Yellow Lights TOO SHORT! WSJ

A Journal front-pager recently noted an Arizona man charged with attacking a freeway speed camera with a pick ax. Here’s the rest of the story: He was fined $3,500, not given a parade.

[Business World] Corbis

But don’t despair. We still live in a democracy. One Arizona sheriff recently proved you could get elected by opposing speed cameras. Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering bills to dismantle the system created by Gov. Janet Napolitano when she faced a gaping budget deficit, before she escaped to the Obama Department of Homeland Security. Petitioners in Arizona are also gathering signatures to put the question directly before voters — speed cameras have never won when submitted to voters.

Even the Scottsdale City Council recently voted not to oppose the anti-camera bills in the state legislature.

Why is this important? Because Arizona, specifically Scottsdale, is home to the two biggest companies, American Traffic Solutions and Redflex Traffic Systems, in the incestuous world of promoting and operating traffic cameras for revenue-hungry governments.

Laid to rest long ago should have been the pretense that the goal is “safety,” not chasing cash. New York State, sinking under budget shortfalls, last week authorized a batch of new red-light cameras around the state. A recent investigation by the Detroit News showed that even conventional ticket-writing is driven by revenue needs. Said one cop: “When you’re being told how many tickets you need to write, to me that’s a quota.”

Consider: Red-light running and speeding, the two main uses of traffic cameras, are implicated in fewer than 8% of accidents. A far more prevalent cause of nondrunken accidents is driver inattention — one study estimated, in a typical case the driver’s eyes are diverted from the road for a full three seconds or more, fidgeting with a cellphone, disciplining the kids in the back seat, snoozing, blotting up spilled coffee, etc.

What’s more, if not for the idiotic diversion of research dollars to fuel economy, the most highly touted auto-industry breakthroughs today would be exactly in this area. Available now or coming soon are devices that warn a driver when he’s wandering out of his lane or when another car is in his blind spot, even applying the brakes to prevent a collision.

Stop-light cameras are especially pernicious. Where red-light running is a problem, the solution is usually a longer yellow — at least three seconds is the recommended minimum for a 25-mph intersection. Drivers do not blast through red lights on purpose. Even the federal government encourages the use of engineering solutions before installing a red-light camera.

Yet as the late and lamented Rocky Mountain News found when Denver was sizing up intersections for cameras a year ago, many of those deemed accident-prone had yellows timed at the state minimum of three seconds or even less. Citizen groups around the country have more than once raised suspicions of authorities shortening yellows to ring up more tickets. Half a dozen Georgia towns just cancelled their camera contracts after a state law mandating the addition of an extra second to the yellow made them unprofitable.

Even defenders of photo enforcement acknowledge studies showing that red-light cameras (which are designed to be conspicuous to motorists) lead to an increase in rear-end collisions as drivers slam on the brakes. Defenders claim the trade-off is still a net gain because of reduced deadly T-bones in the middle of the intersection. But the real lesson may be that both types of accidents would be reduced by a longer yellow.

Britain has gone furthest in using cameras for comprehensive auto surveillance, and now says it’s capable of monitoring every car trip in the U.K. and keeping a record for five years. Most traffic cameras are “on” all the time, and capable of being networked with plate- and even face-recognition software. In Britain, the data yielded will be incorporated in a database of all kinds of personal information and camera observations to enable “data mining” to let the government know who’s doing what, when and where.

Never in America, you say? Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is moving ahead with a plan for mandatory GPS devices in cars that would be read at gas pumps and automatically charge drivers for miles driven.

Your car already contains electronics that could report on, say, the quality of your emissions. How long before government knows not just where you went, but how fast and how much CO2 you vented in the process, and thanks to your email and phone records, whether you were visiting somebody or doing something that might warrant a further look?

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Published in: on April 17, 2009 at 8:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Video – STL Police Assoc. 13-3 AGAINST Red Light Cameras

Cops Against Red Light Cameras?

A Surprising Group Comes Out Against Camera Enforcement

http://www.fox2now.com/ktvi-red-light-cameras-031109,0,3346729.story

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com) – There are new developments in the fight over red light cameras in Missouri. The St. Louis Police Officers Association has come out against the cameras! They are listing several reasons for opposing the cameras. Among them- the association’s president, Gary Wiegert, argues the cameras don’t increase safety but rather just act as a revenue source.

“We would like to see the red light cameras eliminated,” said Wiegert. Wiegert says one of the main reasons his association is against the cameras is because he believes they limit the role of officers in traffic stops.

