Kuntz: Put a red light on cameras

BY KATIE KUNTZ | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Government exploits the pretext of public safety to gain power and ultimately make a mockery of freedom.

Even when government interference appears to be a valid option for combating community problems, citizens must look for alternative solutions.

One example of unnecessary government interference comes in the form of red-light surveillance cameras.

The Iowa City City Council passed an ordinance this year that would allow the red-light cameras to be installed at select intersections in the city. This week, a duo of liberty protectors, Aleksey Gurtovoy and Martha Hampel, both concerned residents of Iowa City, responded with a petition to reverse the council’s decision.

Though some studies show that the traffic cameras decreased costs related to intersection collisions and decreased the number of traffic violations, other studies, including one by the Federal Highway Administration, have shown that red-light cameras can actually increase the number of rear-end accidents. Rear-end accidents offset the gains, so it’s difficult to tell if the cameras are ultimately effective.

Still, opponents believe that there are other factors that render the cameras completely illegitimate.
Gurtovoy said other approaches to public safety are better options. “Constructive, non-punitive measures such as driver feedback signs, yellow-light timing, an all-red clearance interval, and others, have a much more significant and lasting effect on reducing the corresponding traffic violations,” he said.  

Hampel contended that the red-light cameras violate civil liberties.

“The most important thing for the public to understand is that the Iowa City council members voted to violate our Constitutional right to due process by denying our right to face our accuser and shifting the burden of proof to the defendant,” she said. “That is the result when the owner of a vehicle receives an automated traffic citation in the mail.”

It is important to keep the roads safe — but electronic fines are not the only option. Unless Iowans remind themselves and their representatives that they do not want the government to illegitimately invade their lives, we can expect intrusive red-light cameras to become as normal as removing our shoes at the airport.

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