By on April 17, 2009

On February 3, the KTVT-TV evening news covered the fight brewing in Duncanville, Texas over the use of red light cameras. Reporter Stephanie Lucero attempted to balance her piece about drivers trapped at the notorious intersection of Danieldale Road and US 67 by speaking first with a local businessman who claimed personal experience about how the traffic cameras installed there made the city safer. “There has been a noticeable difference in the safety of this intersection since they put them in, so I, for one, like them,” Steve Madison told KTVT.

The story proceeded to interview a random motorist who called the camera in that particular location a transparent, money-making scheme. The device snares drivers who are unaware that they are required to stop not once, but twice, to avoid a photo citation when making a legal right-hand turn on red.

The first stop must be made at the arbitrary “stop bar” painted on the pavement, and the second  stop must be made several feet ahead, at the edge of the intersection. The second stop is required because one’s view of oncoming traffic is fully obstructed while behind the stop bar.

By framing the story as “some people love them”—with Madison’s comment—and “some people hate them,” it appeared that both points of view were equally valid. Duncanville City Councilman Paul Ford found fault with this analysis given Madison’s financial connection to city officials.

“I wonder if his interview would have been broadcast if he had said, ‘The city council gave me $209,000 of taxpayers’ money! I love red light cameras!” Ford wrote.

According to Ford, Madison received a $209,000 grant in 2005 to build a housing development on two-and-a-half acres of land at the intersection of Royal Avenue and Azalea Lane. Four years later, the location remains a run-down, empty lot (view photo). Ford claimed that there was a direct connection between the cameras and the mayor’s supporters like Madison.

“The red light camera setup in Duncanville, and the 44,000 red light camera citations mailed out in 2008 at $75.00 apiece—most for turning right on red—is near and dear to [their] hearts,” Ford wrote. “The more money the city takes from us, the more money the city can give to them.”

Ford has paid a heavy price for bringing attention to these matters. Last week, Mayor David Green had Ford arrested for speaking out against traffic cameras during a city council meeting. Ford was released Tuesday after an overnight stay in the Dallas County Jail on the charge of “disrupting a public meeting.” Ford’s first court hearing is scheduled for May 12.

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19 Comments on “Texas Red Light Camera Supporter Hearts City Money...”


  • avatar

    I heard about this story yesterday. I still can’t believe the arrest happened. I think there is more to this story than is being reported. On the surface though, this is pretty messed up.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I know that there are a lot of intersections where you must stop at the stop bar (because it’s THE STOP BAR), but due to intersection obstructions, you must “creep” up to the edge of the intersection before you can see well enough to proceed with your right turn on red. Often times, you can creep up and time your entry, and just goose it to insert yourself in the traffic stream. Other times, you have to stop and wait for a hole to open up.

    Some cities simply make those intersections “no turn on red” intersections, because the percentage of drivers ACTUALLY COMPETENT ENOUGH to manage right-on-red under congested (or even sparsely populated) conditions is probably less than 50%.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Don’t have any dual stop intersections in this town, but we do have a red light camera at the intersection outside where I work. One employee has received two citations, both for right hand turns on red. It would be interesting to see what is the percentage of right on red citations that are being handed out at this intersection and others in town with red light cameras.

  • avatar
    Arminius

    Kudos to Pat Ford for fighting the good fight. Keep it up Pat, you are one of the few honest people left in public service.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    As the city engineer for a small city attempting to install red light cameras, I can lend a little perspective on this. City councils see these cameras as nifty revenue generators for our current austere times. The companies that supply and install the equipment also operate the fine generation and collection process, they only install them where a preliminary analysis shows enough violations occur to be profitable. Since there’s plenty of pragmatic evidence that these cameras increase accidents after installation, the “public safety” argument is laughable to the extent that those knowing anything about the issue don’t even bring up this aspect. In our situation, the police department knows it doesn’t decrease accidents but they’re just doing what they’re told by City Council. The engineering department was not even consulted because it’s not a traffic engineering question and something that decreases safety is anathema to traffic engineers. Not being consulted is fine with me because I hate the politics anyway.

    Most accidents at major intersections are rear-enders due to inattention. Accidents due to collisions caused by those running red lights are rare. Reducing the odds of such collisions can be accomplished by merely increasing the delay between the red light and the start of the green light of the next phase. Pretty simple. So you see, red light cameras are clearly not about safety.

