Red-light cameras raise red flags in Champaign County

“This Orwellian, ‘1984’ stuff has got to go,” said State Rep. Chapin Rose when he learned that Champaign County had been included in a bill that would have allowed the operation of “red-light cameras.” Until Tuesday, that bill was in a passage stage in the state House. The fury over the bill ?… “This Orwellian, ‘1984’ stuff has got to go,” said State Rep. Chapin Rose when he learned that Champaign County had been included in a bill that would have allowed the operation of “red-light cameras.”

Until Tuesday, that bill was in a passage stage in the state House. The fury over the bill — including Rose’s declaration — prompted its sponsor, Rep. Charles Jefferson, to pledge to have Champaign County removed from the legislation. The red-light cameras, which have already been implemented in eight other counties, would be in place to discourage drivers from speeding and running red lights. They would be capable of taking pictures of cars and their license plates if they were to make an illegal right turn on red or run a red light. While the idea sounds good on paper, it certainly has some holes.

The red-light cameras would supposedly decrease traffic violations, but the immediate benefit is more obvious: money.

While this law would reallocate resources and increase revenue, it could also wrongfully hand out tickets to people who in certain situations don’t deserve them. What an actual police officer might not ticket somebody for, the camera might. The camera doesn’t see the big picture.

The camera wouldn’t be able to account for some circumstances an officer could recognize and acknowledge with a warning.

The argument is ages old, but technology – no matter how advanced – simply can’t replace human presence.

Another issue at hand is whether the red-light cameras actually increase safety. In Cook County, where this law has already passed, there hasn’t been a significant decrease in traffic violations since the red-light cameras were installed. In fact, a report released by the University of South Florida College of Public Health found that red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums.

Along with Rose, the mayors of both Champaign and Urbana mayors don’t support the bill. In fact, they never proposed Champaign to be included in the bill to begin with. For that reason alone, the bill should not pass with Champaign included as one of the counties where red-light cameras would be allowed.

If the bill were to pass with opposition from the Champaign and Urbana mayors, then it would be incredibly difficult for the county policemen to enforce tickets for traffic violations. Champaign should be taken off the legislation and we must ask whether the bill should pass at all. If counties want increased vehicle safety, they should consider more stringent traffic patrol and not rely on technology to do the job.