I came across an article discussing something that most people dread—that little camera above the traffic light that tickets you! Apparently a dozen cities and nine states have banned traffic cameras for financial and political reasons. Although these little devices successfully catch more speeders and produce more tickets, which in turn brings in more revenue, they are expensive. With the economy being the way it is, it is hard for many states to spend money on such devices. Further, a lot of voters just hate the device.
What is interesting is that opponents of these small cameras have used the United States Constitution to substantiate their point. Opponents claim that these cameras violate due process rights and invade one’s privacy.
After the mention of the due process violation, the article goes on to state that opponents feel there is a violation of due process because the cameras “don’t capture images of those who actually are behind the wheel.” I completely disagree with this statement. I have gotten a ticket in the mail before because I was caught speeding by a camera. As I opened the envelope and took out my ticket, the next page displayed a large picture of me in the car, driving. I was actually shocked to see how focused and clear the picture was. My face was clearly shown and pictured from a very close angle. This is why I do not believe the claim that the cameras do not capture the image of the driver. The close angle and clarity at which those cameras take pictures leave no room for any mistakes as to who the driver is.
Even if the picture was not the best, does this camera really infringe upon our due process rights? A violation of one’s due process rights would be when a person was deprived of life, liberty or property without going through some sort of legal proceeding. In our situation, when a person receives a citation, they have the opportunity to go to court and contest it. A citation by a camera is no different than a citation personally given by a cop on the side of the road. Both allow individuals the opportunity to have their day in court. Therefore, I see no violation of due process rights even if the picture was not completely clear.
Additionally, these cameras do not invade one’s privacy. Now, for an invasion to occur, a person first needs to be in a place where they can reasonably expect privacy. When you are on the road in your car, you are in a public area. Photos taken of people in public areas are not seen as intruding upon people’s privacy because people are out and about, not isolated in a private area.
Now, opponents may argue that one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own car. Sure, I can see that point. However, our individual car is on a public road. Our individual car has windows where people can see into them. Our individual car is amongst many other cars. Overall, our individual car does not constitute a small private world of our own. Rather, we are just beings in our car, which is on a public road amongst other cars. There is no privacy on the road. Therefore, the claim that these cameras violate people’s privacy is without merit.
Even though I am not a fan of these cameras because I have been a victim to them, I do think they are a great idea. They instill fear in people because people can get caught speeding even if a cop car is not nearby. Whenever people see these cameras, they tend to slow down. Drivers who drive cautiously are less likely to get into accidents. Overall, the roads become safer. The other side to this is to just implement small measures, like making the time for the yellow light longer so people slow down and have ample time control their speed. This can have an adverse effect. With longer yellow lights, more people can attempt to rush though the light by increasing their speed. This is very risk and likely to result in an increase in accidents. Rather than people using the extra time to slow down and stop, they will likely speed up and try to beat the light, overall endangering the lives of those around them.
With so many other issues in our world, such as our rising unemployment rates or increase in home foreclosures, I say we leave the little camera alone and let it do its job. We, as citizens, can the focus on more important issues.