First, red-light cams – now, ready for speeder cams?

Just posted at the Times site – a bill is advancing through the state Legislature to allow Seattle to use robocams to catch speeders as well as red-light runners. (To recap, the city announced last month that two red-light cams are on the way to West Seattle this year.) The official Legislature page about the speeder-cam bill is here; one of the 28 senators voting in favor of it today was West Seattle’s state Senator Joe McDermott.

46 Replies to "First, red-light cams - now, ready for speeder cams?"

  • CandrewB February 16, 2008 (12:57 pm)

    Have to say you lost a vote for that one Joe.

  • Rick February 16, 2008 (1:05 pm)

    Hell, let’s just issue everyone with a car and/or driver’s license a ticket and make ’em prove they didn’t do it. We can call it “Pro-active safety revenue enhancement” and justify the invasion by protecting us from ourselves. Ooohhh, and all those discretionary $$$ to be made!!!

  • Tish February 16, 2008 (1:15 pm)

    When will big brother watching over our every move ever end? I swear that I will NOT vote to re-elect any official who votes yes on this bill.

  • Todd in Westwood February 16, 2008 (1:26 pm)

    Sounds just like how it works down in Los Angeles. You get a parking ticket or moving violation, you have to pay it, BEFORE you can argue it in court. So guess who gets to sit on your money while you are waiting to take it to court? It sits in whatever city account collecting interest, then if you can prove you didnt do it, you get your money back, But you never see any of the interest back. Free money for the city!

  • Jill February 16, 2008 (1:43 pm)

    You guys, granted, I didn’t read the official Legislature page, and I normally feel pretty strongly about gov’t actions that infringe on my civil liberties, but is this really one of those things? I can’t stand people constantly running red lights. Why shouldn’t they, who are not only breaking the law but are behaving in a way that can at best inconvenience others and at worst kill them, get ticketed? I’m serious — did I miss or overlook the key info that would make me see that this is some big-brother thing?

  • Julie February 16, 2008 (1:47 pm)

    I disagree with the previous posters; yes, please! Catch the speeders with robocams, and let the police focus on other crimes.

    Seems to me what happens is, when the police focus on an area to calm down the speeding, people slow down until the police focus elsewhere; then the speeds are back up. I’m annoyed at speeders breathing down my neck just because I stick to the limit (that’s what “limit” means, after all. It’s not a suggested average!) Permanent robocams will help teach everyone what the speed limit really is.

    Thank you, Joe McDermott! Please hang in there.

  • willow February 16, 2008 (1:55 pm)

    I absolutely agree with the “YES”‘s, and, if you don’t like the idea – Slow down and observe speed limits.
    City streets are not you’re personal speedway. If you speed because you’re late – try something unique – leave earlier.

    Jill and Julie – absolutely right.
    Jill – absolute proof of your contention – Admiral Way, California to WS Bridge.

  • Rockyraccoon February 16, 2008 (1:55 pm)

    Yet another example of our politicians ignoring the real problems and spending their time finding new ways to take our money. They would never have done the red light cameras if they didn’t bring in the big bucks. Money rules.

  • jrk1901 February 16, 2008 (2:04 pm)

    I have to say I strongly disagree with this one! Bellevue has made a pretty penny on the stop light cams, and I honestly haven’t seen much of a problem in the Junction area of West Seattle. In addition, these things are coming under heat because people who were NEVER THERE are getting tickets. I heard on the radio that a guy who was in Iraq received 3 of these while his car was locked away in storage. REALLY?

    Speeding cams and traffic light cams are just the beginning of a big brother society. But,I guess those who are for them are also for nanny laws. “Let’s give up our right to privacy and civil liberties so that people don’t break laws”.

    I agree that people should obey the laws that are in place. The people who do break the laws are fewer than those who obey them. I like the old fashioned way of getting law breakers: with the police.

    These camera’s are nothing but a bottom line builder for the city. I am more for raising the fines for these infractions than having cameras up everywhere.

