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Are Traffic Cameras Rigged Against Drivers?

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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There are some studies that have found that traffic cameras slow down traffic, increase wait times, and fuel an increase in rear-end accidents.

And critics say that they are more about trying to make money for the state than they are about trying to keep the roads safer. The intentions behind them might have been good, but in the end the cameras might be causing more harm than any good.

While some studies have found negative results from the traffic cameras, there are others, such as one that was funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found different results; that they allegedly reduced collisions.

However, it appears that a growing number of people are starting to question the efficiency of the cameras; considering the resources that go into maintaining and replacing them etc. As well as the billions of dollars in funding that they are helping to collect for the state.

Are they causing more harm than good?

One recent study that looked at 148 intersections that were located in at least 28 different cities in the US, found that the total number of crashes had increased roughly 10.14 percent compared to the data they had collected prior to installing traffic cameras.

There have been several attempts to ban red-light traffic cameras and to have them removed from various jurisdictions, some public officials have even including it as a campaign promise to voters. But many efforts thus far have failed. However, they did have some success recently in Arizona a few months ago, after House legislators there decided to pass a bill to get rid of traffic cameras; sending it to the Senate for further approval.

The Senate in Texas has also recently voted to ban the use of traffic cameras statewide. One Senator from Texas, Sen. Don Huffines, previously declared that he wants the state to reimburse the victims of these traffic cameras and he wants the entire program turned off; he’s made multiple attempts to try and see that happen.

Regardless of the growing number of critics who are trying to make efforts to have the cameras removed, there are still a great deal of law enforcement personnel and other public officials etc, who maintain that there is a need to continue using them across the country.

One critic of the cameras, an engineer from Sweden, Mats Jarlstrom, who now resides in Oregon, decided to conduct his own investigation on the cameras and he was slapped with a fine from the state for having engaged in unlicensed practice of engineering because he isn’t a licensed professional in the eyes of the state of Oregon.

Jarlstrom launched his mission several years ago and he’s been looking to prove that the cameras are setting drivers up for tickets; they’re rigged against the laws of nature, he says.

He’s even taken his findings to the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying so that those who have the ability to, might possibly work to make the appropriate changes if there is such a problem with the cameras. That didn’t happen however, instead they decided to accuse him of having practiced engineering without the appropriate permission from the state.

He’s already been fined hundreds of dollars by the state and been under investigation, simply for trying to point out what he believes is a problem that they should be concerned with correcting.

It all started several years ago after Jarlstrom’s wife allegedly received her own ticket and he became interested with the math behind the traffic lights, and he says that because of a flaw with its timing that it’s rigged against drivers.

He fought back, and won.

Jarlstrom filed a federal lawsuit in defense, he argued that their crackdown equated to a violation of his 1st Amendment Constitutionally-protected right to free speech. After all, shouldn’t free speech apply to discussions about math? It took several years but recently the attorney general in Oregon allegedly admitted that they had violated his free speech rights with their actions. Jarlstrom has partnered with the Institute for Justice and he isn’t over yet because he says that he wants the law declared unconstitutional; he doesn’t want to see others fall victim just like he did for what should be considered protected speech.

Sources:
http://time.com/3643077/red-light-cams-rear-end-collisions-chicago/
https://globalnews.ca/news/2853066/turning-off-red-light-cameras-can-be-deadly-study/
http://abcnews.go.com/US/red-light-camera-backlash-cameras-causing-accidents/story?id=13925887
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-red-light-cameras-crashes-20170106-story.html
https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2017/02/21/arizona-lawmaker-travis-grantham-wants-get-rid-photo-radar/98199096/
http://tucson.com/news/local/no-more-tickets-from-tucson-s-red-light-cameras-radar/article_c4b350cf-2e9a-59ef-b644-ce83fca30896.html
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/5gkgxn/the-shady-municipal-business-of-traffic-cams
http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-debates-red-light-cameras-tools-that-save-lives-or-police-state-tactics-9114403
http://kxan.com/2017/09/11/abilene-mayor-we-did-red-light-cameras-the-right-way/
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/texas/articles/2017-03-29/texas-senate-votes-to-ban-red-light-cameras-statewide
http://koin.com/2016/08/10/are-red-light-cameras-rigged-against-laws-of-nature/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/12/08/criticizing-red-light-cameras-is-not-a-punishable-offense-oregon-concedes/?utm_term=.49814732d3b0
https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2017/04/28/do-you-need-a-license-in-engineering-to-criticize-red-light-cameras-oregon-says-yes/

This article was published in Steemit and can be found here.

 

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A Collection of Traffic Law Writings by James W. Cushing

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on traffic law.  These writings have been published in The Legal IntelligencerUpon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Blog Posts:

A Collection of Law and Religion Writings by James W. Cushing

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on how law and religion intersect.  These writings have been published in The Legal IntelligencerUpon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Musings:

 

Christian Bible or Nothing, Philadelphia Family Court Says

In the recent custody matter of Musaitef v. Musaitef, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Case No.: 0c1202189, the Judge ruled that a Muslim woman may not swear on a Koran while taking the oath before testifying at a hearing.

