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