  • Eaglelover February 16, 2008 (2:49 pm)

    I work in a city that has the red light cams, and it has to be a windfall for the city–no staffing required. Knowing this while driving home one day one of those lights turned yellow before I got to the intersection and I would have been red when I went through and I stopped and I guess the 2 cars behind thought that we all were “going to go for it” because they skidded around behind me when I stopped. One thing I swear is that they have shorter yellows than other places that dont use the cameras, tipping it into the cities favor. I read somewhere there are more accidents at intersections with the cameras. I wouldnt be opposed as much if they had those walk signs flash dont walk with the seconds that display how long before they turn yellow. As far as speeding cams I dont see a lot of speeding other than 35th and delridge. Cameras do not give you a chance like a cop could if there was nobody else on the road.

  • booger February 16, 2008 (3:04 pm)

    I was against the idea of speeding cams, at first. Then I see the speeders on 35th, and understand why we need them. Folks just don’t have any common sense anymore. I usually hover a bit OVER the speedlimit, and findy many people who are going WAY over the limit. I don’t mind from the perspective of having them flush out the cops for me, but when they someone elses life at risk, that’s another story.

    And this is coming from a guy who drives a Porsche…

  • MSW February 16, 2008 (3:53 pm)

    It won’t take long before these cameras will be so hated in this city that they will be vandalized regularly by angry drivers who have been ticketed by these devices.

    The UK uses quite a few of these speeding cameras and they are extremely unpopular with the driving public. Below is a paragraph from the forum discussing the vandalism done to the cameras installed on road way A37 near London.

    “More than 400 speed cameras have been destroyed over the past two years, and attacks are on the rise, police say. The vandals are well organized and operate in groups, co-coordinating their activities over the Internet”

  • AlkiMac February 16, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    How about cameras on the West Seattle Bridge to catch cheaters in the bus lane, who use it as their own personal speeding/passing lane?

  • JanS February 16, 2008 (4:16 pm)

    I was going to say…could we please put one on Admiral Way? Speed limit=30, pushing it=35, most drivers=40, sometimes more. I’ve been tailgated numerous times going down that hill by people who want me to go faster because I’m in the left lane…get a clue people…and I say that in the nicest way :)

  • Alistair February 16, 2008 (4:30 pm)

    I moved to Seattle from the UK, where speed cameras are everywhere. They’re an utter nightmare – they don’t do anything (in my humble opinion) to reduce speeding, they generate revenue.

    People see the cameras, speed, slow down over the camera area, then speed up again.

    I drive safely, and mostly within the limit. I love the fact that while driving in Seattle I can concentrate on the road, and the conditions – rather than on where the nearest stealth attack on my insurance is.

    The UK ones are set at 10% over the limit usually – and invariably down a hill. Should you be concentrating on your speedo to make sure you don’t drift past 33 mph, or on the crosswalk at the bottom?….

  • Jill February 16, 2008 (5:26 pm)

    Thanks to those who have experience with these things and have given reasons that they’re not a good idea. Very helpful!
    AlkiMac, lol, I was going to say that about the bridge, too, but I just find it too satisfying when I do see a cop down at the end of the line, ticketing the suckahs who got their sorry butts caught. :)

  • MSW February 16, 2008 (5:33 pm)

    Why are people in this city so afraid of driving a little faster than 30 mph. It’s not like we don’t have enough congestion that already slows traffic to a crawl anyway. My cousin from Rhode Island who was out here for a visit once asked me “why does everyone in this city drive like a Granny”. I really didn’t have an answer for her. Can anyone answer that question?

    The cause of speeding by drivers in this city, I believe, are due to the congestion that we have on a regular basis. When we see an open road, it’s like wow! I can get home and be with my family at a decent time. This of course compels some of us to take risks and “live on the edge” by speeding up from 30 mph to 40 or gasp… 45 mph. Meanwhile those who don’t like to “live on the edge” or have anything better to do, will continue to drive 20 – 30 mph in a 35 mph zone. Autobahn anyone?

  • jrk1901 February 16, 2008 (5:39 pm)

    Speaking of the cameras in the UK… Those of you from there may be able to confirm or refute this: Is it true that the cameras placed in high crime areas reduced the amount of crime in that area, but increased it in areas where there are no cameras? Could we expect the same affect here in Seattle with speeding?

  • PSPS February 16, 2008 (5:46 pm)

    There are at least two problems with this latest “great idea.”

