Out of habit, we generally ease off the throttle when we see a red light a block away. This infuriates drivers behind us who often pass, often recklessly, making obscene gestures, even though they see the same light ahead. We also usually stop at traffic lights a few feet before we have to, allowing enough room, given the time of day (and the time of this event was early morning, still more dark than light) to monitor the green light for traffic going the other way. When it turns yellow, we ease forward, knowing in a second or two our light will be green. Also, out of habit, and an instinct for survival, we glance to the left to make sure nobody is busting the light.
Thus, it came about last week that such habits may have been a life saver. Our light had just gone green, and as we began to hit the gas we saw a car coming like a bat out of hell. It went through the intersection accelerating, as light busters usually are, going at least 50 mph in a 30-mph zone. Had we been in the same kind of hurry as the light buster, bolting forward in anticipation of a green light when we saw the other guy’s yellow, we would have been hit on the driver’s side door by a speeding car. An acquaintance of ours, a highly respected citizen, was killed in exactly that fashion a few years ago.
One’s primitive instinct at such an intersection of modern madness is to chase down the car who could have killed you and shoot the driver before he (or she) kills somebody. Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, this should be acceptable. Why not shoot somebody who is trying to kill you? Fortunately, we do not have a gun. Instead, our thirst for revenge is what you are reading.
Let us join the chorus of those attacking those who would get rid of red light cameras. Especially the politicians, who look at studies that show a serious reduction in fatal, red light collisions but still insist the law does not work. They say it only increases rear-end collisions when cars stop suddenly. That just proves the value of the cameras. The cars behind the cars that stop were obviously planning not to stop. And they bitterly resent the driver ahead who impedes their mindless pursuit of whatever they were pursuing by as much as two minutes.
Those advocating repeal of the cameras seem to resent the fact that they generate money for communities. So what? If you can improve safety and generate revenue, so much the better. We think that rather than eliminate cameras, Florida should expand the concept by using similar technology to curtail speeding. Those signs that tell you your speed at special locations, such as entrances to airports, should also have a “gotcha” pop-up advising that a ticket has been earned. Repeat offenders should get increasingly higher fines. Chronic offenders, those who get 10 or more tickets a day (and some would), should suffer the fate of William Wallace in the film “Braveheart,” who, for the crime of wanting freedom for Scotland, was gruesomely executed by an English king. And he wasn’t even speeding.
Compounding the red light camera debate, some politicians have suggested raising the speed limit on interstates, which would only encourage those who routinely go 85 mph in 70 mph zones to speed up to 95, or even faster. We once asked a European woman who was a notoriously fast driver how fast she drove. “As vast as zee car vill go,” she said. We get the impression she is not alone. One enterprising reporter took the time to check the driving record of a legislator advocating higher speed limits, and found he had a record of speeding tickets.
One wonders if further enterprise would reveal conflicts (think campaign contributions) on the part of legislators who oppose red light cameras and push for higher speed limits on roads already dangerous because of wild drivers. But it is uncharitable to think they might be on the take. The charitable view is that they are just morons.