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Red-light cameras

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Red-light cameras

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
April 28, 2009

Back on February 26 I wrote about the new Administrative Adjudication Court that Woodstock is creating, and I wondered whether red-light tickets would be handled there. (They will be.)Towns like to process those tickets in their own courts, because they can hang onto all the money. If the tickets go to McHenry County Traffic Court, the town's slice of the pie shrinks considerably.

This morning's Northwest Herald lets us know that Woodstock is, indeed, pondering the wisdom and the economics of red-light cameras.

Personally, I favor use of red-light cameras. It's almost impossible for a cop to nail a red-light violator, because the cop has to get through cross-traffic to pursue the violator.

But is Woodstock big enough to afford red-light cameras? If the City has to guarantee the camera equipment provider $8,-10,-12,000 each month, there will have to be a lot of violators. Frankly, I don't think it's that big of a problem here.

And pretty quickly the word gets around about the cameras. In fact, a driver who is half-awake ought to be able to see the huge warning signs which are required to be posted. Now, what would be the situation if the warning signs didn't have to be posted? Should they be there?

Just think about all the screaming and gnashing of teeth, if a driver ran a red light and then got a ticket in the mail, if there were no signs. The yellow light and the red light should be plenty of warning.

A long green gives the approaching driver some warning. After all, lights don't stay green forever. And the yellow? For many, it means "Step on the gas." However, in towns with red-light cameras, the yellow now means, "Make a good choice." If the driver has been watching the green and the traffic, he might slow just a little if he anticipated the light might change.

If the driver is paying attention, there won't be any panic stops. When approaching a "stale" green, you expect it to change to yellow, and so you prepare to stop. As you approach the intersection, you watch the light and the distance to the intersection, so that you know right where the "Go/No Go" point is. And, if you pass that point, then you know that you're going through, if the light changes.

Watch the idiot behind you who is tailgating you. You can avoid getting rear-ended, if you slow down, which forces him (her?) to slow down, as you approach an intersection on a long green. And, if you do have to go through just as the light turns red, in order to avoid getting rear-ended, get a good look at that driver (who will follow you through), get the license plate number, and stop and call the police. Complain about the tail-gater. Ask for a ticket to be issued to that driver, which will require you to go to court and testify.

It's going to cost you $100 and him a $100, and you might as well make sure it costs him another $100-150 (plus court costs) for a "following too closely" or "careless driving" ticket.

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