Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Montgomery County - using cameras for traffic law enforcement

What is the public opinion of enforcing Texas speed and traffic light laws here in Montgomery County? So far, the Texas legislature has outlawed the use of cameras to enforce the speed limit. In the coming session of 2009, I expect that we will have a strong collaborated proposal to reverse this law and enable selected areas of the state to begin using the cameras for speed control in addition to the traffic signals. As you are probably aware, Montgomery County has been the leading county of Texas in utilizing the cameras for traffic light enforcement. Also, the county will greatly expand the use of cameras at traffic signals to penalize those who run the lights county-wide as deployment gets into full swing this year.

This blog will run a three month reader poll, seeking input for opinion and perceived barriers in this area. I would appreciate your comments, both negative and positive on this subject. I submit the pros and cons as I know them below.

Negative opinions

  • Invasion of privacy. A camera taking a photograph inside an automobile presents information that should not be acquired for others to view.
  • Traffic enforcement is a job for people, not technology. It takes human judgment to ascertain if a law is being violated. Minor traffic offenses are often cause to and means to discover more serious crime.
  • Traffic enforcement by fines is not effective. The fines are not harsh enough to affect a change of behavior.
  • This is just another means of taking money from the public to line pocket books with cash.
  • There is no need to emphasize traffic law enforcement. Not a threat to public safety.

Positive opinions
  • Not an invasion of privacy. Photographs taken only at a reasonable level above the speed limit (10 MPH or more) and is the equivalent of being stopped by a police officer without being stopped. Photographs not available to the public, only the processing staff and the violator.
  • Technology is now enabling the automation of traffic law enforcement. The technology is accurate, always present, and reliable. Integrated camera technology offers tax payer savings equivalent to other useful modern technologies.
  • The statistics prove that the technology is effective here in South Montgomery County. Behaviors at key intersections have changed to the good since we started issuing fines at these traffic lights.
  • Speed is excessive on our streets. Existing cameras have collected a significant amount of data showing that excessive speed is common and is a threat to the safety of our residents. On I45, the average speed is sometimes over 80 MPH. On Woodlands Parkway, the average speed is sometimes over 60 during the day and over 70 at night
  • Mobility of traffic is affected by traffic law enforcement. Every time an automobile is pulled over for a traffic violation, traffic is slowed by curious drivers. Enforcement by camera keeps the traffic moving.
  • People running lights will hold up perpendicular traffic at key intersections, causing a backup of automobiles at traffic lights. This practice has essentially been stopped at the key intersections such as Panther Creek and Woodlands Parkway where the cameras have been installed, improving the flow of traffic on Woodlands Parkway and proving the technology is doing its job.
  • Statistics reveal a higher risk of major accidents at locations where an automobile has been stopped by a law enforcement agency. There are no interruptions of traffic nor gazers slowing down the traffic when using the cameras. Data collected show that traffic movement is not negatively impacted by the cameras.
  • Financially, the county and The Woodlands will save money on law enforcement officers. In The Woodlands, we are more likely to utilize the existing officers more for crime than routine traffic enforcement. For every deputy enforcing routine traffic enforcement, it costs us about $84,000 a year, a state trooper $104,000. There is no gain nor loss financially for the county using the automated systems except for the efficiency of utilizing its deputies.
  • The primary reason for hiring additional deputies in The Woodlands was to enforce traffic laws. We had many young people being killed on our streets. As our population has grown, we have begun to experience more crime. We can expect crime to increase in the years to come. There is a need to shift the focus of traffic enforcement towards the ad hoc crimes that are on the increase, to make our neighborhoods safer without having to add more deputies.
If you know of other reasons, pro or con, please add your comments to this article. Also please place your view by responding to the poll at the upper right corner of this blog.
Related articles
  1. Montgomery County Commissioner Ed Chance
  2. Woodlands Traffic Signals
  3. Traffic Control System in Montgomery County
Addressing the first two reader's comments to clarify:
  • The commissioner assured me that there would be no photo taken except for 5-10 MPH over the limit. He actually said 10 MPH when he was addressing the freeway issues. The idea is the same as it is for red lights. Those making minor mistakes are not the target. The target offenders are those who deliberately break the law. Slight infractions go undocumented.
  • There is a delay built into the traffic signals where the photos are taken after the light turns red, not yellow. You don't get a photo for a light turning red while you are in the intersection unless you are sitting in the intersection with the traffic stopped or nearly stopped. In that case, I don't know what happens.
  • Good point by Citizen 1001001. Every car owner in the state of Texas is responsible for what happens with that car. For example, if you permit someone to drive your car without a driver's license, you will be cited as well if that person is caught driving without a license (not sure if that happens if you are not in the car though). Since these would be essentially the same as parking tickets, the owner of the car would be responsible for the speeding and running the red light regardless who was driving.