“We want to be able to have policemen out there to pull over people for these violations. There’s more that goes into a ticket than just running a red light. It goes into your driver’s license, do you have a driver’s license, do you have insurance, do you have contraband in the car; there’s a whole bunch of things. We want that interaction from police with the public,” explained Wiegert

Jesse Irwin applauds the move. He helped form the group Missourians Against Red Light Cameras.

Irwin said, “We need real police officers. We don’t need a phony camera, we need a real cop at the intersection that can pull people over and that can check to make sure the car isn’t stolen, make sure those plates are theirs, and take people to jail and take them off the road for real.” But others aren’t so dead set against the cameras.

Some like Troy Springer from South City think they serve a purpose in keeping the streets safer.

“It makes you stop and think as a driver to be safe and to be cautious. I mean to sit there and have to, I’ve ran a red light a time or two but now that makes me stop and think,” said Springer.

Wiegert says he also has questions about where the money goes that is collected from the fines when drivers run red lights. And he also points to questions about city aldermen either not paying red light fines or having the tickets dismissed. The association’s executive board passed the policy position on Monday by a vote of 13 to 3 with one person abstaining. Two people were not at the meeting.

Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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STL Police Officers Votes Against Red Light Cameras

stlpoa.jpg

Board members with the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association approved a motion Monday night opposing the use of red-light cameras.

Association president Gary Wiegert tells RFT that the motion passed overwhelmingly with just a few of the board’s nineteen members voting against the measure. The motion states:

SLPOA is in opposition to the red light cameras because they limit interactions of police officers with the public. Additionally, revenue collected from this technology is not earmarked for law enforcement or any other public safety project.

Wiegert says that the police officers’ association issued the motion in support of attorney Chet Pleban — who last year filed suit against the City of Arnold over its use of red-light cameras — and state Sen. Jim Lembke, who proposed a bill earlier this year that would ban the cameras in Missouri.

“What really ticked off members of the board was the report that aldermen weren’t paying these citations and even going to the police department to have these tickets fixed,” says Wiegert, whose organization represents 1,100 of the police department’s 1,400 officers. “We hope that legislators or attorneys can use our motion to help make their case against these cameras.”

St. Louis began using the controversial cameras in 2007 following a year long delay prompted — in part — by an RFT investigation into how the city bid for the cameras. Wiegert says that the association currently has no plans to take its motion to the mayor’s office or to police chief Dan Isom.

He adds that the motion has nothing to do with job security. “Believe me, we have plenty other things we could be doing besides issuing traffic tickets,” says Wiegert. “But the important thing to understand is that there is a lot more to a traffic stop than just issuing a ticket — there’s also checking to make sure the driver has insurance and seeing if their license is up to date. The way it is now, someone could steal your car and run a red-light and you’d get the ticket. We believe that traffic tickets should be made against individuals, not their vehicles.”

And this from thenewspaper.com

Missouri Cops Oppose Red Light Cameras
Police in St. Louis, Missouri oppose red light camera program that legal advisors to camera firm operates illegally.

St Louis PoliceThe St. Louis, Missouri Police Officers’ Association on Monday spoke out against the use of red light cameras as a revenue raising tool. The police union adopted a resolution opposing automated ticketing as state lawmakers consider measures that would authorize use of the devices statewide. The group representing rank-and-file police officers stands in opposition to the high-ranking officials represented by the Missouri Police Chiefs’ Association.

“Police chiefs serve at the pleasure of the mayor — they’re political jobs,” said Jesse Irwin, co-founder of Missourians against Red Light Cameras. “I’m not surprised that the Missouri Police Chiefs’ organization would be for the cameras. I’m also not surprised that the men and women out on the street enforcing the law would be against them — they don’t work.”

Irwin’s organization claims to have 500 members willing to circulate a petition that will force a referendum on the red light camera issue in St. Louis. The group is joined by Don’t Tread on Me, another band of photo enforcement opponents in the city of Arnold who yesterday circulated documents showing that American Traffic Solutions (ATS) knew from the start that its ticketing program rested on a weak legal foundation. A May 2005 letter from ATS’ law firm, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, explained that Missouri law does not allow red light cameras to issue tickets that carry only a monetary penalty. Six months later, Arnold became the first city in the state issuing automated fines with ATS in charge of the program.

