Of all the ridiculous ideas in the world...

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The City of Des Moines is considering adding red-light cameras to intersections and Interstate 235 off-ramps. Clive already has them in six locations, so the horse is already out of the barn around here, in a sense. But that doesn't mean Des Moines should roll over and follow suit. Red-light cameras are not only creepy symptoms of a surveillance state, they're not even especially good at reducing collisions (in fact, they tend to increase rear-end collisions). If you want safer roads, you have engineers design them to be safer -- and you don't complain when those designs seem strange or unusual. Roundabouts, for instance, are remarkably safe: They've been measured to reduce injury crashes by 50% to 75%. But Americans aren't used to them, and that's gotten in the way of their widespread acceptance. Red-light cameras, though, are intrusive and more than a little Big Brother-ish. A civilized society relies on accommodation and judgment, not always-on surveillance. As it's been put elsewhere, if a police officer follows you for 500 miles, you're going to get a ticket. Red-light cameras are like that ultra-persistent cop: They don't blink. That's because red-light cameras aren't really about traffic safety: They're about revenue generation.

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This page contains a single entry by Brian Gongol published on July 24, 2009 1:18 AM.

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