    First, these (and the red-light cams) are installed and maintained by private companies. The agreement provides that this private company gets a cut of all revenue generated. I don’t want any public function, like law enforcement, contracted out to a for-profit private company whose sole purpose in life is to generate as much profit as possible for its shareholders. Haven’t we learned anything from the past ten years?

    Second, you can’t trust the veracity of such devices. What’s to stop the private company (or the city, for that matter) from deciding to fatten their bottom line by programming the device to lie? Apparently, all they need is a picture of your car with some number they claim is your speed superimposed on it. GUILTY! CASE CLOSED! I can easily do that myself showing that I am going 500 MPH.

    These mechanical revenue-generating nannies just make it too easy to prey on innocent people. At least when they have to (gasp!) have a real cop present to perform a law enforcement function, it makes it harder to fabricate “infractions” just because of the hassle factor. With these, there’s no hassle at all!

    (As noted in another comment, I can confirm that intersections with red-light cams are, indeed, intentionally short-cycled to “maximize revenue.”)

  • credmond February 16, 2008 (5:49 pm)

    85 percent of individuals who are hit by a moving vehicle over 35 miles per hour are permanently injured or killed. That’s why there is a speed limit. Speeding vehicles maim or kill people. We live in a city with over 560,000 other individuals. I don’t think the streets of Seattle are the same as Route 2 or US 101. That is, they are streets where people, bicycles and vehicles share the road, not open highways. So I’m gathering from most of the comments posted here that most folks would just as soon nobody stopped their forward progress in a vehicle irrespective of any other consideration. That’s just plain selfish and that’s one of the problems with most folks who abuse their rights and break laws – they are selfish The red-light cameras and the speeding cameras will come. Continue to be selfish and it will cost you, as it should.

  • MSW February 16, 2008 (7:07 pm)

    Once the revenues starts rolling in and go into the general fund for our city government to spend, you will never get rid of these cameras. For those of you who think this is a good idea. You’ll change your mind one day when $124.00 ticket shows up in your mailbox. Don’t tell me you will gladly pay it because you broke the law and deserve it. That is such BS. You will be hacked off and wonder where you might have been ticketed. Then you will have the joy of trying to get the ticket reduced because $124.00 is a lot of money. Meanwhile the city is thrilled at the new revenue source and the private company maintaining the cameras will be happy because they get a percentage from the tickets issued. The losers are the drivers in this city who inadvertently run a red light or go over the speed limit. Welcome to Big Brother Seattle.

  • WSB February 16, 2008 (7:09 pm)

    Along those lines … wonder if there’s any place that has jaywalker cams …

  • Alki Res. February 16, 2008 (7:13 pm)

    I am sick of buses and semi-trucks going thru intersections knowing full well they won’t make it through before the light turns red. There large size just smacks “I will go where and when I want!!!”
    And how many times have you come up to an intersection, just as the light turns green, so you just step back on the gas. Then some idiot is still in the intersection!?!? BRAKE!

  • boatingbob February 16, 2008 (10:36 pm)

    Speeding cameras? I say right on! I live on Beach Drive, and we are terrorized by people who are using this road as their own personal Monaco Grand Prix. On one occasion, I was backing out of my driveway when someone came whipping around the corner so fast, he swerved to avoid me, lost control, and careened into garage door of the fellow across the street! Tuesday night, two of my friends were almost killed when their scooter was clipped by some a-hole blowing through a red light at 40-50mph (25mph zone, by the way).

    Speed limits are set for a reason. They are determined to be the safest speed that a driver can transit a given area and be able to react to likely hazards. It is the height of selfishness and arrogance of those who think they are such wonderful drivers, or their agenda is so important, that such inconveniences as speed limits shouldn’t apply to them. If you are so self-absorbed that you feel driving the speed limit in Seattle residential neighborhoods in in unacceptable imposition, please do us all a favour, paok up your s**t in your SUV, and move to Federal Way, or Redmond, or wherever. Communities work best when people behave in a manner that takes the welfare of their neighbours into consideration.

    I would take the idea of ‘speeder-cams’ one further. Let’s face it; cost of most speeding tickets is ‘chump change’. If we really want to make the streets safe, let’s really jack up the price of moving violations. People tend to sit up and take notice when the wallet gets involved. Lets start at $500 for a speeding ticket and go north from there, and if you’re 20mph over, you forfiet your car and do a week in the pokey. If you can’t stay within 5mph of the speed limit in a residential neighbourhood, you are simply not competent to drive. If you have a problem with this, I ask you: since when did your right to do whatever you want on the streets trump my right to a safe community, jerk?