“We do not believe, however, that the municipalities possess the authority to adopt an ordinance that would permit the municipality to circumvent the Missouri Director of Revenue’s point system for the suspension and revocation motor vehicle licenses,” Stinson Morrison Hecker attorney Stephen P. Chinn wrote. “Under current Missouri law, every court with jurisdiction over any state laws or county or municipal ordinances regulating the operation of vehicles on highways must report, to the Missouri Highway Patrol, a record of any plea or finding of guilty of any person convicted of any moving violation under the state, county or municipal regulations within ten days after the record is made… The mandatory language used in the text of the statute supports a conclusion that an ordinance of this nature would conflict with state law.”

The legal opinion noted that a number of Jackson County judges also spoke out publicly against a 1992 photo radar proposal on the grounds that ignoring license points violated state law. Despite the clarity of the statutes involved, nearly two dozen Missouri cities have established automated ticketing programs that do not issue license points.

“It is appalling to think that the city council at that time had legal advice from ATS’ own legal counsel stating what they were intending to do was illegal, and yet they disregarded it at the thought of how much cash these cameras could bring in to city coffers,” Arnold City Councilman Matthew Hay said in a statement.

Although red light camera tickets in Missouri are vulnerable to court challenge, legislation including Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 241 would authorize their use.

An ATS spokesman said there was “nothing new” in the charges brought by the St. Louis and Arnold activists.

A copy of the legal opinion is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Municipal authority to adopt automated traffic enforcement measures in Missouri (Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, 3/11/2009)

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm  Comments (2)  

False “Profits” of Safety

3/1/09

During my recent testimony in Jefferson City, Missouri, I tried to draw attention to the many resources that proponents of red light cameras often cite. These organizations prefer to use names such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety along with their side kick, ” The Campaign to Stop Read Light Running.”

Take a peek at the so called members of The Insurance Institute. Go to the members link and you will see well over 80 different insurance companies that stand to and do benefit handsomely from red light cameras.

Click on over to the Sponsors page of the so called “stop red light running” website and check out who is behind this charade – no less than 5 red light camera firms: Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., GATSO USA, Inc., Lasercraft, Inc., CMA Consulting Services. Once again, all industry insiders that stand to profit from the added tax of red light camera tickets.

And while you are on this last site, take a look at who is the contact point for the “Red Light Running Campaign,” it is none other than Blakey & Agnew – a prestigious Washington, D.C. p.r. firm.

What really bakes my chicken is how they describe themselves as: “independent, nonprofit, scientific, nonpartisan coalition.” Of course they make no mention of how much money they stand to make from red light cameras. What they do do is continually overstate the value of red light cameras and understate the real value of intersection counter measures such as longer yellow lights and intersection markings. These things cost next to nothing. A why do they overlook the obvious? $$$$

(Click here for more data on sham red light camera organizations.)

And now, coming to an intersection near you, Missouri has jumped on the band wagon with our own messianic red light camera site: MOSAFERROADS.COM. And just for kicks, I sent the following emailing to mosaferroads.com and just asked them if any of the red light camera organizations were behind this new website. I am sure the reader will find this shocking, but I have yet to get a response.

Feb 26 (4 days ago)

Reply

Hi,

I am interested in your organization, but when I did a “who is” search, there was no contact data for the site owner.

Can you please let me know if any red light camera company – such as ATS, has had any input or made any contributions to MOSAFERROADS.COM?

Sincerely yours,
Guy Midkiff

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Red Light Cameras & Yellow Light Lengths

2/26/09

Recently I was invited to testify at a red light camera hearing, by State Senator Jim Lembke (R) of St. Louis, sponsor of Senate Bill 211,  which would ban the use of Red Light Camera’s in Missouri.

Link to SB 211:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/09info/bts_web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=588955

Unfortunately the bill died in committee, receiving only two votes. To describe my experience testifying as frustrating, is an understatement. I was given 2 minutes to lay out a case against red light cameras – which is impossible considering the complexities of the issue.

I simply asked the committee how Red Light Cameras prevent accidents at intersections? To know this answer, one most know why drivers plow through intersections and how sensitive this behavior is to external stimulus such as the threat of a red light camera ticket.

What “independent” research shows time and time again is that the vast majority of drivers that run red lights are distracted, for a myriad of reasons, and show no sensitivity to a camera. For the very small minority that intentionally run red lights, very few result in accidents because of “all way” red light sequencing. This gives opposing drivers an added degree of safety in the event a red light is ran.

To the credit of red light camera operators, this small subset of offenders, is sensitive to red light cameras. But again, these drivers, by and large, are not causing the horrific T-bone type accidents.

This brings me back to the conversation of yellow light sequence timing. All of our HW 100 intersections have yellow light sequence lengths of exactly 4.01 seconds – regardless of the approach speeds. And on HW 100 we have 45 mph and 55 mph opposing intersections.

