State Senator Jim Lembke (R-Dist 1) never ceases to amaze me. Now he is proclaiming that one of his biggest, bestest priorities is SB211, a bill that would prohibit red-light cameras at intersections. Lembke worries that the cameras are unconstitutional:
“These ‘red light’ cameras are being used as revenue enhancers within municipalities and profit out-of-state companies,” Sen. Lembke said. “The cameras can’t prove who’s driving the vehicle, and many people argue this method of traffic enforcement disregards a person’s Fifth Amendment rights and forces self-incrimination. This is an example of big government and ‘Big Brother’ at its worst”
Let me get this straight. Would Lembke argue that if a thief robs a convenience store and is photographed during the robbery, the thief’s Fifth Amendment rights would be violated? Just how is a camera that photographs a car that is breaking the law in public — at a public intersection no less — and putting all and sundry at risk, forcing the perpetrator to incriminate himself?
You may have noticed that Lembke also trots out the pathetic red herring that the owner of the car may not be the driver. So what? Doesn’t he think that these things can be sorted out? He also claims that:
While the starting salary for a commissioned St. Louis police officer is $37,514 a year, one red light camera costs around $56,000 a year to operate.
Doesn’t it occur to this thrifty soul that relative costs have to be considered in the light of just how effective police officers, who are not omnipresent, are at stopping red light violations?
Mr. Lembke also states that red light cameras actually cause accidents since people who suddenly slam on their brakes to stop at a light might be rear-ended (never mind that they may be hit broadside if don’t). However, if one wishes to be scientific about it, this oft-cited concern seems not to hold water according to a recent study which found a decrease in costs attributed to collisions after installation of red light cameras.
But don’t worry–a group called Missouri Families for Safer Roads was launched yesterday in Hazelwood, which has had the cameras for two years and seems to like them lots. The goal of the group is to lobby for red light cameras. Hazelwood officials claim that the cameras have reduced citations for running red lights by 53% and fatalities due to red light infractions to 0.