A tale of two sillies

Friday, December 12, 2008

These may be the best of times or the worst of times, depending on your point of view. Let's decide for the fun of it.

There's a point to this, but first consider a couple of stories that one of America's best jesters might call "Stupid Criminal Tricks."

The first comes courtesy of the salesmen who pitched their red light camera/ticket machine to Lewisburg's City Council last month.

It seems that in another city somewhere else there was a man who reacted negatively to the idea of traffic tickets being mailed to owners of cars and trucks seen as running red lights and/or speeding.

So he went to one of the intersections with a cabinet containing digital cameras and a radar gun. He had his own gun loaded for bear and blasted away.

The reason this story can be told is because there's a series of digital images displayed later like an old-time silent picture show. It's of the guy who's standing in front of the traffic camera, triggering a motion detector and digital shutters that captured his image as he shot bullets at the cabinet with cameras that produced evidence of the shooting.

No doubt it was the same set of cameras that caught images of his car speeding through a red light some time earlier. Nor is there much reason to explain what happened later.

The other story was circulated in a nearby municipality where salesmen from a similar business sought a contract with a city board that eventually rejected the proposal for camera-assisted enforcement.

A driver ran a red light and was sent a ticket. While it's not clear that alleged offenders always get a copy of the photo showing their car rolling through an intersection, the story is told about a driver who saw her picture.

She responded by writing a check for the amount being charged and mailing a photo copy of the check to the collection address. Shortly thereafter, police mailed her a photocopy of handcuffs. Compliance ended the correspondence.

In both tales, there was something of an unexpected change in behavior. One of the things the Redflex salesmen point to as a reason to contract with the company is a change in drivers' behavior that can lead to safer streets. Running red lights causes crashes, bodily injury, property damage and increased operational costs for police, ambulances and fire departments.

Drivers can choose to do better. Officials elsewhere have said they slow down when they see a patrol car, even if it's parked and empty.

There's been a whole lot of changing going on in this country. One of the reasons given for lower gas prices is less demand because the price was high.

Some might argue their own driving is safe and believe roads will be safer if others change their ways, but they regret the need for another set of cameras to monitor public behavior.

The alternative is to choose to do better. Let's decide for the fun of it, although don't you suppose a referendum on red light cameras would fail if it were put on the ballot here in Lewisburg next May?