Yet. I am a criminal.
Today I unquestionably broke the law... It's true, I admit it. So you might be asking yourself, what happened?? Did you shoot anyone in a fit of rage? Did your anti-government angst finally get the best of you and cause you to fly a plane into the local IRS building?
No. I sure didn't.
I drove through a red light... And for my transgression, I may very likely wind up with an extremely hefty ticket, as I distinctly saw the flashes Big Brother's cameras lashing out at me from their perch on the metal pole to which the stop light was affixed.
I committed such an egregious offense today because, quite frankly... The sun was in my eyes. Anti-climactic, huh? Yeah...
In the late afternoon, I was returning home from a lunch meeting with a good friend and another buddy of his (who, I should mention, brought his father along and both were delightful and really good people to be around). I took a brief (and rather accidental) detour through Los Feliz, before continuing my relatively short journey home from Silverlake. It was about 20 minutes before 5pm and I found myself traveling West on Sunset Blvd., and well... The sun was on its way down for the day (as happens in February around here).
Unfortunately, in spite of my sunglasses, it was very hard to see the stoplight near (or on... I can't quite remember) Vine Street. So I did what most people normally do in these situations and simply followed the flow of traffic until the angle was right so that I could properly see the light. The sun was at about 30o from the horizon, so naturally I had to be quite close to the light to actually see it properly... As a result, once I got close enough, only then did I realize that it had just turned red, and that I would have to make a choice.
At that point, I could either:
- Slam on my brakes, screech to a stop some ways into the intersection - likely causing not only an accident, but a traffic jam as well. Or...
- Proceed through the intersection in violation of the law.
Obviously I chose option number two.
Now... It seems to me that in the age of reasonable legal statutes, I would have essentially done the right thing. Sure, I might deserve some kind of warning to be more cautious, pay more attention, or to simply not drive into the sun in the future. And believe me, all of those warnings would be taken into consideration. Perhaps if a judge or policeman were feeling particularly severe or felt I endangered people (I didn't), then a small fine might have been in order. Ok. I can handle that...
However, we live in the age of the traffic camera. And if there's one really awesome thing about those things, from the point of view of the State, they cost very little and yet bring in literally millions of dollars for the city each year. The law here is less about protecting individual rights or safety, and much, much more geared towards draining the citizens of every available dollar to feed the over-extended monsters that are the State of California & the City of Los Angeles. So instead of a slap on the wrist and a small fine... If in fact I do get a ticket from this red light camera, I am facing a whopping $449 fee.
Cool, huh? Know what else is great? There have been many studies done on red light camera intersections - and in almost every case, accidents at these intersections have increased!! Check it out:
"The pitch is that these cameras will increase safety and reduce accidents. Also, the cities will make some money on the side at more than $400 a ticket!
In Los Angeles the LAPD claims accidents are down after they installed cameras, but are they telling the whole truth or just trying to make money off motorists?
We crunched the numbers and the results may surprise you...
...We looked at every accident at every red light camera intersection for six months of data before the cameras were installed and six months after.
The final figures? Twenty of the 32 intersections show accidents up after the cameras were installed!"
Here's the blog Camerafraud's Take.
The governments in Los Angeles and in every other city where these things exist, predictably, claim that these cameras are reducing accidents. And (also predictably) they lie through their teeth. What's even more ridiculous is the fact that in many places, for example the Temple Terrace, Florida case (where accidents were up 133% at red light camera intersections) as blogged by Camerafraud, the police suspiciously stop keeping records after the cameras are installed... From the ABC article about the cameras in that city:
"To be fair, we're not talking about a great deal of statistical evidence. Just a handful of accidents compared over a 5-month period year to year.
So why not get a larger sampling over a longer period of time to really see if accidents at red light cameras are up or down in Temple Terrace?
That would seem like the thing to do. But after that initial report showing accidents were up, police in Temple Terrace stopped keeping track."
Reminds me of talking to Radley Balko when I was trying to get statistics on police brutality for the CitizenA video on the confused sense of who is dangerous people seem to have... Yet another piece of information police departments conveniently fail to keep decent records on... Notice a pattern yet?
Virtually any time the data is in conflict with a method for the state to either extract more "revenue" from its citizens, or with the ability of agents of the state to exert more abusive power over the people, the state has a fun little tendency of avoiding ever collecting that data in the future.
Oh, and here's something else! From ridelust.com:
"Well, according to study after study, rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and therefore, raise insurance premiums. In fact, the only studies that have shown any benefit to red-light cameras were either done by the IIHS…the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or researchers funded by them. How very strange, don’t you think?
The most recent study revealing the truth about the cameras was done by researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health. “Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections.”"
"The only studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained “major research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were always conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras since insurance companies can profit from red-light cameras by way of higher premiums due to increased crashes and citations."
"A 2001 paper by the Office of the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives reported that red-light cameras are “a hidden tax levied on motorists.” The report came to the same conclusions that all of the other valid studies have, that red-light cameras are associated with increased crashes and that the timings at yellow lights are often set too short to increase tickets for red-light running. That’s right, the state actually tampers with the yellow light settings to make them shorter, and more likely to turn red as you’re driving through them.
In fact, six U.S. cities [Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, and Springfield, MO] have been found guilty of shortening the yellow light cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners"
Seriously though... What the hell? Let's recap, shall we? I've hurt no one. I've caused $0 in property damage. I successfully avoided panicking and thereby causing an unnecessary accident. I did not stop in the middle of the intersection and block traffic needlessly.
What I did do, to be quite fair, is break the letter of the law and rudely prevent a few people from moving forward when it was in fact their right of way. I feel bad about that, and I'm glad no one was hurt... But there was very little to be done about it and under the circumstances I think I made the best decision possible.
I expect to be rewarded for it with several more hours of my life wasted in L.A. traffic court and perhaps getting financially hosed in the process. Awesome.
I'm sick of being a criminal in this town without ever actually harming anyone. It may be time to leave.