This is problematic. Simply put, a car traveling 45 mph is traveling at 66 feet per second. Applying a standard co-efficient of friction (.7), a constant deceleration rate of 15 feet per second can be derived. What that means is that your average 4,000 pound car will take about 4.1 seconds  to decelerate to a complete stop.

But the problem, which is already obvious, gets worse. It takes the brain of an average person about 1 second to recognize the change from green to yellow and about another second for the brain to send a signal to the foot to begin braking.

In the best of situations, our yellow light should be set at 6.1 seconds for the 45 mph approach, certainly not the current 4.01 seconds.

The situation is even worse for the approach to Jefferson, on HW 100, from the west. This speed is 55 mph and is poorly marked, with no speed signs all the way back to the Washington West Elementary School intersection.

This fact alone, already causes apprehension and indecision on the part of the driver. The deceleration rate for 55 mph, is about 5.5 seconds, with an additional 2 seconds for recognition and response. This suggests a 7.5 second yellow light as opposed to the current 4.01. second yellow light.

Part of the problem is a complete lack of light length standards on the part of MoDot. I have brought this point up with MoDot management, in the past, and nothing has been done about it. MoDot determines light sequence lengths – not the City of Washington. I believe this to be an unsafe situation for roads and should be addressed immediately before someone is seriously injured.

And btw, these numbers can change by as much as 40% for an 80,000 pound tractor trailer, an elderly driver, or adverse driving conditions.

Now, try explaining this to a transportation committee in 2 minutes or less. And most regrettably, I didn’t have a chance to give the proper recognition to the gentlemen in the $4000 Armani Suits, seated behind me, from the red light camera companies.

Source Documents:
Vehicle Stopping Distance And Time
Longer Yellow Lights reduce accidents

Guy W. Midkiff
Ward III, Councilman
Washington, Mo.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

St Louis Councilmen Dodging Red Light Camera Tickets?

ST. LOUIS — When the push to install red-light cameras came to City Hall in 2005, the Board of Aldermen enthusiastically backed the plan as a boon to public safety.

But now, three years later, aldermen have themselves been caught on tape — and some have avoided the $100 fine.

In total, at least eight St. Louis aldermen have been sent camera citations, about a quarter of the board. The lead sponsor of the camera legislation went months without paying $500 in fines until questioned about it recently. Two other aldermen got their citations dismissed under ambiguous circumstances.

FULL STORY

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Red Light Camera missing link found?

Guy Midkiff

12/07/08

My Alma mater, Texas A&M University, recently issued the following report on red light camera efficacy:

ANALYSIS ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PHOTOGRAPHIC
TRAFFIC SIGNAL ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS IN TEXAS

by Troy D. Walden, Ph.D.

These “scientific findings” presented by Dr. Walden have become the missing link, the piece de resistance, the eureka piece for local and state municipalities looking to desperately justify the relentless on slot of red light cameras.

“Because any study where a single team plans the research, carries it out, supervises the analysis, and writes their own final report, carries a very high risk of undetected bias. That risk, for example, would automatically preclude the validity of the results of a similarly structured study that tested the efficacy of a drug.” Michael Crichton

The 80th Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 1052 and Senate Bill 1119 giving local communities the authority to install red light camera enforcement systems. The Texas Transportation Code requires the Texas Department of Transportation to annually publish the reported collisions that occur at local community intersections that are monitored by red light camera enforcement systems.

Executive Summary:

This Based on the pre and post-installation crash data, there were 586 annualized collisions across all intersections. In contrast, 413 annualized crashes were reported during the same time period following installation which evaluation considered 56 separate intersections in the data set. Each community reported pre and post-installation crash data that was annualized for a 12 month period of time resulted in an average decrease of 30%.

Let me make it clear, I am not a scientist. My formal education was in economics with the requisite courses in quantitative analysis and statistical methodology.

Even as a layman, I have substantial problems with this scientific study. I would like to begin by applying the Crichton logic to Dr. Walden’s findings. Michael said this about scientific methodology, as he was giving scientific testimony, regarding global warming:

“Science is nothing more than a method of inquiry. The method says an assertion is valid—and merits universal acceptance—only if it can be independently verified. The impersonal rigor of the method means it is utterly apolitical. A truth in science is verifiable whether you are black or white, male or female, old or young. It’s verifiable whether you like the results of a study, or you don’t.”

