Staff editorial 9/12: Cameras won’t curb reckless driving

South Florida is going the extra mile to curb reckless driving.

The number of red light cameras is set to triple in Miami-Dade County. This means that out of the original 100 cameras installed within 21 of the total 35 incorporated cities of Miami-Dade County, 200 more cameras will be installed, and more installations are potentially set to follow.

While drivers in Miami may have questionable skills, the implementation of these cameras may not be such a good idea.

Many people tend to speed when they see a yellow light. According to The Miami Herald, the cameras installed at the streetlights work together; while one camera keeps its eye on the light to change, the other captures video footage and photo images of the “red-light runner.” The Herald also stated that “When the first camera ‘sees’ the light change to yellow, and sensors embedded in the road detect a car still moving toward the intersection, the cameras start snapping images.”

Since these cameras are designed to take snapshots of cars speeding by yellow lights, it means many drivers will slam on the breaks to avoid getting a ticket. If the drivers behind them are caught by surprise, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens next. However, it’s not only drivers that lose in this situation.

“Judges dropped many of the tickets that drivers challenged,” The Miami Herald recently reported. “Cities had to take police officers off the streets to review videotapes for the citations. Costs were unexpectedly high; the return was unexpectedly low.”

As a result, several cities contemplated ditching the cameras altogether; Hialeah rid of theirs in June. Clearly, red light cameras come at a high cost.

The policies themselves also include several gray areas. Yes, you get a ticket, but what happens when you’re trying to make a left turn and get stuck behind another car? If the car before yours waits too long to turn, and you get stuck in the middle of the intersection, do you get a ticket – or do they?

These cameras might be a good idea in theory, but there are definitely issues that need to be paved out. Are these cameras even worth the cost?

Repeat offenders are not penalized more than first-time offenders; the fines don’t increase in amount, and no points are awarded to their driving record. If there were a way to further penalize drivers, it would discourage others from consistently speeding past these lights. In the meantime, the outcome will be more dented bumpers.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 11, 2011


The Miami Hurricane

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