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What's the big deal over traffic cameras?

Posted Thursday, February 25, 2010, at 9:41 AM

Honestly, I don't understand the uproar over traffic surveillance cameras such as those in Murfreesboro.

I don't feel threatened by those cameras when in Murfreesboro. I don't make a habit of committing traffic violations, either, so why would those cameras cause a problem for law-abiding drivers? How many innocent drivers are being falsely accused?

But several people whose views I respect are strongly anti-camera. They generally think those cameras are there to bring in more money for cities at the expense of those falsely accused. Also, state law specifies camera-caught drivers' insurance companies aren't notified and the infractions aren't counted on driving records.

Tennessee's attorney general Bob Cooper said this week traffic surveillance cameras are legally valid. This comes after a far-fetched argument from opponents that those accused of violations must be able to face their accusers -- and cameras can't talk.

The Kingsport Times-News explains State Rep, Tony Shipley's (R-Kingsport) questions perfectly:

"Shipley asked if ordinances creating owner liability for traffic violations detected by cameras conflict with state law; whether municipal fines for traffic violations detected by cameras are civil or criminal considering constitutional protections in court proceedings; and if admission of camera evidence violates the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, which allows citizens to confront their accusers.

"Shipley's questions remaining to be answered include whether local jurisdictions are disregarding uniformity in Tennessee's traffic laws; whether camera evidence offers "fewer due process protections" for motorists; if traffic light cameras violate individual rights and/or erode the integrity of the judicial system; and whether current Tennessee law shifts the burden of proof to the defendant, violating the constitutional guarantee of innocent until proven guilty."

Others claim cameras are a violation of privacy. Yet no one complains about "privacy" in businesses or, after their initial installation, in Shelbyville's H.V. Griffin Park.

Here's another view, though:

A judge in Miami has ruled against traffic cameras. According to Florida media, the judge feels the state, not individual cities should determine traffic laws, and that traffic violations must be witnessed by a person rather than a machine.

Maybe so. I'm be strongly against cities taking advantage of people to raise money, and I'll admit I'd change my mind quickly if wrongfully accused.

For now, though, what's the problem?

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I got a ticket in Murfreesboro. I turned right after stopping at the red light. However I was in the left turn lane (there are two). No one was around, but if I had been 6 feet to the right, I would not have gotten a ticket.

Also, some people are so afraid of them they tend to slam thier brakes at a yellow light and get rear ended. I seem to remember a study that showed an increase in rear end collisions after installing the cameras...not sure where I read that though.

-- Posted by Chad O on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 10:14 AM

Chad O

I had the same thing happen to me last year. The intersection of Cason Lane and Old Fort Parkway.

I tried to fight it, but it was no use. I paid the 50.00.

NOW, there is a sign in that lane that says 'No right turn on red'.

If I had known that at the beginning, I wouldn't have done it. 50.00 lesson....

-- Posted by espoontoon on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 11:44 AM

Maybe its just me but I can be driving the speed limit in Murfreesboro and it seems like every intersection I come to the light turns yellow just as I approach it. I am so near to the intersection that I either have to stop abruptly or I have to hit the gas and speed on through before the light changes to red in fear that I might get a ticket. I had read somewhere that there were places maybe in other states that shortened the time that a light stays yellow by just a fraction of a second and by doing that it caused the cameras to get you and in the end you recieve a ticket for running a red light. I am a very careful driver but I do feel like I will eventually get a ticket because of the lights changing too quickly. Is anyone else having this problem in Murfreesboro?

-- Posted by AmericanWoman on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 1:28 PM

We have one in Marietta,GA. It is reported to generate over $700,000 per year. Two of my friends have been caught in the last year. It has a short yellow. A tag with a clear cover can't be read I am told. A ticket here is $75.00, seems crime in GA cost more than in TN.

-- Posted by jim8377 on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 2:20 PM

Most traffic cameras are installed under an agreement with the city and the maker where the proceeds from the cameras are split 50-50.

This has caused many companies and/or cities to lessen the length of time a traffic light stays on yellow to increase the number of tickets...and profits.


-- Posted by quietmike on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 2:35 PM

I live in Texas and there are some cities that installed the cameras at intersections and found that there were high rates of rear end collisions, and no longer use them. Lots of money thrown away if not in use.

-- Posted by cookie on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 6:34 PM

I read there is a bill in the Tennessee legislature to prohibit them from being used. The issue is a guy in a cubical decides who gets a ticket. Just what I hear....outonthefarm

-- Posted by outonthefarm on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 6:46 PM

The issue is a guy in a cubical decides who gets a ticket.