Clearly, this study was motivated by political forces hell-bent on validating red light cameras. Politicians are under enormous pressure to prove the virtue of the cameras. They have relied repeatedly on studies that were contaminated by corporate influences such as: Red Light Camera Companies drive to turn a profit, same for Insurance Companies and same for municipalities looking to add revenue to their general funds.

Sadly, this study shows many of the characteristics that render the results useless. The first hint can be found from the study generator, the Texas Legislator. The legislator has made their bias clear on the matter and can explain the motivation to short-change many of the methods used in statistical determination. Also, please pay particular attention to the sampling data. Sample sets consisted of 12 month annualized reports generated from 56 sites. Small sample sets are notorious for their “noisy” determinations.

By way of comparison, researchers at the North Carolina Urban Transit Institute were unsatisfied with the overly simplistic methods used in prior insurance industry funded studies of the effects of red light cameras on accidents. So they conducted a U.S. Dept. of Transportation funded study that looked at a 57-month period and accounted for dozens of variables such as weather and traffic ignored in previous studies. All told, 17,271 observations went into their conclusions.

Mark L. Burkey, Ph.D. and Kofi Obeng, Ph.D., concluded: “The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.

The graph, found on page 2 of the Burkey-Obeng study shows a clear positive trend in the decrease in injuries caused by red light running in Florida. That data points start at about 50 per 100,000 in 1995, reducing to about 34 by 2006. To lay claim to the last 12 months of this graph and conclude red light cameras were the miracle cure is beyond ridiculous

[CORRECTION 1/4/09: “You suggest that we discussed data in Florida in the mid-1990’s.  Our data was in NC in the 2000’s.” Dr. Mark L. Burkey]

Why is there such a seismic difference between Burkey-Obeng and Walden? One can only guess. To be sure, though, the sample sizes used by Burkey & Obeng dwarfed the A&M study.

[And now a moment of silence: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley]

If you want refined and accurate statistical results, it has long been understood by scientist that robust sample sizes combined with numerous confounding variables, will paint a true picture.

Finally, accidents at intersections can be broken down into those that are and are not sensitive to Red Light Cameras. Those that are in a rush and try to beat the red are sensitive to RLC’s and for those very few, RLC’s will no doubt have a deterrent affect. Drivers that cause the vast majority of intersection incursions, though, are not sensitive to RLC’s. They include: Those that misjudge time versus distance, drivers that don’t see the signal, and those that are impaired.

But the best and most persuasive argument against Red Light Cameras is what is known as countermeasures.

Such measures should include:

* The adoption of a national standard and uniform code for determining yellow length intervals. (In my city, the approach speed is 45 mph and the yellow light interval is 3.0 seconds. the 2003 TN Traffic Design Manual recommends 4.5 seconds.)
* Similar standards for all red intervals.
* Reducing approach speeds.
* Intersection re-engineering such as coordinated signals and improved marking such as decision point markings.

If your community jumps to Red Light Cameras before they even consider counter measures, don’t be fooled into thinking it is for safety.

Guy Midkiff

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm  Comments (3)  
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Insurance Industry Behind Push for Florida Red Light Cameras

Article from: http://www.thenewspaper.com                                          11/10/2008

Insurance Industry Behind Push for Florida Red Light Cameras
Potential for millions in profit drives insurance to bankroll Florida legislation to authorize red light cameras.

Rep Ron ReaganThe graduate of an insurance industry “boot camp” is behind efforts to legalize the use of red light cameras in Florida. State Representative Ron Reagan (R-Bradenton) twice attended the Insurance Campaign Institute, a special program designed to place insurance agents in positions of political power that is bankrolled by twenty insurance companies.

“Essentially a political boot camp, the comprehensive political training program covers all facets of the campaign trail, from organization to grassroots strategies, fundraising, direct mail, advertising, media relations, public speaking, debate preparation, campaign research, and use of insurance community strength,” the Independent Insurance Agents of America explained in a 2001 press release.

Reagan credits his 2002 Florida House victory to the Insurance Campaign Institute. To repay his industry backers, Reagan introduced the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, a measure giving cities the green light to install red light cameras. Although the bill is portrayed as a response to the tragic death of a constituent in 2003, Reagan’s legislation is designed to create millions in new revenue for the insurance industry.

In Arizona, California, Colorado and Illinois certain types of photo tickets carry license points. Insurance companies in turn raise the annual rates of drivers who have these points on their license. In effect, the photo tickets generate free money because the extra premium is charged without the insurance company providing any additional services in return. Nothing in Florida law prevents insurance companies from raising the rates on the recipients of photo tickets in the dozens of unauthorized red light camera programs that have recently popped up around the state.