  • carraig na splinkeen February 17, 2008 (7:23 am)

    Societal costs from the results of vehicular crashes are massive, and are far greater than said costs of congestion, which definitely gets more “air time.” The main factors contributing to veh. crashes are impaired drivers and speed.
    Speed limits are a result of street design (inc. width, site line), surroundings (e.g., residential area), and other factors. Speeding IS a big deal, really. And what most police will tell you is that in neighborhoods, those speeding the most are its residents, due to familiarity of surroundings.
    I have no problem going after a hugely damaging behavior that affects more than the driver, and assessing a penalty on it.

  • Julie February 17, 2008 (9:40 am)

    “Don’t tell me you will gladly pay it because you broke the law and deserve it.” MSW, I have in my life received two speeding tickets. I deserved both of them, and paid them gladly, without requesting that they be reduced.

    Those tickets reminded me to slow down; I’m grateful they did, and that I received the tickets before I hurt anyone–which would have been much worse than a ticket.

  • barmargia February 17, 2008 (9:49 am)

    If I’m speeding and I get caught and get a ticket I deserved it, I’m not going to complain because I got caught. So many people continuously complain about the speeders in their neighborhoods and how they hate it when someone is riding their *ss, and I agree I live on Admiral and it’s a pain to go the speed limit and then have someone that thinks since they want to speed you should also, but now that the city is thinking of doing something because the cops can’t be everywhere at once everyone (okay, not “everyone”) starts complaining that their rights and privacy are being violated. Your rights and privacy are not being violated because you got a ticket for speeding, or running a redlight or doing something that is obviously illegal, you got caught, suck it up and pay the fine, and maybe think twice about doing what it was the next time.

  • MSW February 17, 2008 (11:06 am)

    Julie and Barmargia,

    Can I ask you both a question? Would you mind it if the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department requires every household in the city to install a camera in the home for safety reasons because “police can’t be every where” and have an officer monitor these cameras to make sure that everyone is safe and no one is breaking the law? And can they also issue a fine if they do observe you breaking the law or doing something illegal in your home. How would you feel about that?

  • barmargia February 17, 2008 (11:50 am)

    MSW it sounds like you are p*ssed off about this because maybe you are going to be one of those people that gets the tickets from speeding and running red lights. Are you one of the people flying up Admiral hill or running the redlight when a pedestrian is trying to cross? I disagree with a lot of things the government does, but this is not one of them.

  • MSW February 17, 2008 (12:04 pm)

    Barmargia, I’ve only had 1 ticket in the last 5 years. And yes I got nail by a motorcycle cop on Admiral Way when I took time off from my work to attend my son’s afternoon school event. It’s not the speeding that I’m worried about. It’s the government intruding into our daily lives in the name of “Safety”. People in Seattle get upset when the Federal government wants to track and keep tabs on us, but yet, when it come to our local government, it’s O.K. because it’s for our safety. I don’t see the difference.

  • jen20 February 17, 2008 (12:09 pm)

    I am totally against these lights and I can honestly say I rarely go more the 5mph over the speed limit, and never in residential areas. I am not a perfect driver, but try to be a better one. I have not had a speeding ticket for 7 years. Any time I have run a red light it was purely an accident – going back to the fact that I am not a perfect person or driver. You can’t just say that people who are against this are the perpetrators. We are not – granted maybe some of us are, but I would bet that most of the people against these cameras are law abiding citizens. That is why we need to write Christine Gregoire and let her know not to sign this into law!

    I have heard of too many instances where people who didn’t do anything wrong got a ticket for running a red light. These cameras are unreliable and the fact that an independent 3rd party controls them scares me very much.

    The bottom line is THEY ARE A SCAM! Simply a source of revenue for the city. They cause accidents because of people slamming on their breaks to avoid running a light.

    It sounds like there are maybe 3-4 areas in West Seattle that have a problem with this. Beef up the patrol instead. I am definitely for higher fines too because hitting people’s pocket books is going to be far more effective than a questionable camera system.

