The majority of people are at least somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of a machine like a red-light camera writing traffic tickets on its own. Realizing this, cities that install ticket cameras always assure concerned citizens that the tickets will not be automated and that an officer will look at each ticket that comes through and make sure that a mistake wasn’t made.
In theory, it sounds like a legitimate protection for motorists against unfair tickets.
In practice, because of the large volume of tickets that the cameras generate and limited staffing (to boost camera profitability), the officers supervising the ticketing process end up just trying to get through as many tickets as possible in the shortest amount of time.
This inevitably leads to simple errors that cause innocent people to spend hours in court fighting tickets that they would never have received had an actual officer been there to give the ticket instead of a machine.
King 5 News in Seattle, Washington uncovered an clear example of this in action:
Arnie Henyan knows all about those cameras and the tickets that come with them.
“The first one was dated May 28, and I got it in early June,” he said. “Three months later, I got another one… Early January, I received a third one, from the city of SeaTac. Same car, same plate.”
The tickets were issued to his son, who owns a 1998 Honda Coupe with the license 470-MOI. Arnie fought the tickets, insisting his son was innocent.
“I kind of laughed, because it’s an impossibility,” Henyan said. “He’s in Iraq. Has been since April.”
How did this happen three times with officers reviewing every ticket by hand?
So how did the sergeant get ticketed while at war?
If you look closely at the photo taken by the red light camera: the license plate is actually 470-MDI – not MOI. Officers approve all tickets before they go out. But both Lakewood and SeaTac misread the “D” for an “O.” And they missed another clue: The photos show a silver sedan running a red.
“It’s a silver car and my son’s is black. It’s a four-door car and my son’s is a two-door coupe,” Arnie Henyan said.
The defense offered by Lakewood Police Department:
Lakewood police say not all that car data is sent to them for the verification process.
“Our officers are approving hundreds of these every week,” said Lt. Heidi Hoffman, of Lakewood police. “I think it could improve if the verification system showed more complete vehicle registration data on the screen that our officers are using to process these citations.”
This is not acceptable.
If the police department doesn’t have the staff and resources to safeguard the public from unfair tickets, they should never have installed the cameras.
It’s easy for camera promoters to say, “Well, if you get an unfair ticket, you can always go fight it in court and it will be dismissed.” But in reality, there is a cost to an individual when they are forced to fight an unfair ticket. The process involves extra paperwork, a trip to court, and taking off time from work. That’s why many times people just decide it’s less of a hassle to write a check even when they’ve done nothing wrong.
The bottom line is that an innocent driver should never have to fix the government’s mistake. Especially not on their own time. And especially not when it could have easily been avoided if the city’s focus had been on safety instead of automatic revenue generators like red-light ticket cameras.
Image Credit: Dan4th