You are on your way home. While driving towards the intersection the light shifts from yellow to red. You stop and wait for the light to change. Suddenly, a flash of light hits your eyes reflected from the rear view mirror. You have just been “flashed” as my wife loves to say. Now you have a seventy-five dollar ticket coming in the mail for simply following the law.
The above scenario happens hundreds of times a day in Houston’s metro area. Since 2004 red light cameras have steadily popped up on various busy intersections in Harris County. Now, on November 2nd, we get an opportunity to evaluate these cameras. Proposition three decides whether the city of Houston will continue to use these devices. This issue has heated up the recent weeks as Election Day nears. The Houston Professional Firefighters Association, a four thousand member strong union, has come out in support of the proposition. The firefighters stand by the notion that red light cameras make people think twice before committing moving violations, thereby leading to less fatal accidents. Contrarily, detractors like Attorney Michael Kubosh wish to remove the traffic cameras. Others claim that the cameras are little more than Golden Geese laying millions of golden eggs for the city. Still others believe the devices increase the overall number of rear-end collisions when motorists brake suddenly to avoid being “flashed.”
I personally will be voting against the proposition, albeit for different reasons. I think the fundamental flaw with the fully automated systems for citations is the absence of human judgment. Once the photo snaps you are guilty, regardless of whether you didn’t stop, or your brakes failed, or even if the camera malfunctions. Moving violations need the multi-sensory viewpoint that (currently) only a well trained human could provide.
So lets say you do get a ticket; the appeal process is arguably more maddening. First: you have to pay. If you wait for the whole process you will be hit with fines and lose your chance to challenge it. As you are sending in your blood money you will have to attach an explanation as to why you feel this was in error. Depending on how well you make your case the clerk may or may not order a formal review. After all this insanity you still must attend the hearing. Most people report getting their wrong ticket corrected, but is keeping seventy-five dollars worth losing a couple of days worth of time for something that could have been resolved at the intersection when it occurred?
Ultimately voters will decide the fate of Houston’s traffic cameras. Celebrated by scores, maligned by many, these devices undoubtedly have impacted the metro area. I would love to be reassured that the millions in fines are about saving lives, not saving money. Above all, until we find a way to incorporate a more efficient and less frustrating system red light cameras will slowly disappear from the Houston area; and right now, that is not a bad thing.
How to appeal a red light traffic ticket. Ehow.com
Firefighters support prop3-red light cameras. click2houson.comCitizens Against Red Light Cameras. nocamerashouston.com