At a hearing in the Musaitef matter, the Mother, a Muslim, requested that she be sworn in by putting her hand on a Koran instead of a Christian Bible when taking the oath before testifying. The Father in the matter, who interestingly is also a Muslim, objected to the use of the Koran, arguing at the hearing and subsequently in a brief (discussed below), that it served as witness intimidation in that a Koran is not statutorily permitted to be used for administering oaths at a hearing. The Mother remained resolute in wanting to use the Koran so the Judge asked the parties to brief the issue of whether the use of a Koran for swearing in at a hearing is legally permissible.

Father first argued that Mother’s request was a pretext for witness intimidation. Evidently, the alleged implication from Mother was that Father’s Islamic faith included the belief that oaths taken on religious books outside of Muslim belief would not bind the speaker to tell the truth. Therefore, the witness intimidation was Mother’s subtle suggestion that Father’s use of a Christian Bible instead of a Koran for his oath, as contrasted by her insistence on using a Koran, indicated that Father was going to lie during his testimony.

The primary arguments between the parties centered on 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 which states the following: “(a) General rule. — Every witness, before giving any testimony shall take an oath in the usual or common form, by laying the hand upon an open copy of the Holy Bible, or by lifting up the right hand and pronouncing or assenting to the following words: ‘I, A. B., do swear by Almighty God, the searcher of all hearts, that I will[_______], and that as I shall answer to God at the last great day.’ Which oath so taken by persons who conscientiously refuse to take an oath in the common form shall be deemed and taken in law to have the same effect as an oath taken in common form.

(b) Right to affirm.–The affirmation may be administered in any judicial proceeding instead of the oath, and shall have the same effect and consequences, and any witness who desires to affirm shall be permitted to do so.”

Father argued that the statutory language is plain, clear, and unambiguous: it allows for two options for taking an oath before testifying: (1) swearing on a Bible or (2) affirmation. It simply does not provide for the use of a Koran. Therefore, according to Father, if Mother does not want to use a Bible for her oath, she can simply affirm. Further, Father also argued that as both parties will be using a language interpreter, who used the statutory form for his oath, it would create confusion if different and innovative non-statutory oaths were used for one party but not others. Father pointed out that 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5902 prohibits inquiry into Mother’s religious beliefs in order to assess her credibility, so he cannot explore with her the potential religious and/or other implications for using a Koran over a Bible for the purposes of taking an oath at a hearing.

Mother’s brief, by contrast, focused on religious liberty. Mother asserted that 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 must be read broadly enough to allow for the use of the Koran, otherwise it unconstitutionally prefers Christianity over other religions in violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Mother pointed out that the affirmation option in the statute noted above is provided for people who do not wish to invoke the Christian God or Bible and/or employ religion for the oath and/or object to taking “an oath” (as opposed “affirming”). The obvious purpose of the oath, per Mother, is to impose the significant nature of the proceedings on a witness and to ensure the truth of testimony. As a corollary, per Mother, a way to impose the significant nature of the proceedings onto a witness is to allow that witness to swear upon something that witness respects and takes seriously, such as her preferred religious text; indeed, why else would the Bible be required for the oath if it did not reflect the prevailing significance of Christian beliefs when the statute was written and how they relate to not bearing false witness? From Mother’s point of view, if Christians receive the benefit of, and respect for, their religious beliefs when taking the oath on their Bible, ought not other religionists, in this case Muslims, receive the same benefit and respect and be permitted to take an oath on their Koran?

Due to the dearth of case law in Pennsylvania on this issue, Mother relied upon case law in North Carolina which ruled that oath statutes are flexible enough to allow for the use of religious books other than the Bible, per the religious preference of the witness, in order serve as a mechanism to ensure honesty for a witness’ testimony (it should be noted that the language of the North Carolina oath statute is vaguer than 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 and, therefore, more able to be read and understood more broadly).

Mother also argued that understanding 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 as restricting oaths to exclusively the Bible (or non-religious affirmation) is unconstitutional. Mother pointed out that by allowing for the use of the Bible but no other religious book for an oath, Pennsylvania impermissibly favors Christianity over other religions and, therefore, serves as an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity over other religions.

The Court held a subsequent hearing and ruled that the precise language of the statute applies: either Mother is to take her oath on the Christian Bible or non-religiously affirm. The Court made no allowances for other religions, for the potential to understand 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 as merely requiring a religious book weighty enough to persuade a witness to testify truthfully (as opposed to strictly a Bible), and/or the potential Constitutional issues described above.

As an aside, there seems to be no discussion in the case of the curious final sentence of 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901(a): “[w]hich oath so taken by persons who conscientiously refuse to take an oath in the common form shall be deemed and taken in law to have the same effect as an oath taken in common form.” This sentence would seem to imply that the statute ought to be read expansively as it appears to allow another form, other than the “common form”, to have the same effect as the common form. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this angle was explored in the case.

This case is still in progress and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Originally published on December 23, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer which can be seen here and reprinted by the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer in its Volume 37, Issue No.: 1, March 2015 edition which can be seen here.

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