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Traffic Cameras All Around

Just because a police car isn’t around doesn’t mean you aren’t being watched. School busses, mass transit busses, stationary cameras on corners, toll booth cameras and of course red light cameras are catching driving infractions all the time. The issue of personal privacy is being challenged constantly.

A high profile case of such a camera incident was captured recently in Cleveland, OH. A school bus driver constantly noticed a driver pass them while they were stopped with there no passing sign and lights on. A camera was installed and the driver was caught in the act. The driver was appropriately punished.

Toll booths in need of revenue don’t rely on a toll booth operator to write down a license plate when a driver doesn’t pay. High tech high-resolution cameras snap a picture of front and back license plates as soon as it is realized that the toll was not paid. Toll skippers have gone as far as having a passenger ride on the tailgate in order to obscure the license plate. Although it may work this time, it is a dangerous move in order to save a few dollars.  

The most helpful traffic camera, and the one capturing one of the most dangerous maneuvers, is the red light camera. Most systems are designed to start filming so to speak when the vehicle enters the intersection when the light is red, so there is no debate that the light was still yellow. A high-speed camera then snaps a picture of the car and license plate. Some states cannot surcharge the diver however since usually they can not be positively identified. Strangely enough some states actually allow a second to go by after the light turns red before citing a violation. Several states have red light camera systems but some are also starting to repeal them. Although several studies tout the effectiveness of red light cameras, a countrywide trend has not taken place. Anti-red light camera activists cite legal and privacy issues against them, and they believe the cameras do not improve safety. Another controversy is that some believe certain municipalities install the cameras just to increase revenue and manipulate the yellow light time in order to get more red light runners thus more fines.

The newest high tech weapon against scoffers is the automated license plate scanner. A system scans license plates at sixty plates per second. The goal is to catch anything from an expired registration to a stolen car to a wanted fugitive. Perhaps one of the highest debated privacy issues since it tracks you regardless of what you are doing.

Studies show there really is no debate when it comes to the effectiveness of all of the mentioned traffic cameras. The problem boils down to manipulation by officials in order to increase revenue and privacy. Privacy is a big concern in the digital age. On purpose or not activities can frequently be caught on camera and the debate rages on as to what is private and what is public.