    Back to the story…at this late date I’ve been drug in because the state DOT won’t allow installation of the cameras without a city/DOT contract. The police department, faced with executing such a contract, does the “unfrozen caveman lawyer” thing and drops it in my lap. After a few minutes of investigation I find that state law prevents installation of a camera at the location preferred. This is news to PD and the camera vendor who presumably has done this before. Much stress here now because the anticipated revenue is being heavily relied upon for the future. Oops.

    Regarding what one can say about the “few honest people left in public service,” though there are reasons public service suffers from a hurtful and often deserved stereotype, I would leave room for the possibility that good people are often hamstrung by the goobers that the citizens elect to office.

  • avatar

    The first stop must be made at the arbitrary “stop bar” painted on the pavement, and the second stop must be made several feet ahead, at the edge of the intersection. The second stop is required because one’s view of oncoming traffic is fully obstructed while behind the stop bar.

    It would be interesting to read the traffic code under which the citations are issued. It seems to me that if they issue a right turn on red ticket if the person stops at the stop bar but doesn’t stop at the edge of the intersection that’s a different infraction than an illegal right on red, particularly if there is no signage indicating that a second stop must be made. Not proceeding until you have a clear view of traffic strikes me as being more like a right of way issue.

    In any case, it sounds like the city deliberately wants people to get cited.

    This is what bugs me most about traffic enforcement as a generator of revenue for public employees and politicians. Not only do they use the sham of traffic safety but they actively create conditions so that people violate the law, to the detriment of public safety. Shortening yellow lights, playing gotcha for people rolling stop signs etc. There’s a stop sign near a school not far from here and the municipality would rather have folks running the stop sign and paying them money than putting the cop’s cruiser where people can see it so they won’t roll the sign. I asked my local chief of police about that and he said that if they only enforced stop signs from visible stakeouts the public would assume that it’s safe to break the law when a cop’s not around (cop logic). He wouldn’t see my point that the safest thing is to keep people from running stop signs in the first place.

    Some cops are great people but almost all of them turn off a part of their brain when it comes to evaluating police procedure or policy. Doctors do morbidity revues and engineers do failure analysis. Cops rarely evaluate their own work. Since public employee salaries come out of gov’t revenues, they have even less motivation to question how they enforce traffic laws.

    The most important thing should be safety, next should be justice. Unfortunately the only thing is money and revenue for city and state coffers.

    Nowhere else in our society can you be minding your own business, not hurting anyone, and the state will arbitrarily pick you out as a violator of laws that everyone generally ignores and subject you to confiscatory fines and fees at the threat of jail.

    Fines have gone up much faster than the rate of inflation. A 5mph ticket used to cost you $25, now it is at least $100. Then they add “costs” to help pay the salaries of the folks who are doing this to you. Now the states are getting into the picture with “driver responsibility fees” tacked on for certain violations. They call them fees and not fines to dodge the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. In Michigan, if you get caught driving without proof of insurance, the ticket is only about $125 but the state will tack on $200 a year for two years. With some violations, the fees are $500 so you can end up paying Lansing $1000 to keep your license on a violation that an actual judge considers to be a $150 violation.

    The current administration in Washington, through its “stimulus” plan and budget, is pursuing the largest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society (though much of the LBJ inspired growth actually took place under Nixon). Much of the money that Washington is borrowing/spending is going to state and municipal governments, so we’ll see growth in those governments as well.

    All government employees see this growth of government as an open invitation to let them meddle in our lives.

    Look at the ridiculous attempt by NHTSA Acting Administrator, Ron Medford, to halt GM’s sale of cars from their Heritage collection at the recent Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach. The bureaucrats were concerned that buyers of those cars that were not street legal might try to register them for street use. Putting aside the NHTSA’s ignorance of the collector car market where owners of one of a kind vehicles would not likely diminish their value by driving and or modifying them for the street, this trial balloon by the NHTSA was a gross overreach of federal power. While the federal DOT, DOE, and NHTSA regulate certain aspects of automobile manufacture, registration and operation of motor vehicles is under state jurisdiction.

    Not that state and local bureaucrats object to more regulation or have any ideological attachment to states’ rights. It’s only about power and money, so jurisdictional issues usually arise over splitting the pot.

