Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smile for the emergency vehicle - or how I learned to stop worrying and love the red light camera

Ohio Senate Bill 97, introduced by Republican Jim Hughes from Franklin County, would "allow emergency personnel in public safety vehicles to report traffic law violations under certain circumstances."

Basically, if you fail to yield to an emergency vehicle, like a fire truck or rescue squad which is responding to an emergency, the personnel in that emergency vehicle can report you for this violation - along with any others you might commit at the same time - to the local police jurisdiction.

The law also says local law enforcement:

"...may conduct an investigation to attempt to determine or confirm the identity of the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation. If the identity of the operator at the time of the alleged violation is established, the reporting of the license plate number of the vehicle shall establish probable cause for the law enforcement agency to issue a citation for the violation..."

And if they can't determine the operator of the car at the time of the violation?

"...if the identity of the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation cannot be established, the law enforcement agency may issue a warning to the person who owned the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation, except in the case of a leased or rented vehicle, any warning shall be issued to the person who leased or rented the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation."

This doesn't seem unreasonable but here's what I want to know: how come the same rules don't apply to red light and speed cameras?

Wouldn't it just be easier for the emergency personnel to snap a picture?

Red light and speed cameras operate on the assumption that the owner of the vehicle is guilty, even if they can prove they weren't the driver. The only way to get out of the exorbitant fine - which is just a money-grab for local municipalities - is to actually produce the guilty party.

The police are not required to investigate - the registered owner of the vehicle is guilty. There is no warning if the owner proves they weren't driving - it's a huge fine just the same. And in order to get out of all the due process rules normally inherent in any traffic violation, cities call these *civil* violations. But that is specifically so they can cite the owner, not the actual driver.

We shouldn't have double standards in the law. The General Assembly needs to either outlaw red light/speed cameras or require municipalities to adhere to the due process protections normally afforded these violations.

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