Reagan, 54, must give up his state House seat at the end of the next session due to term limits. Reagan has made passage of the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act a top priority for his last term in office.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

$10,000 Ticket Camera Challenge

$10,000 Ticket Camera Challenge

The National Motorists Association knows that engineering solutions are the real way to prevent red-light violations and accidents at problematic intersections.

In fact, we are willing to wager $10,000 to prove that engineering will work better than ticket cameras.

The revenue from ticket cameras serves as a reward to cities that fail to make motorists safer through proper signal timing, better signal design, and improved intersections.

The apparent increase in red-light violations is largely the result of a 20-year pattern of deliberately changing the standards for the timing of yellow lights. This is an engineering problem, not an enforcement issue. Today we say to the communities that employ ticket cameras, “Let’s put traffic engineering solutions to the test.”

Here’s our challenge:

Show us any camera-equipped intersection that still has high numbers of red-light violations and we will guarantee a minimum 50-percent reduction in red-light violations through the application of engineering solutions.

If our recommendations fail to meet our minimum goal, we will pay the community $10,000 to be used on any traffic safety program or project it chooses.

However, if we succeed, the community must employ our engineering-based recommendations at other troublesome intersections and scrap its ticket-camera program.

What do cities have to lose, other than their ticket-camera revenue?

If you have any questions about this challenge or you believe your community would be interested in participating, please contact the National Motorists Association at (608) 849-6000 or via email at nma@motorists.org.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Improved “Yield” on HW 100

6/20/08


The above picture shows the intersection of 100 and Jefferson/A, looking due north. The scalloped lines at the top right of the frame, show the new “Yield” re-engineering that will give the driver much better options.

If you drive Highway 100 and A, get ready for some relief on what to do with the “right-on-red” dilemma. Since the Red Light Revenue Cameras went up (at $97 a pop), many law-abiding citizens have found themselves confused as to what actually constituted a “yield” by the driver. This confusion has resulted in considerable traffic congestion during peak flows and was, frankly, unsafe.

Our City Engineers, along with MoDot engineers, have redesigned the right turn dilemmas with rational lane markings that will allow the driver to exercise their good sense and progress right-on-red with an increase in safety margin. (Hats off to MoDot and our City Engineers for responding to and correcting this problem.)

“They” have even deactivated the portion of the Red Light Revenue Camera that photographs right-on-reds. Beware, the remainder of the Cameras are fully functional and will fine you for exceeding any of the pre-programed parameters for intersection infractions.

I have also asked that MoDot increase the yellow light sequence to 5.2 seconds, from the current 3.9 seconds (point of contention: MoDot claims the timing is 4.0 seconds). It has been proven through numerous, unbiased studies, that 5.2 seconds at a 45 MPH intersection saves lives and property. (Please search this blog for related stories.)

All in all, we are finally moving in the right direction, regarding Red Light Revenue Cameras. I personally would like to see them put where their flash would never shine again. I will, however, accept the cameras with 5.2 seconds on yellow and revenues directed to safety related projects.

Guy Midkiff

Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 2:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Don’t give up freedom to catch red-light runners

By RICHARD B. HETNARSKI, Naples
6:12 p.m., Saturday, June 14, 2008

I have read with great concern the June 6 column by Daily News editorial board member Kim Pokarney, “What’s wrong with using cameras to catch red-light runners?”

Well, Pokarney thinks that there is nothing wrong with this plan. But she is very wrong. We need to guard our freedoms when we still can do it.

After cameras to catch red-light runners are installed, the next step will be mounting cameras on every pole, and at all street corners, and connecting them to the software that recognizes people’s faces.

So, Big Brother will know when Kim Pokarney leaves her house, where she goes, with whom she meets and, by connecting the system to the cellular-phone net, they will know what she talks about, and with whom.

Maybe even then Kim will think that there is nothing wrong with this, because she has nothing to hide.

Then there will be the next step; Big Brother will install cameras in Kim’s house “for her safety” and she will start to protest. But at that stage, her protests will be ignored or, better, she will be punished for protesting.

That is how a democracy is lost to an autocracy.

Kim Pokarney looks young by her photo, so she does not know what I know. Let me give an example.

I lived through World War II in Poland. After Germans attacked and occupied Poland in 1939, they forced Jews to carry arm bands with the Star of David. Many thought that this was an innocent order. But then came more restrictions and acts of persecution, and 21⁄2 years later 3 million Polish Jews were murdered in death camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor and many other places, as well as in the streets of Warsaw, Krakow and other cities, including a small, ancient city of Stopnica, where I was born and lived.

