Thursday, March 18, 2010

18 March 2010 Let’s make it OK for NASCAR wannabee’s to run red lights during race week

18 March 2010 Let’s make it OK for NASCAR wannabee’s to run red lights during race week

“Sullivan official wants Kingsport, Bluff City to shut cameras off for race week”

By J.H. Osborne and Matthew Lane

Published March 17th, 2010

“BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Commissioner Moe Brotherton wants the city of Kingsport to turn off red light cameras on Fort Henry Drive this week to prevent race fans from having a bad experience.

Brotherton, at the Sullivan County Commission’s meeting earlier this week, said he’d like for County Mayor Steve Godsey to ask the city to turn the cameras off for race week.

“I think we need to make every effort to offer the race fans a good time in this area,” Brotherton said. “I don’t think they need to be paying $70 or $100 (traffic) tickets on a four-lane road when it’s not necessary.”

Brotherton also requested Godsey approach Bluff City about “cutting off” the town’s speed cameras on Highway 11-E this week — and the city of Bristol, Tenn., about “fees for parking permits for campers and stuff.”

“I’m sure these places can do without that revenue for a week to get the race fans to have a good time,” Brotherton said.

The two major NASCAR race weeks for events at Bristol Motor Speedway each year generate over $1 billion in economic impact for the region, Brotherton said, and BMS is “trying every way in the world to sell out” this weekend’s events.”

This, in case you might happen to wonder, is race week in N.E. TN. The Bristol Motor Speedway will be packed with fans who think that sitting in open-air bleacher seating, drinking gallons of beer, while their ability to hear is compromised by the noise produced by cars being driven in an oval pattern, is the height of fun. Don’t think that beer will be the only beverage available on-site. There will be lots of sugar-laden liquid available for those who want it. And even more importantly, there will be an ocean of “sugar-free” liquid consumed by thousands of people who think that drinking those toxic blends will somehow offset the 5000 calorie snacks they will inhale between meals.

There exists a population of sorts that follows the NASCAR tour about like Dead Heads followed The Grateful Dead from venue to venue. Local news reports seem to indicate that fewer people are following their favorite driver around the country these days. But there are enough still touring to fill up local campgrounds, overload local roads, and help local lodging and dining concerns remain busy in a season normally not known for tourism.

Which brings us to the article above. Apparently the good commissioner is more concerned that nothing bothers the NASCAR tourists than he is that those who run red lights be caught on camera and fined. Left out of the equation is the safety of those who drive the local roads.

As red light cameras are put into service in local towns and cities, there is a loud and poorly informed group of people certain to claim their “constitutional rights” are being abridged or “stolen” from them in the interest of raising revenue for local municipalities. The conspiracy theorists are eager to claim that local leaders have sold out by allowing out of town companies to install and service the red light cameras for a portion of the fines collected.

I know of nothing in the U.S. Constitution which grants the right to drive a motor vehicle, to exceed posted speed limits in said vehicle, or to violate traffic laws and regulations by refusing to stop for red lights or other traffic control devices. I don’t work for any agency or corporation involved with such cameras and fines but I have no objection to an out of town corporation installing, servicing, and profiting from cameras.

The Constitution does contain the 5th Amendment, allowing us to refuse to incriminate ourselves in testimony. So while driving through a camera-monitored intersection might conceivably be regarded as self-incrimination; no one is required to violate traffic laws, no one is required to visit those intersections that are posted as camera-controlled, and no one is required to drive a motor vehicle. While a photo documenting illegal behavior can be considered incriminating, no one was forced to engage in self-incrimination. All self-incrimination was voluntary. I don’t see the courts supporting the claims that such cameras are self incriminating.

I don’t believe that municipalities shorten the yellow light period in order to create more violations by light runners. But the conspiracy theorists are all willing to swallow that rumor too. It wouldn’t matter if the yellow light period were lengthened, something the objectors often suggest. That wouldn’t deter those idiots who have no plan to stop anyway.

I don’t worry about the yellow light length. I watch the intersection and try to adjust my speed to the traffic flow while looking at the traffic building up on cross streets as I approach. If there’s someone tailgating me I make a point of slowing down. Of course, it annoys the tailgater but makes it less likely they’ll hit me from behind. These are all things that I’ve learned decades ago in driver’s Ed, or from road experience since then. No arcane or secret information involved.

Nor do I have any real worries about out-of-town companies profiting from fines levied against people violating traffic laws. I’ve spent long hours pouring scarce blood into innocent people injured by idiots who thought they had every right to run red lights and/or stop signs. I’ve watched people lose life and limb, seen families ripped apart, all because some idiot thought that traffic laws were for others but not him/her. A fine for being caught on camera running a light? Works for me.

In fact, most of the people objecting to having their transgressions captured by an out of town or out of state company might just as often turn up a political rallies demanding health insurance companies be allowed to sell policies across state lines. It seems they don’t care as much for “free enterprise” when the cross-border transactions are flowing into someone else’s pockets. Rather funny how that works out.

I normally trust governments very little, and corporations not at all, to look out for the good of the common citizen. But in this case, I’m quite willing to trust the combination of government and private industry to augment law enforcement. I’m not worried about being caught on camera. I’m not worried about government invading my private life via cameras in this instance. The people who would be most likely to use cameras to invade my personal life are the ones objecting most to the use of traffic cameras. I doubt they’ve learned anything from this but I hope they will.

I won’t be attending the races this weekend. I don’t care for crowds. I don’t care for crowds with beer. I want to save what hearing I have left for music, not for motor noises. I’ve seen cars driven in oval and circular patterns. Don’t need the t-shirt and there won’t be a book.

From the comments addressed to the paper (link above) most people who took the time to comment opted for public safety over removing the cameras lest race fans be upset by being fined. Even this close to the race track there is hope.

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