Kane County and the red light cameras.

I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything here about red light cameras.  I probably don’t have to tell you what I think about them, though.  I don’t like them.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  There was an article in the Daily Herald this weekend regarding what may soon become the last of the Kane County’s red light cameras.  We can only hope, anyway.

According to the article,

…Kane County implemented a change in the law in the fall of 2010 that capped the life span of any red-light camera on the county highway system at three years.

Only two cameras have not run up against against the 3 year cap so far- both are in Geneva (and, coincidentally, just south of the courthouse on Randall Road).  The interesting part of the article isn’t necessarily that the permits for the cameras could only span three years.  It’s the idea that you can re-apply to put cameras in (or put them up elsewhere), and there’s been “a lot less interest” in doing so.

So, why do I hate these things?  Why do other people hate them?  Why aren’t cities and villages as interested in putting them up as they were 4 or 5 years ago?

I hate them for what they represent.  There is nothing anywhere, ever that represents the grotesque metamorphosis of the traffic code going from being genuinely safety motivated to being financially motivated.  I’m a big believer that when there’s financial incentive for the government in criminal courts, things get messed up.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once forced to pay one of these violations after a guy who looked a lot like me, driving a car that looked a lot like mine, displaying a license plate exactly like mine failed (barely) to come to a complete stop on Route 64 just east of St. Charles.  I can tell you that the fines really aren’t that bad.  The whole system for these tickets is a little too slick, though.

Think about it- the city puts one in.  There is no officer on the street that has to patrol.  There is no time wasted by cops writing tickets or filling out red-light violation paperwork.   No cop has to waste his time actually seeing you roll over that line at 1 mph before making that right turn. If you’ve ever gotten one of these things, you know the ticket shows up in the mail from a seemingly private company, and your local cops didn’t even see the ticket.

There’s also no judge who will listen to your plea, or any added cost (to the government, of course) to make sure your pesky rights aren’t violated.  There’s not even a county clerk that has to “waste” her time taking your payment– you pay through the web site set up by that private company!  Just a piece of mail getting sent to you, and a check of yours getting sent back.

There are, no doubt, people out there that will argue that the cameras may make an intersection safer. And, if one person is saved, they’re worth it.  Whether or not they have any effect on traffic at a given intersection is hugely debatable, however.  Not to mention that if we’re willing to justify any intrusion on the basis that just one life may be saved… well, we could eliminate all traffic deaths by outlawing cars.

At least on this one the tide of public opinion (based on the fact that the cameras are disappearing) seems to jive with my opinion.  For once.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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