And let us recall that before Adolf Hitler became a dictator, Germany enjoyed a democratic form of government.

History should be our guide to the future.

After the war, I lived for 25 years under the communist government in Poland. It would take a very long article to describe the line of depravations by the government and constantly stricter restrictions imposed on the citizens, and continuous limitation of the citizens’ rights. So, in 1969, when the first opportunity occurred that I could leave communist Poland, I emigrated to the United States.

There is democracy in Poland now, and I have not heard that they are planning to install cameras to catch red-light runners.

I advise Kim Pokarney to read George Orwell’s book, “1984.”

The idea of installing cameras to catch red-light runners is abhorrent. I ask all Naples residents to protest vehemently against this horrible project.

Hetnarski is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. He worked at NASA and was a consultant to the U.S. Air Force and industry. He has authored three books and published more than 50 scientific papers. He is listed in “American Men and Women of Science,” “Who’s Who in America,” “Who’s Who in the World” and many other publications. Since 2000, he has resided in Naples.

Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

New Red Light Camera Legislation, Ohio

6/14/08

In a step in the right direction, Ohio just passed legislation that will add some much needed sanity in the Red Light Camera farce. The state now will require municipalities to post clearly marked signs within 300 ft of the city boundary, warning of bounty hunter, red light ticket cameras.

And anyone that has read one post of my blog knows, it is an abomination that we don’t add at least 1 second to the yellow on each of our Red Light Ticket Cameras. Apparently Ohio is listening. Part of their new law requires…youv’e got it, 1 second to be added to each of their intersections.

Fact: Short yellow lights hurt and even kill our citizens.

Click here to read full story.

And in the category of putting your money where your mouth is, I wished the legislators would have gone another step – sending this ill gotten booty to safety related state and local programs. Those of us, wise to the RLTC scheme knows these cameras are meant for one thing and one thing only – general fund revenue.

Guy Midkiff

Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 8:18 pm  Comments (2)  

“He’s A New Yorker!”

6/8/08

(2/27/2009 This post has been updated. Please read the last two paragraphs.)

Usually I don’t like to respond to gossip and innuendo. I was raised to believe that such talk was the work of idle hands and the devil.

Let me back up for a moment. One of the things I learned during my campaign was that many of our senior citizens get up quite early and have breakfast at at least a half dozen restaurants across our fine city. It struck me as no better place to get a feel for the concerns, likes and dislikes, many in Washington have for community. I see them as a canary-in-the-coal-mine, a barometer for me to gauge public sentiment, things that work and things that are concerns – like taxes, quality of life, and cost of living issues.

These folks continue to be my go to people, people I rely on to make good, sound decisions.

Unfortunately, there is a small, vocal and powerful group (emphasis added on last two adjectives) that appears threatened by the emergence of new blood in the city council. I have proven to be something of an enigma to them and they have resorted to actually trying to paint me as a “New Yorker,” “A big city boy, with big city ways.”

Hmmm. I have been called a bunch of things in my life, but a “New Yorker?” Granted, I did live in New York for about 10 years, so if some are comforted believing proximity makes me a “New Yorker,” knock yourselves out.

Again, allow me to back up. I ran my campaign under the Reaganesque principals of: less government, less taxes, less regulation. The city of New York could not have enough regulations, taxes, and government. From occupancy inspections, to buying your personal data from utility companies, to increasing taxes, to red light cameras, or even charter government – these are all big city ways, New York ways and now, Washington ways. Who is the “New Yorker,” here?

I am an unabashed conservative. Conservatism is my compass, my rudder. I grew up in a town in Texas that had a population of about 100. It was a farming and oil community. We were all very blue collar and fiercely independent. We believed in hard work, and the American way. I went on to one of the most conservative schools in America, Texas A&M (where I graduated with a degree in agriculture economics.) Had I not gone into the Marine Corps and became a pilot, I would no doubt be working, today, in either agriculture or the oil business. I am a card-carrying member of the NRA and believe the second amendment is just as important as the first (Mr. Miller).

I believe in tradition, controlled growth, and citizens having a person that will speak for them at the government level. I also know that wealthy people create jobs and give back huge sums to the community. I do not believe in class warfare and singling them out for onerous tax treatment. Conversely, we (tax payers) should not be in the business of subsidizing buildings, developments and airports for our wealthy, because of their power and influence. The path to power should not bi-pass the path of principals.

