Recently, our town has been inundated with these red light cameras. I find this offensive on a number of levels. On the one hand, sure, I’m sure there were studies done by the highway patrol and various other national agencies, research organizations, and legislators. I don’t doubt that somewhere there are stacks and stacks of impressive charts and graphs about decreases in fatal crashes and improvements in highway safety and blah, blah, blah. But at what cost? Do I want to be rear-ended myself? No. But I also don’t want my every movement monitored, recorded, and potentially brought back to haunt me. And I think, with the rapidly increasing number of these unmanned intersection cameras, we are, as George Orwell worse feared, heading quickly in that direction.
Some might ask: “what’s the big deal?” And on the face of it, these non-serial-traffic violators might be right. In theory, if you never run a red light, you never personally have anything to worry about, at least in terms of an out-of-pocket fine. But there is more to it than that. What if you aren’t running a red light, but the camera decides to take a picture of your license plate anyway (and, as anyone who has seen The Terminator or The Matrix knows, this is a distinct possibility; there is really no scenario where the machines don’t end up taking over eventually). You’re going to have to go to court and defend yourself against…what? A picture taken by a machine. And who can argue with a photograph, right there in black and white?
In my town, first it was just one intersection. And they did it sort of quietly. One morning it was just there. The increase in revenues was so rapid, however, that soon there were ten of these things, and I am sure there are only more to come. It’s genius, in its diabolical way. At the right intersection, the camera has probably paid for itself within a few hours. Then it is all just gravy smothering the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the moneyhungry, invasive-government greed machine.
You know that feeling when you see the red, white, and blue lights in your rear-view mirror? Sickening, isn’t it? I experience this once every couple of years or so, and I don’t care for it. But now, with the cameras everywhere, it’s like feeling a sliver of this pulled-over feeling several times as I go to work every day. It’s almost like having a police officer stationed at every major intersection along my commute, only the “policeman” requires no lunch break, benefits, or time off. Soon there will be a veritable army of these things.
From there, we are just a few short steps away from bar codes imprinted on our inner forearms, universal eye-scanners, and every second of our lives monitored and recorded in real time, and filed away for “safe-keeping.”
Like most of you, on any given day, I already go around harboring a healthy level of fear that I am being watched: by aliens, ex-girlfriends, disgruntled hobos, what have you. And I am comfortable with, or have at least grown accustomed to, this level of anxiety. But to add to this list the long arm of the law, without good reason, or probable cause, introduces a new level of stress, and an unwanted invasion of the little privacy I have left, that I am unwilling and unable to live with (or, at least, to accept quietly).
Fight the power!