Red light cameras
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Eastbound traffic on Platte Avenue drives past the newly installed red-light camera at Platte Avenue and Chelton Road in April in east Colorado Springs.

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A warning for those safe drivers who double as cheerleaders for red-light cameras: Soon, many of you will receive envelopes in your mailbox.

You will open those envelopes and examine a piece of paper you might never before have seen. It’s called a ticket, and it won’t be cheap. It will arrive in your mailbox courtesy of those cameras you so adore.

For years, the red-light cheerleaders have campaigned for these cameras, and in many ways it’s a noble crusade.

Yes, drivers who recklessly careen through crimson lights are a menace to society. These drivers deserve punishment.

But drivers who unexpectedly slam on brakes at the sight of yellow are dangerous, too. And more unexpected slamming is in our future now that the cameras are operating.

Remember this, in general, cities who introduce red-light cameras are highly motivated. The cities are not primarily motivated by mercy. The cities are primarily motivated by cash.

You may believe your driving habits are above reproach. Trust me, the cameras will reveal driving habits that reveal ticketable behavior.

If, for instance, you don’t come to an utterly dead stop before taking a right turn on red, a ticket could soon arrive in your mailbox. Literalists are watching over our driving. A police officer knows she/he must talk to a distraught driver. It’s highly personal. Literalists examining video just put a ticket in the mail. It’s highly impersonal.

In the summer of 2016, I traveled to Brazil for the Olympics and ended the journey with a vacation in Brasilia, the nation’s capital. It’s a beautiful, bold city, filled with groovy architecture from the 1960s.

Not long after returning to the United States, the rental car company informed me of a list of speeding infractions captured by Brasilia’s cameras. None were egregious. Just a few miles over the speed limit.

I had not received a ticket from a police officer in 20 years. Cameras handed me three tickets for a week of driving. (I’m hoping my insurance agent misses that last sentence.)

Red-light cheerleaders are hungry for justice, and believe the cameras will lead us toward driving nirvana. The guilty will be swiftly punished. The innocent will drive more safely.

“The only people who should be concerned or upset about red-light cameras are those who run red lights. If you don’t run them, you’ll have no problems,” a supporter wrote to The Gazette this week.

Well, maybe.

According to the Colorado Springs Police Department, the cameras will not be used to expose minor violations. Laser technology, they say, offers improvement over the lights used in older cameras. The emphasis will be on major, genuinely dangerous violations.

In other words, safety, not money, is the sole motivation for the cameras. Let’s just say I’m skeptical.

Highly skeptical.

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To the cheerleaders, let me leave you with these warnings. As you approach Briargate Avenue and Lexington Drive or Platte Avenue and Chelton Road, take extra care if the light turns yellow. The driver in front of you might be slamming on the brakes to avoid punishment from technology.

And pay close attention to your mail, too.

A big surprise could soon be waiting, just for you.

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