Posted by outonthefarm on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 6:46 PM

Aren't cubicles referred to as stalls outonthefarm ?

-- Posted by somecommonsense on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 7:09 PM

The problem I have is that if someone is driving my car, for any given reason, and they get caught by the camera trying to get through the intersection, they aren't the one who gets the ticket. I would be... It has never happened to me, but it certainly must happen. How can that be acceptable?

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 7:49 PM

I have been deployed over seas many times and several people have gotten tickets in the mail for breaking the rules in Europe.

It is simple, break the rules and get a ticket. They have no "gray or grey" areas. Speed, run a red light or pass in the wrong lane and you will get busted. I do like the simplicity of the laws there. No plans on moving there, but the rules are cut and dry.

I love that, "well I didn't know" never holds up in court and the ones that have cash pay as much as those that are broke.

To me it is simple, do not break a law and then you do not have to worry about getting busted.

One word, Integrity.

-- Posted by UVilleGators on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 1:33 AM

I don't know if cameras are the answer but I do know that one better be very careful going through intersections. I cannot begin to count how many times I see people running through red, or some call them pink, lights. It is not just in Murfressboro but right here in Shelbyville. It shows a total disregard for the law. More than that however, it shows disregard for the safety of others. We must all keep in mind that we are not only responsible for our own safety on the road. We are also responsible for everyone around us.

-- Posted by goose2008 on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 8:13 AM

David, I will have to agree -- why would there be an uproar about cameras if you are not breaking the law? Simple.

-- Posted by countrygal2008 on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 1:14 PM

When we were in Cleveland, TN for a couple of nights last November, there were signs on the side of the street that said there was a camera. Some intersections had them, & some did not. It just seemed odd that they told you there was a camera there.

That's similar to the law enforcement agencies letting us know when & where they are setting up a roadblock.

-- Posted by bettyhbrown on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 2:58 PM

Please understand this is not about increasing public safety. Murfreesboro is simply revenue hungry.

So what if someone slides through a light? It's certainly safer than braking hard at a yellow.

If this town was THAT concerned with public safety then they would be more diligent in monitoring the timing of these signals and ensuring. Many intersections have exceeded the volume they are designed to handle.

-- Posted by gottago on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 5:22 PM

".... why would there be an uproar about cameras if you are not breaking the law? Simple."

-- Posted by countrygal2008 on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 1:14 PM

Why would you care if the police abdicated authority to a company that could just knock in the door of your house with out a warrant? Because the company with the authority does not have to answer to anyone. That is the very reason either the cameras should go or a trained officer should be watching the cameras. Just saying from ...outonthefarm

-- Posted by outonthefarm on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 7:27 PM

The equipment is made in Australia and manned by a company in Maryland. Is this common sense?

Extend the yellow lights, redo the timing in the lights in town and a lot of problems would be solved. Going the speed limit makes you hit every single light in Madison street. That just doesn't make sense to me, and it is inefficient, causes more gas consumption and more traffic congestion.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Mon, Mar 1, 2010, at 3:58 PM

Just because you are not breaking the law doesn't mean the law doesn't try to get you. It's all for a buck.

I am one of those who tries to stop if the light turns yellow because I am worried about the cameras so I suggest you don't tailgate or your insurance will be paying. Take that to traffic court.

What about stopping all those speeders? Do you really think those flashing yellow lights are slowing people down on 231--not.

-- Posted by stardust on Tue, Mar 2, 2010, at 4:08 PM

Yesterday as I was running errand around town, I witness the prime reason red light camers should be banned.

The light was still green on Chaffin Ln turning left onto Old Fort. As the guy touched the white box the light went to yellow and the stupid idiot slammed on his breaks nearly forcing the guy behind him to ram him.

If people are that ignorant about the rules of yellow and of the rules of the cameras, then they should stay off the road.

-- Posted by gottago on Sat, Mar 6, 2010, at 7:02 PM

"Extend the yellow lights, redo the timing in the lights in town and a lot of problems would be solved.Going the speed limit makes you hit every single light in Madison street. That just doesn't make sense to me, and it is inefficient, causes more gas consumption and more traffic congestion....."

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Mon, Mar 1, 2010, at 3:58 PM

Are you abdicating speeding and breaking the law? What would the extended lights on the main roads do to side street congestion? it is one thing to offer an opinion. But to do so without thinking a problem through is another. What would the effect of such action would do side street congestion? Just saying....outonthefarm

-- Posted by outonthefarm on Sat, Mar 13, 2010, at 3:15 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.