I Think Red Light Cameras Are Great, And Here’s Why

I've decided that we don't have enough controversy here at Jalopnik. This is in contrast to all sorts of other media outlets, which are typically embroiled in it. For example: CNN recently generated a lot of controversy when that anchor asked if the missing Malaysian plane could've been swallowed by a black hole. And Buzzfeed recently pissed off 14-year-old girls everywhere by doling out unfavorable answers to the all-important quiz: Which Justin Bieber hair follicle are you? I mean, c'mon Buzzfeed. Everyone wants to be the eyebrow.

Whereas over here at Jalopnik, we just keep on being our usual, tremendously helpful selves, bringing you highly important features like what you should do if you're in a huge pileup, and, of course, GIFs of cars crashing into buildings.

But I'm going to change all that today with a topic that's sure to stir up some controversy: I'm going to announce my love for red light cameras.

Now, before I get into this, I want to just ask you, the esteemed reader, for one thing, and that is to hear me out. I say this because I know your first thought is to scroll down to the comments and post a long, angry tirade about how red light cameras are the devil, and the NSA is using them to spy on all of us, and President Obama is actually just a giant red light camera with legs, and red light cameras killed Sparky, your family dog, who was an excellent poodle until one day he was walking down the street and a red light camera fell on his head, and by God if that hadn't happened, Sparky would've cured cancer, or at least hantavirus.

But I'm asking you, today only, to read the entire column before lashing out. I say this because I make some pretty excellent points in the words below, if I do say so myself. This is a departure from my usual style, which primarily involves eating Oreos and staring at the computer screen until roughly 2 p.m., at which point I type a bunch of random words very quickly and e-mail them to Matt Hardigree, so that I can go back to eating Oreos and staring at the computer screen.

Anyway: I'm going to start all of this off with a little background for those of you who aren't entirely sure what red light cameras are. NOTE: In this particular case, I am not referring to readers in Idaho. I have been convinced that Idaho is actually a mecca of culture and technology, after days of Idaho-related e-mails, and phone calls, and packages filled with bombs made from potatoes.

For those of you in other states where they don't have red light cameras, here's the deal: red light cameras are cameras that catch you going through red lights. This seems simple, right? Commit an illegal act, and BAM! The camera flashes, and you spend the next four weeks hoping the picture was too blurry to read your license plate.

But red light cameras are anything but simple. In fact, few things have generated more controversy over the last few years than cities that have implemented red light cameras. An 8-year-old sees a guy getting blown up on TV? No problem! Get a citation for committing a dangerous illegal act? GOVERNMENT TYRANNY!!!!

Part of the reason red light cameras have earned so much hatred is that people really don't like the idea of being watched by their government. We learned this last year, when it turned out that the NSA has been spying on all of us for some time. We all became incensed to discover this fact, completely disregarding the wide variety of hidden benefits. For example: if you want a restaurant recommendation in the Washington, DC area, all you have to do is ask the friendly NSA agent who's spying on you and your family. He will mail out a printed list.

Another reason that red light cameras have drawn so much public ire is that some local governments – and I know this is going to sound crazy, but it's true – have been using the cameras, not as a safety measure, but as a revenue tool. In fact, some of these local governments, places with named like "Sea Breeze," have even gone so far as to shorten the yellow lights, presumably at the expense of public safety, so they can issue more red light tickets and make more money. This prompted thousands of angry people to write angry letters demanding we all THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!, presumably while the children were in another room watching Internet porn.

But I happen to think that red light cameras are an excellent idea, and here's why: running red lights is really dangerous.

I can speak to this simple truth firsthand. That's because I was involved in an accident a little over a year ago, where a guy pulled out in front of me and I hit him with my company car, a bright red Porsche Panamera GTS. Granted, the intersection where this took place didn't have traffic lights, but I learned a valuable lesson: crashes are bad. The other driver also learned a valuable lesson: don't drive when you're stoned.

Of course, the lesson we both learned was that side impact accidents get serious in a hurry. Even though I was only going about 30 mph, and the other driver was doing maybe 10, both cars were severely disabled and needed to be towed from the scene. If we were going much faster, we probably would've had some injuries.

Now, when the topic of red light cameras comes up, it should be noted that the topic of speed cameras is usually the first to follow. And before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am staunchly against speed cameras, largely because speeding is very different from red light running. After all, we speed every day, usually with very little consequence. In fact, I am speeding right now, as I type this, and I haven't hit anyone for at least 40 minutes.

So speeders aren't so bad. But red light runners are terrible, awful people, who put the rest of us in danger – and they should be punished. If we aren't going to install more cameras, a pitchfork mob will do. I bet we can get their names and addresses from the NSA.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.