Citizen 1001001 said...

Interesting way of stacking the deck. There are a few rather limited arguments against, and almost twice as many for. Gee, I have to wonder where the blog hosts' position lies?

Here's another one against- what happens when you receive the citation falsely, such as in the case that your vehicle was used to allegedly run the light, but by another driver? The burden (aka- hassle) of proving your innocence is entirely on you. When a patrolman pulls over the driver, it is the driver that is under scrutiny.

Also, there are plenty of instances when the light is technically run, but no danger (OMG!!!!! Danger!!!! Oh NO! What are we ever going to do? Someone call the gov!) to others exists. This is in part thanks to those wise engineers who figured out that a matter of delaying the opposing lights turning green can reduce accidents as well, if not better than fascist programs like this one.

It is truly sickening that we think nothing of allowing an industry such as that which designs, builds and delivers these anti-American schemes to hop in bed with our alleged leadership. They make money, the municipality makes money and the driver is screwed. Sound familiar? This mentality is coming one way or another to something close to you. It's a pink world. Don't step (or drive) out of line and you won't have a problem! Sieg Heil!

lockmat said...

If it's true that they'll only enforce it for speeds of 5-10 mph over the limit, then yes to both. If it's one mph over the limit, yes for lights but no for speed.

Also, I think two of your answers are the same.

The only problem I see with traffic lights is people know they're there, so if they're ever caught in between running the yellow light or slamming on the breaks, it can breed indesicivness and cause accidnents, all because they're scared of getting a ticket.

BigTexN said...

I'll tell you why I hate these red light cameras and automatic speed ticketing systems. Has anyone ever watched the movie Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes? The one where, every time someone says a word deemed inappropriate by the state, a "Moral Statute machine" prints an immediate ticket out for them.

"Simon Phoenix: Look I don't need a history lesson! C'mon, HAL, where are the g** d*** guns?

Moral Statute Machine: You are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.

Simon Phoenix: What? F*** you!

Moral Statute Machine: Your repeated violation of the Verbal Morality Statute has caused me to notify the San Angeles Police Department. Please remain where you are for your reprimand. "

Electronic monitoring can be argued for with any number of good intentions. the problem is that they will be over used and become intrusive.

How about governmental monitoring of all blogs for what the government determines to be balanced views and political correctness?

How about government electronic monitoring of any and all credit card purchases to make sure that you are spending your money the way the government sees as wise so that they can minimize the cost affects to government support programs? Isn't this what they are already doing with the welfare card programs?

How about electronic monitoring of your electricity and water use to minimize the impact to our environment? They could remove thermostat controls from your home and substitute electronic government thermostats so that energy usage could be better regulated to prevent brown-outs, rolling blackouts or greenhouse gases.

This issue of electronic policing can ALWAYS be cost justified. It can always be "justified" for whatever cause you are passionate about. But morally justified? I don't think so.

Enough with the electronic babysitting or I will start pointing my cameras at YOUR house, your wife and daughter, and feed the images real-time onto the internet. Mostly when they are poolside. But not for what you think, you pervert! To make sure that they don't drowned while you aren't paying attention. Because drowning is the 4th leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. A person could drown in the time it takes you to answer the phone!

Those ladies sure are attractive by the way...

Oh wait, now you're against electronic monitoring? Welcome to the club! Here's your "I'm a radical loony" pin. :)

bexler53 said...

I stopped three times for red light before turning right and still being photographed by the traffic cameras
in Conroe 105 and hwy 75. They have been set up for only one reason and that is to get your money. I watched
the cameras closely again for at least an hour and they go off instantly even when car stop. It is a trap and I am warning everyone going into Conroe City limits to avoid these intersections at any cost.