As reported in the Houston Chronicle, a new breed of  red-light camera is stealthily being installed by the city fathers in order to raise revenues. Surely, there are not that many accidents to justify the unprecedented use of  the cameras at more than 50 intersections. The cameras are bi-directional and can trap violators approaching from the opposite direction.

Other items of issue include public disclosure and the fee arrangement with the camera's vendor, American Traffic Solutions.

According to the Chronicle...

"The move to add more cameras, which had not been publicly disclosed, appears to conflict with the terms of a contract the City Council approved in 2006 with American Traffic Solutions Inc., the private company that installs and monitors the cameras."

"That agreement includes payment arrangements with the company for a total of 50 intersection "approaches," or cameras monitoring specific directions at a location. "

But did the city fathers move at warp speed to avoid the new Texas State law which takes effect in a few days that may have required the city to complete expensive traffic engineering studies prior to installing the cameras?

Again, quoting from the Chronicle...

"But department officials said Tuesday that they long had planned to increase the number of cameras at some locations, and they denied the contract limited that total to 50 intersections."

"These are different approaches at those same intersections," said Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo, who supervises the program."

"Montalvo said the decision to add the new cameras had nothing to do with a new state law, which takes effect Saturday, that could require some cities to do engineering studies at new locations."

It's about safety, not money... the common refrain of city officials when confronted by angry citizens who feel that the city is out to make a buck rather than make them safer on the road.

"[Montalvo} also dismissed a common complaint that the new cameras were intended to generate more revenue, even as the new law requires that a portion of the fines go to a regional trauma center fund."

"This is not about revenue," she said. "This is about changing the behavior and public safety."

"Montalvo said late Tuesday that she was not aware of any briefings to

council members about the new cameras. But she said Police Chief Harold Hurtt had planned to make an announcement later this week."

The program seems to have its doubters...

"Randall Kallinen, a lawyer who complained about the cameras before the council Tuesday, said he doubts safety motivated the department to increase the number of cameras at the intersections."

"The idea for the red-light cameras is to pick the problem areas," he said. "Is it a problem in one direction, or both directions?"

Do it fast before the state law requirements become effective on September 1, 2007.

"HPD's acknowledgment of the new cameras comes as the council is expected Wednesday to consider state-mandated changes to the camera ordinance."

"A newly worded ordinance would defer much of the administrative procedures for managing the camera system to a new state law. The law requires the city to issue citations to motorists who turn illegally at monitored intersections."

Only motorists who do not fully stop and yield to traffic and pedestrians before turning on red would be cited, police have said.

What may be the perfect way to combat the rise of these stealth cameras is simply to require the largest portion of any monies generated by the cameras be diverted from the city to state programs. Thus, the city would ONLY have an incentive to place cameras at locations where problems exist or the use of a human traffic officer unfeasible.

"The new law also gives cited motorists more appeal powers, and requires the city to send half of its net profits to the regional trauma center fund."

What can YOU do?

Simply become more aware of your driving habits and religiously observe red lights and stop signs.

Complain to your elected officials regarding intersections which present "true" traffic hazards and demand that they place cameras at these intersections for safety rather than revenue generation.

Scrutinize donations to your elected officials, keeping an eye out for the red light camera vendor and its law and public relations firms. You would be surprised how cheaply a politician can be bought in today's market.

Demand "revenue diversion" laws which remove the monetary incentive from the placement of automated enforcement devices and insure that they are used where a real need exists.

Monitor "red light camera" sites such as www.highwayrobbery.com for the latest news and tips on how to fight against spurious automated enforcement tickets.

Demand that the city pay for the cameras and avoid any revenue sharing programs (illegal in some venues) that reward the vendor on a per ticket or percentage basis. There is no reason why a "for profit" company should be rewarded for the poor behavior of city fathers out to make a quick buck.

Support legitimate safety concerns and avoid those which profit by making you wrong for the sake of generating money.

And remember, the true cost of an automated traffic ticket does not only include the fines, assessments and penalties -- it makes your insurance company extremely happy as they raise your rates and gather untold millions of premium dollars to allegedly cover the risk of your "poor driving"  habits.

And speaking of habits, if you are forced to "panic stop" before accidentally violating an automated enforcement device -- quickly check your rear view mirror to insure you remain safe from a rear-end collision. You might ask your city fathers to track the rise in "rear enders" after the camera is installed... and then take appropriate action.

-- steve

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius


New red-light cams to cover all the angles | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Frequently Asked Questions & Camera Information|Houston Police Department

Status Report on Red Light Cameras|Texas Legislature (July 31, 2006)

Removal of Profit Incentive Legislation|Texas Legislature (Effective 9/1/07)

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS