Red Light Cameras Get Green Light

By: Lisa Ferrari Email
By: Lisa Ferrari Email

February 12, 2007

Red light cameras were given the green light from the General Assembly, but are these cameras likely to show up at an intersection near you?

Standing on the corner of Preston Avenue Monday afternoon, we video taped car after car turning on red and not stopping; a potentially hazardous situation police say red light cameras could put a stop too.

“I think it comes down to, is this a tool that can benefit law enforcement and at the same time ensure the safety of motorists? I think that it is and I think for that reason more than any other it is worth pursuing,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.

This is something the General Assembly has pursued in years past, but this year, it seems to stand a chance of passing. Already moving through the House and Senate, the bill would allow local governments the discretion to install cameras at red lights. The cameras would capture the license plates of drivers who ignore traffic signals.

Critics say it invades people's privacy.

“It does seem somewhat Orwellian and potentially intrusive,” said Robert O’Neil, the director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Speech.

Intrusive maybe, but according to Thomas Jefferson Center For Free Speech it’s not a violation of privacy rights.

“Who one is with, what one is wearing when outside home or office out there in the general public, that is fair game,” said O’Neil.

States that have overcome the tussle between public safety and personal liberties credit red light cameras with a decrease in intersection accidents, but they see an increase in cars being rear ended.

“When you weigh the benefits against the consequences and criticism, the benefits far outweigh both,” said Longo.

If the measure becomes law it would be up to local governments to pony up the money before cameras could be installed. That’s something local leaders said they would consider.

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