By Jeff Girod
Run a red light; pay $500. Unless you live in Los Angeles, where apparently paying for red-light camera tickets has become “dealer’s choice.”
“If you paid the fine, you paid the fine. If you didn’t pay the fine, you were pretty much able to get away with it,” L.A. City Council member Paul Koretz told ABC News.
Gee, thanks, Paul. And all these years (silly me) I’ve been obeying the law when apparently anything goes in Los Angeles. From now on, I’ll just save time by driving on sidewalks.
What nobody told the good citizens of Los Angeles—and the not-so-good citizens—is that apparently nobody had any legal way of forcing motorists to pay the $500 fine for a red-light camera ticket. I’m sure that comes as a great comfort to the more than 180,000 L.A. drivers who were issued red-light camera tickets at 32 intersections since the red-light camera program began in 2004.
Oh, sure it looked official, with multiple black-and-white photos of you in the driver’s seat, time-stamped and freeze framed on the “f-word” as you breezed through an intersection. But the dirty little secret was that no judge was going to issue a warrant for your arrest. No collection agency was going to ding your credit.
Banishing the cameras will save Los Angeles about $1 million a year. Houston has gotten rid of them, and so far, nine other states have followed suit. But unfortunately, red-light camera tickets are not voluntary here in Riverside County, according to The Californian. Riverside residents can’t renew their driver’s license or vehicle registration until every fine is paid for a red-light camera ticket.
Is blowing through red lights wrong? Hell yes, it’s wrong. Because traffic lights save lives—mainly mine—when you’re barreling the other way through a blind alley. And I don’t know about you, but I enjoy solid foods, a fully functioning sphincter and not hurtling through my windshield.
But is breaking any traffic law morally wrong? For you: absolutely. For me: It depends on if there’s a cop around. You’re not a cop? Are you?
See, from my perspective, every time I get in a car, I assume I’m the smartest, most talented driver who has ever lived. I’m five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel of a fuel-injected, logo-covered racecar. And everyone else is Mr. Magoo in Coke glass bottles, tugging away on an emergency brake.
Do I think you should drive the speed limit? Of course you should drive the speed limit. It’s the law, Magoo. In fact, drive 5 miles slower than the speed limit. And do it in the slow lane so it makes it easier for me to zip around your pokey ass.
I wish I didn’t have to obey any traffic laws. I don’t need some dotted, painted line on the road to remind me to drive in a straight line. And I can figure out how fast to take a curve without some nattering, overly protective sign warning me, “Ooh danger ahead: You might hit a deer.”
If I could, I would drive 120 miles per hour strapped to a lawn chair naked on top of my car. (Though it would require a complicated system of pulleys to work the accelerator—not to mention the wind resistance on my naked skin at high speeds could result in unsightly chafing.)
Times are tough. You think you’re broke? Cities are even more cash strapped and that’s why they’re turning traffic lights into coin-operated slot machines. Run a red light: Pay a fine. Park next to the wrong colored curb: Pay a fine. Sneak into one neighbor’s house, try on her negligee and get caught “jazzercising:” Maintain a 1,000-foot radius and pay a fine.
Except now cops don’t even have to get out of their patrol cars to issue you a ticket. Hell, they don’t even have to be there. The whole process is completely automated. Maybe we should just start balling up $100s and tossing them out of our cars as we pass City Hall.
Then again, that’s probably another fine for littering. I wonder if they send you a picture of yourself in the mail.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.