I'm a fan of red-light cameras, despite cursing them for the $600 they cost me for a San Diego intersection photo op and online traffic school instruction.

My wife and I were on our way back from the airport when I came upon the turn off North Harbor Drive onto West Laurel Street. I call it the Intersection From Hell, where two streams of oncoming traffic, controlled by two stop lights, divide. Traffic was light that day, and we were engaged in a spirited conversation. While crossing through the IFH I asked my wife, "Did I just run a red light?" She said, "I think so."

I was certain she was wrong after several weeks of opening the mail with baited breath. Two months had passed before I received the photos of me at the wheel. They were taken from three different angles of our Honda caught in the middle of the intersection while a red light beamed in the background.

After briefly considering a court appearance, pleading old guy confusion in hopes of a reduced fine, I decided to use the painful episode as a learning experience. It not only taught me to be more alert behind the wheel, but to pay closer attention to speed limits and amber lights.

I'm not unhappy with the absence of red-light cameras in Carlsbad. Maybe there are fewer serious accidents caused by stoplight violators. But using technology to improve traffic safety makes a lot of sense. California drivers are famous for ignoring speed limits, refusing to use turn signals, and engaging in rolling stops. Traffic cops need all the help they can get to keep us safe on the road.

The most effective use of technology for traffic safety I've seen is the digital speed limit signs showing your current speed together with the posted speed limit. What makes them so effective when standard speed limit signs and your own speedometer give you the same information? Edward Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, explains why. The blinking of their message catches your eye with its instant feedback and displays your speed to other drivers, producing peer pressure to drive within the limit.

Aviara Parkway has digital speed limit signs lining the road as it passes Aviara Elementary School. They light up when you approach the speed limit and begin blinking, SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! when you exceed it. Unlike red-light cameras, you don't get your picture taken and slapped with a fine a few months later.

Red-light camera objectors claim they make too many mistakes, that they create more rear-end collisions, and that they're just a scam to enable cities to collaborate with private companies to pick our pockets.

There's plenty of evidence red-light cameras are more helpful than harmful, but maybe expanding the use of digital speed limit signs and other technology that changes bad driving behavior, rather than simply punishing it, will be both more effective and more acceptable to those who fear Big Brother.

Richard J. Riehl writes from La Costa. Contact him at fogcutter1@yahoo.com

Link to Muzio article: http://tinyurl.com/a62uwg3

Comments

Letter to the Editor Jan. 11, 2013 @ 2:22 p.m.

Richard Riehl writes of receiving a red light camera ticket: “It not only taught me to be more alert behind the wheel, but to pay closer attention to speed limits and amber lights." This is precisely what red light cameras are intended to accomplish and we are glad Mr. Riehl allowed this issue to be a learning experience.

We recently commemorated the tenth anniversary of the death of our daughter Sarah. She was killed by a red-light runner when she was only 31 years old. Since then, it has become our mission to advocate for safety initiatives that reduce crashes and prevent needless deaths.

Mr. Riehl is one example of how safety cameras are making California streets safer. Studies show after installing cameras in Sacramento and San Diego, fatal red light running crashes were reduced by more than 50%. We hope others who receive red light camera tickets will use the ticket as a reminder to slow down and be alert on the road. They just may save a life.

Signed, Paul and Sue Oberhauser National Co-Chairs, Traffic Safety Coalition

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 11, 2013 @ 6:11 p.m.

Richard Riehl writes of receiving a red light camera ticket: “It not only taught me to be more alert behind the wheel, but to pay closer attention to speed limits and amber lights." This is precisely what red light cameras are intended to accomplish and we are glad Mr. Riehl allowed this issue to be a learning experience.

OMG I just tossed my cookies. Red light cameras were intended to accomplish ONE THING and ONE THING only, getting easy money through excessive fines via highly expensive and operated cameras, not for safety, purely for taxes/revenue. I am sorry about your daughter, but red light cameras would not have made a difference. The writer ran the red because of HIS poor, and dangerous, driving habits.

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