I’ve been following the debate over the red light cameras with great interest and the most recent column by The Suns new managing editor Doyle Barlow, titled Red light tickets should be up to BPD, compelled me to speak my peace.
Back a couple years ago when I stood with the Baytown Concerned Citizens at El Toro’s restaurant and asked the city to “do something about the traffic violators’ in this town”, it seemed everyone was of the same opinion – by hook or crook, stop people from violating traffic laws and in the process, catch criminals with warrants.
I’m not implying red light cameras are catching and locking up crooks, but if you do not pay the fine, you will get a warrant issued for your arrest (*see updated note below). However, any driver with a driver’s license should have the minimum reading skills to interpret the signs and each camera has numerous signs to warn drivers there are cameras present.
Now my hat is still off to the Baytown police department for the fine job(s) they are doing, but how many officers do we have dedicated to cruising at any one time? Not that many per capita and there is a good reason – it’s a big town with as many as 120,000 people moving around at peak hours.
It would be an impossible task to watch every busy intersection, let alone the thousands of stop signs and minor red lights, so in my opinion, the red light cameras are a plus for traffic violations. Besides, I challenge anyone reading this to take a drive through this town and make a note every time you see a traffic violation on just one trip. It might be a real eye-opener.
A case in point is here - yesterday, I made a trip to Food Town on North Main and pulled out of the parking lot onto Rollingbrook St. It was about noon time and I was in the right lane and heading east towards Massey Tompkins Rd. The left turn arrow turned green and the car to my left, which incidentally was in the middle lane, took off straight through the oncoming turning cars and kept going on east on Massey Tompkins. I shook my head in amazement.
Directly behind it, another car took its place and just as the green left turn arrow turned yellow; it too crossed over into the intersection and took a left – from the middle lane! Either of these demonstrations of poor judgment could have resulted in a car wreck or possible fatality and this all happened inside 20 seconds by 2 different Baytown drivers.
As to the argument that red light camera strobe lights causes more rear-end collisions, I have an observation to make about that also. The reason the second car runs into the stopping car, is because they have every intention of flying through the light also.
We have way too many distracted people driving cars in this and every town in this country. Loud music, cell phones, eating food, alcohol, looking out the window when they should be looking ahead and dope – yes dope all contribute to people driving without actually paying attention.
Saturday morning I drove out Garth Road to go geocaching at 6:30am and stopped at the I-10 red light to wait my turn to go. Behind me I spied a Honda Accord with 4 young people inside. The front passenger and the 2 back seat travelers all had their heads laid back as if very tired. Then, to my surprise, the driver slouched down, laid his head over and closed his eyes.
I was watching all of this when one of the backseat riders noticed me watching. He nudged his buddy and as they both looked at my reflection in the mirror, the driver fell asleep and his car came rolling up to mine. I was right at the collision point when their yells caused him to slam on the brakes. Needless to say, as the light turned green, I drove off as fast as the law allowed.
No, we are not in a place where we can give up the extra help red light cameras do to penalize red-light runners and right turn violators yet, if anything, we need more.
*This is inaccurate. See comments below.
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