BF features editor Terry Flesia weighs in on new transportation technology encroaching on our freedom.
Smile, that photo just cost you a hundred bucks.Citations for red light violations are on the rise as surveillance cameras take over for police officers at intersections across the country. Photo enforcement typically consists of a camera connected to the traffic signal and to sensors in the road at the crosswalk or stop line. When a vehicle crosses the sensors after the light has turned red, photographs are taken of the vehicle’s license plate, the driver’s face, and the vehicle’s progression through the intersection while the light is red. Many city officials and members of law enforcement support the use of the technology. Sounds like a fair deal, right?Recently, a judge in a large California city disagreed. The judge threw out a slew of red light camera citations dating back over a year or more. It seems that the city had contracted a vendor to provide and install the red light camera devices. So far, so good, but then rather than paying the vendor a set fee for providing and installing the devices, the city instead set up a deal with the vendor whereby the vendor received a percentage of the fines collected by the city from motorists who paid the citations. The vendor then proceeded to shorten the duration of the yellow light portion of the signals thereby ensuring that more drivers would be cited then before, more fines would be paid, and greater revenue would accrue to the vendor. City officials went along with the plan as it also meant that greater revenue accrued to the city. All for the common good, right? The judge didn’t agree, ruling that rather than being used as a traffic enforcement device the red light cameras were being used as a revenue-getter for both the city and the vendor. He threw out all the tickets issued since the start of the red-light camera project out, ordered the cameras to be re-set under the old yellow light duration, and ordered the city to abandon its “percentage arrangement” deal with the vendor.In another advanced technology incident the New Haven Advocate reported that James Turner was initially surprised when he returned his rental car to Acme Rent-a-Car in New Haven, CT and was billed an additional $450.But Turner’s shock turned to anger when he learned that the charge was a fine for speeding in his rented minivan – and that the money had been automatically withdrawn from his bank account without his permission. It seems that Acme charges customers a $150 fine every time the car’s electronic tracking device detects speeding for more than two minutes. Turner was never stopped by law enforcement or issued any citation for violating traffic laws.In yet another advanced technology incident a customer rented a car from Payless Car Rental in California. The rental car was equipped with a Global Positioning System which allowed Payless to track the location of the vehicle.The customer drove the car to Las Vegas and back and returned it after a two-day rental. Imagine his surprise when Payless presented him with a $1,400 bill for the two-day rental! He was shown his rental agreement stating an obscure clause forbidding him from crossing state lines with the car- and an even more obscure penalty for doing so: $1 for each mile driven, regardless of location.As the foregoing instances show, is all this technology coming on stream all about “advanced technology” or is much of it about advanced Big Brother coupled with advancing greed?