Tag Archive | "traffic cameras"

Big Brother Is Coming!

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Local media reports indicate that Morris Township is moving closer to becoming Morris County’s first municipality to install red light cameras.  These cameras, already in use by other municipalities in New Jersey and other states, enable ticketing of motorists who run these red lights.  Owners of vehicles captured by these cameras receive a summons by mail with a hefty fine attached.  It is unclear what defense might be advanced for such a violation.


In George Orwell’s classic novel, “1984,” Big Brother, an icon of the ruling totalitarian regime, “watches” a subjugated populace via its television screens.  Since motorists on public streets should have no expectation of privacy, red light cameras clearly do not intrude upon any motorists rights.  Likewise, were a police officer a witness to a moving violation at an intersection, he or she could certainly ticket the violator.  Nonetheless, the presence of technology that enables the government to identify and enforce every single motor vehicle intersection infraction seems a little too “Orwellian” to this writer.


If the use of technology to enforce laws against motorists running red lights does not trouble you, how does the use of technology to enforce speed laws?  Most of us have seen those displays on roadsides (both temporary and permanent) apprizing motorists of the speeds of their vehicles.  Why not enforce speed limits using the same technology used to enforce intersection violations?


Perhaps, technology could be improved to identify not merely the vehicle involved in the violation but also its operator.  Then, in addition to a hefty fine, the violating motorist could be faced with points on his/her license, loss of license, and/or surcharges on auto insurance premiums!  Does the prospect of this type of enforcement disturb anyone other than me?


There is something disconcerting about receiving notification after-the-fact that you, or more precisely, the vehicle you own has violated a motor vehicle law.  Now, I’m not endorsing lawlessness.  But, if the average motorist thinks about it and is honest with himself, he would likely admit to committing any number of motor vehicle violations each day, even if the violations were for driving 26 in a 25 mile-per-hour zone or slowly rolling through a stop sign at a desolate intersection.  Should we expand technology to discover and punish all of these infractions?


Liberty is won with great difficulty and lost with ease.  It is a slippery slope from permitting cameras at intersections to permitting government surveillance of all public venues and activities.  And, it is but a relatively small step from the bottom of that slippery slope to government surveillance of private venues:  the scenario depicted in “1984.”


Of course, there is always a valid reason for such monitoring.  In the case of red light cameras, the rationale is to reduce accidents and promote public safety.  Does generating revenue for the municipalities enter into this equation?  I think so, and the thought of our local governments squeezing every dollar out of an already financially-strapped populace actually makes me feel somewhat better about the proposition.  Better a local government whose purpose in spying on its citizens is greed, than one whose purpose is behavior and mind control.

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