Update 2/27/2009 When I wrote the above, my information was based on observations that the average citizen would conclude. After having the privilege to work with some of the sharpest and most talented members of the community that sit on the 353 Redevelopment Committee, along with economic development department, my opinion has matured. Cities compete vigorously for businesses to locate in their communities. Washington is a shining example of what happens when a city focuses limited resources in smart and meaningful ways.

Yes, I wish we didn’t have to spend substantial tax dollars on blue chip airports and shovel ready spaces at out industrial park. But those are the rules of the game. We can either adopt to these harsh realities or join the dust bin of other failed communities. We have also spread our bets in a way that makes it impossible for the failure of any one business to have a major impact on our tax base or community. As I write this, many communities are being buffeted by a lack of spending restraint. And while we are feeling financial stress from reduced tax income, we are still light years ahead of most other communities.

Guy W. Midkiff

Red Light Camera Stats can and do get fudged.

Friday, June 06, 2008
Arizona: Sheriff Caught Fudging Photo Radar Stats
Pinal County photo radar vanA pair of photo radar vans have been mailing automated citations to vehicle owners in Pinal County, Arizona since August 8, 2007. In just four months, 4500 citations were issued generating significant revenue, especially on the Hunt Highway. In December, a Sheriff’s office press release made the astonishing claim that accidents had fallen on this heavily traveled two-lane route by 53 percent (Does this all sound too familiar? GWM) as a result of the enforcement effort. “It’s very effective,” Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Paul Compton said at the time. “It’s slowing people down and ultimately saving lives.” The East Valley Tribune newspaper reported that this claim turned out to be false. Instead of being down 53 percent, accidents increased 16 percent during the period speed cameras were used, as compared to the same period in 2006 without cameras. The Sheriff’s office had issued its statement based on preliminary data that failed to account for 55 crashes that were not immediately entered into the accident database. So far in 2008, accidents are slightly down from 2007, but the number of injury crashes has not changed.
Source: Hunt Highway crash figures double those reported (East Valley Tribune (AZ), 6/2/2008)Can

Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 12:08 am  Comments (1)  

“I am safer with red light cameras”

by Guy W. Midkiff
6/3/08

Last night at city council, one resident of the city got up and spoke of being for red light cameras and how much safer intersections have become and how he is now more cautious at intersections with red light cameras.

To begin, I find the entire public debate on red light cameras, complex and…..fraught with vastly more emotion than fact.

While the eloquent gentleman gave convincing arguments on the virtues on red light cameras and driving patterns, his “feelings” of their value do not jive with reality.

All too many of our citizens have taken for gospel, the highly questionable “facts” that are carelessly tossed about in our local newspaper. For example, two recent articles, in this paper, stated the positive trend that was gleaned from a mere 2 months of statistics at the two intersections in question.

Regrettably, some in our community trust before verifying. Had the newspaper actually done their jobs and reported, not on 2007 and 2008 statistics, but the additional comparison of 2006 accidents statistics, they would have discovered what I had found – an increase in accidents, from 2006 to 2008 – nothing approaching the overstated decrease published in the paper.

Had the paper asked for the information, they could have discovered the same thing I did. If they were aware of the 2006 statistics, and did not report them, they are part and parcel to a general misleading of unwitting citizens around this country.

So, where are we? We have intelligent citizens, such as the gentleman that I refer, that incorrectly believe they are now safer because of red light cameras. They are not, and there are literally new studies coming out monthly, that refute the magical claims of dramatic increase in safety, at red light camera intersections.

Look no further than our own statistics of the 3-year period. There was not one single accident caused by the classic 90 degree T-bone accident, in my data information, I received from the city – not one. 90 % of all the accidents in my data package were rear end accidents and red light cameras not only do nothing to prevent them, but increase rear end accident rates significantly.

I will continue to try and balance this story with truth and logic. Granted, it is an uphill battle. I have next to no voice in the local media. The red light ticket camera apparatus is enormous. The industry is owned by multi-billion dollar insurance companies, a well-oiled political lobbying complex, and cities adding huge fortunes to their general funds – with rarely a dime of their ill gotten booty going to anything approaching safety related programs.

Yes, no doubt the gentleman I refer to, has changed his driving habits, but I seriously doubt he ever blatantly ran red lights because there was no red light ticket camera in place. He certainly may feel the yellow intimidation factor, forcing him into making an abrupt stop, though (as has happened to me.) I can only pray there is not a 45,000 pound truck behind him, when he is forced to make this decision.

You are not safer. National statistics do not support your feeling of safety. Our local statistics don’t support your feeling of safety. You have been, unfortunately, made victim to reality and truth as had millions of other well-meaning Americans.

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) QUOTATION: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment