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Say 'cheese' when you run a red light

Robert Houk • Updated Jul 3, 2016 at 1:55 AM

A few weeks ago, the Knoxville News Sentinel published an editorial (which was later reprinted in the Press) in which the paper took a state legislator to task for setting fire to a citation he had been issued for running a red light and posting the display on social media. The News Sentinel correctly called state Rep. Andy Holt “irresponsible” for calling on others to do the same.

The Dresden Republican responded to the Knoxville newspaper’s criticism with an eloquent “No, you are!” email statement. He also accused red-light camera supporters of being part of a massive conspiracy and coverup involving operators of the cameras, police chiefs and government leaders.

Holt, who has been a long-time critic of speed and red-light cameras, has attempted many times to outlaw them in this state. Given his Facebook post, where he boasts of burning citations, Holt must run a lot of red lights. If so, that makes him both dangerous and irresponsible — not the qualities most Tennesseans are seeking in a public official.

Holt is correct in telling folks they can ignore their red-light citations because the infraction doesn’t go on their driving records and isn’t reported to their insurance companies. And governments are pretty much powerless when it comes to collecting the fines.

Holt and other critics of red-light cameras say the devices are unconstitutional (something the courts have ruled otherwise), ineffective (which is flatly untrue since studies show that nationally, traffic cameras have reduced the fatal red-light running crash rate by 24 percent and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 17 percent) and are nothing but part of a revenue grabbing scheme (which could be true in some communities, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are effective).

As for the later criticism, I suggest the best way to drain the city of those revenues would be to stop running red lights. The cameras would be unplugged immediately.

No law breaking, no fee grabbing. It’s as simple as that.

It troubles me to hear of drivers who have been cited multiple times for running a red light at the same intersection. Do they suffer from amnesia? Can they not read the signs that warn the intersection is equipped with a traffic camera?

I would feel a whole lot safer if these folks gave up driving and took the bus.

These are the drivers who truly think the rules of the road do not apply to them. Sadly, Holt and a number of his colleagues in Nashville fall into this category. They believe there are special caveats just for them.

That’s why they don’t hesitate in stretching the rules or outright breaking them if they think they can do so without getting caught. And that’s why the narcissists are so annoyed by the red-light cameras. They can catch them in the act.

Instead of celebrating lawbreaking, perhaps Holt and his colleagues could better fulfill the oath of their offices by passing a law to actually punish drivers who are routinely captured on a traffic camera running a red light or speeding. Make the violation a misdemeanor and place points on their driving records. Then violators can explain to their car insurance companies why red-light cameras are unconstitutional.

I’m sure they will listen.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com

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