- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The use of photo-radar and red-light cameras has been pushed on the public as a means of making the roads less dangerous. But what if we're still not any safer as a result of increasingly omnipresent police surveillance just a lot less free?

What little evidence there is to make a case for photo radar and the erection of all-seeing cameras all over the landscape comes largely from the two parties that stand to benefit most from these things: the government and the insurance industry. Their revenues go up while our freedoms go down, and we don't even get an improvement in road safety in the bargain.

In countries where cameras and video surveillance of all kinds have been in use much longer than in the United States, there is abundant evidence to support this contention.

For example:

• In Ireland, "Operation Lifesaver" a program designed around camera enforcement and monitoring had "no measurable effect on fatalities," according to the June 27 edition of The Irish Times.

• In Canada, the use of red-light cameras in several cities, including Toronto, Hamilton and Ottowa, resulted in "absolutely no improvement" in safety, according to Transportation Minister Norm Sterling.

• In England, which has one of the most extensive grids of camera surveillance in the Western world, "More children are dying on Lancashire roads despite claims that speed cameras are making them safer," said the Lancashire Evening Post on June 26. "The number of youngsters killed on the highways has risen by 60 percent in the last year … the overall number of accidents involving death or serious injury has also increased by 16 percent."

In Washington and along the George Washington Parkway, photo-radar installations have not been up long enough to allow for adequate data collection. However, it is known that where red-light running is a problem, a small increase in the time a yellow light remains yellow before it turns red will markedly reduce dangerous road conditions and thereby obviate the need for cameras entirely.

The bottom line, of course, is that police states and their watered-down surveillance society kin are much less safe for ordinary people than the worst intersection or highway in a free society.

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