NEW ORLEANS - As the number of legal cases against red light cameras increase nationwide -- as well as in Louisiana -- so do the number of organizations speaking out against them.
"They are unsafe, unconstitutional, and the politicians are putting our lives and our property at risk so they can illegally steal our money," Shawn Dow, the Arizona coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty, told the Louisiana Record recently.
New Orleans is one of many cities facing lawsuits for red light camera use. A group of residents claim the cameras, which take pictures of car license plates when they run red lights in order to automatically generate tickets, violate both the United States Constitution and New Orleans Home Rule Charter. A recent class-action suit in Jefferson Parish against the cameras was successful, with the class members receiving partial refunds.
Dow alleges that there's another Louisiana law that traffic cameras are violating.
"The state of Louisiana has a law that requires anyone (who) prepares evidence for courts (to) be licensed as private eyes or be a sworn police officer," he said. "The companies (that install and run the red light cameras) are neither."
Dow says the cameras violate multiple amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including: the Fourth Amendment, by running a background check on every vehicle owner that drives by the "Scameras," a term Dow uses that combines the words 'scam" and "camera," without probable cause; the Fifth Amendment, by simply using the fact that a car belongs to a person as evidence they committed a crime with it, the cameras take away due process; the Seventh Amendment, by not allowing a jury trial to dispute red-light camera tickets; and the 14th Amendment, by exempting vehicles registered to corporations, out-of-state drivers, judges, politicians, police officers and photo radar employees they are violating the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
Dow added that studies have shown the presence of red light cameras have actually increased accidents at intersections. He said one reason for this might be the flash of the cameras.
"Shining a bright flash at drivers in the most dangerous part of the road is obviously a stupid idea," he said. "If you stood on the corner and flashed your camera in the eyes of drivers over and over again you would be arrested, so why aren't they?"
As for an alternative solution, Dow suggests the same thing that the National Motorists Association has -- increasing the time for yellow lights.
"By raising the yellow light times by 1 second, many municipalities have dramatically reduced accidents on their streets," Dow said. "This is free and it works, but the politicians can't make money off us by doing this proven free solution."