Red-light cameras, when misused by idiotic and irresponsible public officials, can be one of the great scourges of America.
That much is fact. Even when they are used with some semblance of jurisprudence, they might be flat-out illegal. We'll just have to see how the court challenges turn out.
But in the wrong hands, they can be downright evil. Check out this Miami Herald story on the poor people of Aventura -- and all others who drive in that city -- who are getting shaken down by their own government for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. Their "crime": Rolling a red light on a right turn. You do it all the time even if you don't know it. You come up on an intersection, see there's no cars coming, and never quite come to a complete stop.
In Aventura, this will get you a $125 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second, and a whopping $500 for each additional. It's obscene, and making it worse is that if one of the cameras got installed at a red light near you, you could rack up multiple fines before you get the notice in the mail telling you did anything wrong in the first place.
Responsible towns don't do this. Pembroke Pines, which was the first city in Broward to install the cameras (send your thanks to Angelo Castillo), doesn't do it. West Palm Beach did it for a while but then realized how grotesque it was. In May, WBP not only discontinued the practice but decided to refund all the money it generated from such fines back to the citizens who paid them. But some towns just don't
get it. Here's the top of the Herald story:
Jeff and Patricia Rudman have an unexpected $2,000 bill to pay.
The Sunny Isles Beach clothing salesman came home from work to find his pregnant wife sobbing, holding several tickets for failing to come to a complete stop at a camera-monitored red light in Aventura. After a $125 ticket in the mail the previous day, five more -- amounting to $1,875 more fines -- were dropped in the mailbox that afternoon.
All of them were for making only a rolling stop before a right turn at Aventura Boulevard and West Country Club Drive, nabbed by one of the red-light violation camera fast spreading throughout South Florida. And all were within a weeklong period.
``Two-thousand dollars to anybody right now is a hit, and to us, with a third kid coming, it's beyond. It's just way too much,'' Jeff Rudman said.
Rudman is among a contingent of South Floridians who've received multiple tickets for red-light violations before they even knew they were breaking the rules.
``We didn't have a chance to learn what we did wrong,'' he said. ``I don't think anybody in their right mind, knowing full well that the oven is hot, is going to put their hand in the oven. We didn't get the opportunity to get burned the first time.''
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... City officials argue the law against running red lights has been on the books for decades, and drivers who break the law shouldn't complain when they get caught.
``That requirement that you come to a complete stop before turning right on red, it's been a state law for many, many years,'' said Joanne Carr, Aventura's community development director.
First off, Joanne Carr should be fired. Period. She obviously has no understanding of basic concepts like justice and fairness. Next every elected official in the town should be run out on a rail.
Don't pay these fines. Go to court and fight them. Judges, do your duty and dismiss the cases one after another until the derelict cities follow in West Palm Beach's footsteps.