Last year, I wrote a column regarding getting a violation notice in the mail-the dreaded red-light violation. The city showed me three pictures on the notice. The first picture was an empty intersection; second picture was my SUV with the brake lights on; and the third picture was my license plate. Based on the notice, I contested the ticket because nothing in that notice showed a violation.
However, when I went to the administrative hearing, I was offered the chance to see the tape. “Tape?” I said.
Sure, why not.
So the administrative hearing officer pulled up a chair. In a few moments time, on came a video of my SUV approaching the intersection, pausing and then making a right-turn on red. The hearing officer explained that the city requires a full stop and not a pause.
“That’s not me driving” I told the hearing officer. But because the city has made the violation akin to a parking ticket and not a moving violation, the owner of the vehicle, and not the driver, is now responsible for the ticket.
Since it was my son driving my SUV, I was left with no recourse and was forced to pay the $90 ticket (the price has now increased to $100). That ticket was a painful lesson to me. What the city has done is shift the responsibility for irresponsible driving when it comes to the red-light cameras to the car owner regardless of who’s behind the wheel. Yet, if the same moving violation is caught by a police officer, the ticket would go to the driver and not the car owner. Is that fair? I don’t think so.
When a person runs a red light, they endanger others, as well as themselves. So if the purpose of the cameras is to address the danger of people running red lights, then the violation should go the driver’s record. If the true meaning of those cameras is to prevent accidents, then everyone’s car insurance rate should be going down since we would be a safer city to drive in.
A few weeks back, I was contacted by Mark Saxenmeyer from Fox-32 News. He wanted to interview me after seeing my column in the Austin Weekly News about my ticket. After telling him my story, he informed me that the Minnesota State Supreme Court had recently struck down their red-light camera law. Basically, their legal decision was that those cameras violated their state law requiring uniformity in driving laws.
There is also a lawsuit in Illinois arguing the exact same thing. I’ll keep you updated on its outcome.
Now there are some people who don’t mind tickets going to the car’s owner. But what if the same thing applied to those who use a gun to commit a crime? Imagine the outrage if a gun owner was held responsible for a crime done by someone else using their gun?
But putting the sole responsible for red-light violations on the car owner also places a huge and unfair economic burden on us. Imagine if someone gets mad at you, takes your vehicle and proceeds to run 50 red lights without the “pause.” That can theoretically place a $5000 burden on the vehicle’s owner. What if that angry driver did it over multiple days? Worst, imagine how insensitive the city would be as you tried to get out of owing them that amount of money?
The truth is that those cameras are nothing more than a revenue-generator for the city, and does little to change the bad driving behavior of some people.