised or not. 

Faced with submitting to either a real-life digital analog to this or a genital grope, who would bother worry about red light cameras?!  I see far bigger fish to fry here.

Statue of David by Michelangelo, as screengrabbed from Wikipedia.
Talk about penny-wise-pound-foolish on the privacy-invasion issue.  My NSHO is this: if you don't like red light cameras, power to you.  Please feel free to direct your protest energies at the TSA's ongoing vulgar denial of basic dignity instead of at the League City ballot, and maybe take a different roadway home next time if you feel compelled to run a red light with impunity.  Just my opinion. 

Remember, this is a bit confusing (by some accounts): a vote against the proposition allows future renewals of the monitoring contract.  So a vote against the proposition is essentially a vote in favor of potentially keeping the cameras, which is a vote in favor of people who break the law paying a fine that smells a bit like an extra tax that the rest of us don't have to worry about paying (to my way of thinking).   

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.