Monday, April 30, 2012

Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light - Pay!

of the FORUM

     Forget what you learned in kindergarten.  Red lights don’t mean stop.  They mean pay up.  Red light cameras are sprouting all over the city and, unfortunately for you, the ticket will cost you $100 a pop.  With these devices spreading faster than the Bubonic Plague through 14th century Europe, what do you need to know about these tickets?  Can you prevent the dreaded red light ticket?  What options do you have after getting the ticket?  Hopefully this article will shed some “light” on the subject. 
     According to a report from STL Today in February, Circuit Court Judge Mark Neil ruled that the cameras were unconstitutional.  That’s because the tickets don’t offer a way for someone to fight it unless they say they weren’t the driver or that their car was stolen.  And even if you claim someone else was driving your car, you have to give up their name so they would be prosecuted instead of you.  Although this may be a bit of good news, the city is appealing the ruling and will continue to use the red light cameras until a final decision on the appeal is met.  That same report also states that St. Louis gave out 267,777 of those tickets through June of last year and no one was arrested or charged more than the usual $100.  So assume everyone paid those tickets and multiply that by the $100 fine and the revenue the city and the company who installs the cameras would come out to a whopping $26,777,700!  That’s a lot of money for them to make and split for something that doesn’t count as a moving violation for you and doesn’t cost you points to your license. 
     Aren’t there more sensible solutions that are just as safe without robbing our wallets?  How about extending the time a yellow light lasts?  The Missouri Driver’s Guide rule for a yellow lights states the following: “Stop for a steady yellow light unless you are within the intersection or are so close that you cannot safely stop before entering the intersection.”  But I’ve seen countless times when a car in front of me slams on the breaks when they see the yellow light instead of safely passing through because of fear of getting the ticket.  In my opinion, that pattern is creating bad, and unsafe driving conditions.
In these trying economic times, more than likely, you’re on a budget.  And nothing breaks that budget more than having to fork over $100 of your money for an “unexpected expense.” So what should you do if you get one of these tickets?  That is entirely up to you and how they handle the tickets in each county.  A report from KSDK says if you don’t pay Creve Coeur will try to prosecute you, in Arnold they don’t even issue warrant, and St. Louis City will turn you over to a credit agency to collect your debt which will affect your credit score.  To pay or not pay is totally up to you, just be sure to read the fine print on the ticket since each area handles the ticket a little differently. 
     There is something that you can do, other than being more aware while driving, that can keep you from getting a red light ticket.  Just like the commercial says: “there’s an app for that.”  If you have a smart phone, there are quite a few apps that will alert you of an approaching red light camera when you’re on the road.  The most popular is Trapster.  The app lets users enter in where they see a red light camera.  The app keeps a database of those cameras and when you’re close to one a voice alert will warn the driver.  This is a free app so if you’re worried about getting one of those tickets, the app is a must have.  There are similar apps that do the same thing.  You can also check out Phantomalert, CamerAlert, CamSam, and iSpeedCam - which only works for iphone.  So drive safely out there, keep one of these apps, and hopefully you won’t be a victim of the red light camera ticket.

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