Red Light Cameras

I was surprised and pleased to read this morning that red light cameras will be leaving my home town of San Diego.  My sense, based on reading some articles, is that the cameras did not improve safety and may have made matters worse.  My strongest sense of outrage was caused, however, by the fact that the tickets for the cameras were $490 whereas speeding and other tickets could be much cheaper.  My son got a red light ticket for $490 simply by not stopping long enough before making a right on red — hardly a severe safety problem.

Part of my surprise from the elimination of the cameras is that it was done by the new mayor, who was seen as a “union hack” and who defeated a libertarian-ish Republican competitor who ran against city hall and big government.  Perhaps Mayor Filner was induced to take the action based on competition from the libertarian challenger.  But since he just won the election, I am not so sure.  Sometimes your political opponents do at least a couple of good things.

While Filner said that he was ending the program because the cameras were seen as a money grab by the government that did not really improve safety, the news story provides a more cynical explanation: the cameras generated $1.9 million in fines, but after including all of the costs of the program, the cameras produced merely $200 thousand for the city.   Still, the previous administration — run by an establishment Republican — had not seen the light.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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