    Fuck it. I applied for a government job. Might as well be on the side with all the power.

  • avatar

    Regarding what one can say about the “few honest people left in public service,” though there are reasons public service suffers from a hurtful and often deserved stereotype, I would leave room for the possibility that good people are often hamstrung by the goobers that the citizens elect to office.

    Who’s a greater impediment, politicians or the bureaucrats, managers and employees in city government?

    Like I said, screw it. A small percentage of earners are now supporting millions of government employees and providing yet many more millions with services and entitlements. Why work hard when you can get a secure government job (as an “industry” government workers have the lowest unemployment rate, 3%, and some branches of gov’t never lay off workers)? Get through the probationary period and it’s almost impossible to fire you. The work load is nothing like in the private sector and the benefit package just can’t be matched, including guaranteed pensions with guaranteed COLA adjustments.

    Just wait till AFSCME or SIEU wants to organize the two million federal employees in the GS system.

  • avatar
    jschaef481

    Ronnie Schreiber: Amen to your last post. THAT is why I attended a tea party this week. And yet somehow that makes me a lunatic fringe whacko.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    Ronnie, the answer to your questions is “politicians.”

    I hope you’re successful in landing a cushy, full meal deal low expectations government job. But bear in mind dealing diplomatically with the anti-government cynics is often required. You might have to attend a seminar or something.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    By framing the story as “some people love them”—with Madison’s comment—and “some people hate them,” it appeared that both points of view were equally valid.

    This is a systemic problem in the way most media sources portray the news, in a false pursuit of ‘unbiased’ reporting. Failure to check facts and reporting a story anyway is exactly the same thing as legitimizing false arguments. Sometimes ‘unbiased’ reporting means taking a side, and I wish more sources would have the balls to do so.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    What’s even crazier on this intersection is that the object obstructing the view to the left that forces you to creep forward before you turn right, and thus be ticketed for running a red light, is the TRAFFIC LIGHT CONTROL BOX.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Careful jschaef481. According to Janet Napolitano you might be a t3rr0r1st.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Detroit-Iron :
    April 17th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Careful jschaef481. According to Janet Napolitano you might be a t3rr0r1st.

    And, if your a former member of the military who owns a gun, they might be coming to lock you up at this very moment. Constitution? We don’t need no stinking constitution.

  • avatar
    benders

    The first stop must be made at the arbitrary “stop bar” painted on the pavement, and the second stop must be made several feet ahead, at the edge of the intersection. The second stop is required because one’s view of oncoming traffic is fully obstructed while behind the stop bar.

    This is what I was taught in Driver’s Ed. A second stop is required at a stop sign or turning right on red if you must move past the stop line (or sign) to check for traffic.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Lumbergh21, I’m new to these forums and I don’t know you but I wonder how much time you have served.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was in, there was always that one guy in the platoon that I was kind of glad had enlisted because at least he had constant adult supervision. There’s guys I definitely worried about. And you know what? There’s no shame in admitting that because soldiers are humans, just like everyone else.

    – R
    11A

  • avatar

    But bear in mind dealing diplomatically with the anti-government cynics is often required. You might have to attend a seminar or something.

    I know where those cynics are coming from so I’m sure I’ll have some rapport.

    The simple truth is that government employees are better compensated and have better benefits and job security than folks in the private sector. I’m a free market small L libertarian kind of a guy but I’m not stupid.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Ronnie Schreiber:
    The simple truth is that government employees are better compensated and have better benefits and job security than folks in the private sector.

    As a resident of the state of confusion known as New York, that’s generally true given comparable jobs. What’s really disgusting is looking at where salaries are NOT competitive. Paying degree holding Math and Science teachers the same as English teachers ensures a fiscally and technically inept population. Which is what the governing class wants.

  • avatar
    George B

    How about simply removing the crosswalk and moving the Stop Bar so cars can legaly stop once where they would normally stop absent the extra lines on the pavement? Looking at the US-67/Danieldale intersection using Google street view, it doesn’t look like a place where any sane person would choose to walk across the street. Someone has put a pedestrian crosswalk on the pavement where vehicles turning right on red need to be.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Don’t Texans have shotguns anymore ? Geez ! Do I have to do ALL the thinking around here ? ;-)

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