The Driving in America Blog was started a year ago to bring more information to those who are beginning their journey as motorists’ rights advocates. Over the next several months, I will be working with each of the seven NMA principles to give readers of this weekly blog some idea of what we all are working towards as association members. We thank you for your support and please, if you have questions, ask below in the comments section.
Check out the Driving in America on Principle Number 1: Traffic Safety through Sound Engineering and Real Driver Training
Traffic Laws Fairly Written and Reasonably Enforced
Traffic laws and penalties should be based on sensible standards that differentiate between responsible behaviors and demonstrated unsafe actions. If a driver is acting in a reasonable and prudent manner with no one placed in harm’s way and no property put at risk, then no penalty should apply.
Command-and-control tactics like speed traps and red-light cameras do not constitute reasonable enforcement. Revenue motives corrupt the process, a problem exacerbated by the hiring of private, for-profit contractors as proxies for local law enforcement.
For example, the NMA believes that speed limits should be based on sound traffic engineering principles that consider motorists’ reasonable and prudent travel speeds. Typically, this should result in speed limits set at the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic (the speed under which 85 percent of traffic is traveling).
These limits should be periodically adjusted to reflect changes in actual traffic speeds.
Check out the NMA’s Model Speed Limit Law which includes statutory requirements and standards for establishing speed limits.
Yellow light timings are also a part of fair traffic laws. Check out the NMA Website called www.shortyellowlights.com. Red-light cameras can only remain profitable at poorly engineered intersections where yellow lights are too short. An increase of one second can reduce violations by 50 percent.
The Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides guidance that the yellow interval be between three and six seconds without tying the requirement to specific approach velocities. That said, anything falling below the yellow times shown here should be considered as a potential short yellow light.
25 MPH — 3.0 Seconds
30 MPH — 3.5 Seconds
35 MPH — 4.0 Seconds
40 MPH — 4.5 Seconds
45 MPH — 5.0 Seconds
50 MPH — 5.5 Seconds
55 MPH — 6.0 Seconds
With regards to command-and-control tactics with the use of automated traffic enforcement devices, here are just some of the reasons the NMA oppose the use of these policing for profit devices anywhere:
Ticket Cameras do Not Improve Safety
Despite the claims of companies that sell ticket cameras and provide related services, there is no independent verification that photo enforcement devices improve highway safety, reduce overall accidents, or improve traffic flow. Believing the claims of companies that sell photo enforcement equipment or municipalities that use this equipment is like believing any commercial produced by a company that is trying to sell you something.
There is no Certifiable Witness to the Alleged Violation
A violation of everyone’s constitutional rights. There is no “accuser” for motorists to confront…no one that can personally testify to the circumstances of the alleged violation. Just because a camera device was operating properly at the time of set up does not mean that it was operating properly when the picture was taken of any given vehicle.
Ticket Recipients are not Adequately Notified
Since the automated ticket is usually mailed (some states are required to send certified mail), there is no guarantee that the accused motorists will even receive the ticket. If motorists fail to pay, the court assumes they did so on purpose, then a warrant might be issued for the owner’s arrest and/or are automatically found guilty with a future bill collector on their back.
The Driver of the Vehicle is not Positively Identified
Even if the owner was not driving the vehicle of the alleged violation, he or she will still be mailed the ticket. Then, the owner must prove his or her innocence, often identifying the actual driver who may be a spouse, family member, friend, or employee. The right to innocence until proven guilty is thrown out the window.
Ticket Recipients are not Notified Quickly
Can you remember where you were driving two weeks ago precisely at 2:22 PM, Tuesday? That is what happens to vehicle owners who receive an automated traffic ticket weeks later and have difficulty defending oneself. Even if the photo was taken in error, it may be very hard to recall the day in question.
These Devices Discourage the Synchronization of Traffic Lights
Big money is made with red-light and speed cameras. Cities count on this cash as part of its yearly income. Traffic light synchronization is the elimination of unneeded lights and partial deactivation of other traffic lights during low traffic periods. Why would a city want to do that if they rely on making cash with automated traffic enforcement even though it is better for general traffic flow and overall traffic safety?
Cameras do NOT Prevent most Intersection Accidents
Intersection accidents are just that, accidents. Motorists do not casually drive through red lights. More likely, they do not see a given traffic light because they are distracted, impaired, or unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even the most flagrant of red light violators will not drive blithely into a crowded intersection, against the light. Putting cameras on poles and taking pictures will not stop these kinds of accidents.
There are Better Alternatives to Cameras
If intersection controls are properly engineered, installed, and operated, there will be very few red light violations. From the motorists’ perspective, government funds should be used on improving intersections, not on ticket cameras. Even in instances where cameras were shown to decrease certain types of accidents, they increased other accidents. Simple intersection and signal improvements can have lasting positive effects, without negative consequences. Just extending the yellow lights (see above) can do more good towards safety. Cities can choose to make intersections safer with sound traffic engineering or make money with ticket cameras. Unfortunately, many pick money over safety.
Ticket Camera Systems are Designed to Inconvenience Motorists
Under the guise of protecting motorist privacy, the court or private contractor that sends out tickets often refuses to send a copy of the photo to the accused vehicle owner. This is really because many of the photos do not clearly depict the driver or the driver is obviously not the vehicle owner. Typically, the vehicle owner is forced to travel to a courthouse or municipal building to even see the photograph, an obvious and deliberate inconvenience meant to discourage ticket challenges.
Taking Photos of Dangerous Drivers, do NOT STOP Dangerous Drivers
Photo enforcement devices do not apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or otherwise dangerous drivers. A fugitive could fly through an intersection at 100 mph and not even get his picture taken, as long as the light was green!
The first step in becoming a motorists’ rights advocate is understanding the issues. Join the National Motorists Association today to stand with like-minded individuals across the country!