Red-Light Cameras: For Your Safety … Yeah Right

Emergency Room Camera Brings Local-Government Extortion to New Low

Years ago, in one of my first columns with the Future of Freedom Foundation, I made the case that red-light cameras merely offer revenue for government officials. Despite repeated assertions that safety is the motive, evidence suggests they actually make intersections less safe.

At that time, I highlighted actions that made the motives clear: shortening of the amber light, for example, to catch more motorists and hefty fines for safe actions such as rolling right-hand turns.

However, a late-2013 incident in Tamarac, Florida, takes the cake in this regard. In an act of genius, local authorities installed a red-light camera right by the entrance to the University Hospital emergency room.

You can imagine the consequences.

As reported this week by Marianela Toledo of Florida Watchdog, one man was rushing to the hospital, suffering symptoms of a heart attack, when he found himself stuck and waiting at the light, agonizing in pain. Naturally, he lost patience and proceeded to seek attention as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, the episode was not fatal for Jacob Alcahe, and he was able to receive treatment and return home. That didn’t stop him getting a ticket, though, as one for US$158 arrived in his mail.

Armed with his medical records, he went to make his case to the judge that it was an emergency that warranted his action. Not only did the judge reject his argument, he added on $125 to compensate for his time.

Yes, the stated goal was “to achieve a higher level of public safety, through the use of the remote red light camera systems” — and you will wait at that light whether you may be having a heart attack or not!

Keep in mind that the state legislature, when they approved these cameras in 2009, projected $100 million in annual revenues for fiscal year 2012-2013, not including the local authority share.

“It’s a scam to get the city more money,” says Alcahe. “It’s unfortunate because local authorities should be for us and seem to be against us. I don’t understand and don’t think it’s fair.” Right you are.

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