  • Kayleigh February 17, 2008 (12:46 pm)

    There’s a difference between the FBI wanting to unique print of the iris of our eyes in order to track random innocent people in what must be an Orwellian maneuver— and the police issuing speeding ticket, for heaven’s sake.

    I was hurt in a car accident by someone who was speeding and not paying attention. My neck has never been the same. Don’t expect me to cry a river for the speeders.

  • Jill February 17, 2008 (1:45 pm)

    Coming from the “good idea” side, there have been some sensible arguments against the cams that as I said earlier have been helpful. But every big brother cry here so far has seemed to be an emotional response with no useful data to back it up. Is there anything about this argument in this particular case to take seriously? Or are we diminishing the cases in which it truly applies.

  • Jill February 17, 2008 (3:51 pm)

    Yikes, funky sentence construction! I mean that I’m coming from the “good idea” side, but have found some of the opposing arguments to be sensible. duh.

  • MSW February 17, 2008 (4:30 pm)

    If you think this isn’t about raising more revenue, then read this:

    Arizona Speed Cameras Expect $165 Million Annual Revenue

  • credmond February 17, 2008 (4:56 pm)

    A third party installs the cameras and maintains them. SPD review the images and verify that a legitimate violation has occurred. The registered owner of the vehicle running the red light is issued a ticket and fined. You can take the matter to traffic court, but if you are the owner of the car and the judge concurs the image shows it was running a red light, you don’t have much of a chance of getting off. Even if you weren’t driving! So, if you loan your car to people who regularly run red lights, then this is one way for you to get the message that it’s not okay. Okay? And if you’re the one doing the red-light running, same message – it’s NOT okay.

    They’ve had this in DC for long enough to show that it does, indeed, make the city money, and it also reduces the number of red-light runners. Accident rate data is still insufficient to determine if it actually serves an even greater good – reducing accidents.

  • miws February 17, 2008 (5:59 pm)

    Instead of arguing the point further, since my thoughts have been pretty much expressed by others above, I have a question for those against the cams.


    What is your solution? I won’t accept “hire more cops”, because any cops we hire, will be needed for truly more important stuff, And even if the force was up to the level it should be, they should still be concentrating on that. I realize, and very much agree that speeding and red light running are important as well, and need to be seriously addressed.


    Another plan I won’t accept is a driving test. Driving tests should only be needed for obtaining a first WDL, or if needed when a driver has had medical issues and such, that could impair their actual ability to safely drive a car.


    In my opinion, most red light runners and speeders know exactly what they are doing, and it isn’t “just an accident”. Of course there are occasions when it is as wiith the above poster, but I have a hunch the drivers are thinking “me first” and most likely reapeatedly do it. During a drivers test, they would probably turn into perfectly good driveres with hands at ten and two as long as there is an insrtuctor in the seat next to them.


    I’d love to be a fly on the dash of someones car (as long as they didn’t squish me!) and see if that driver repeatedly runs red lghts.



  • Tom February 17, 2008 (9:04 pm)

    Driving is a privelege-not a right.

  • Diana February 17, 2008 (9:18 pm)

    To boatingbob on Beach Drive I applaud you! I’ve always thought a $500 fine was in the appropriate range. As a resident of the Admiral Speedway (the longest freeway ramp in Seattle) I hope we get one of the first arterial cameras and I will lobby for it. Speeding is a choice. Suffer the consequences when you make the wrong choice.

  • CMP February 18, 2008 (8:01 am)

    I’m with MSW on this one! I do my fair share of speeding on the freeways, but will not run red lights or drive more than 5 mph over the posted speed limit on residential streets, especially Admiral, as painful as that is for me. And I am all for retesting on the written and driving tests to renew your license. Some people just really shouldn’t be driving. Just b/c they passed a test at age 16 and are now 75 doesn’t mean they’re competent.

  • barmargia February 18, 2008 (8:15 am)

    CMP, so speeding on the highway is okay? Is your defense if you get pulled over “but I don’t run red lights or go more than 5 mph over the speed LIMIT on residential streets”?

  • dksmith February 18, 2008 (12:03 pm)

    “Beef up the patrol instead.”

    Who’s going to pay for that? And frankly, I want those extra officers working on all the home break-in’s in West Seattle or taking the time to build a case against kids that throw rocks at speeding cars.

    No more “I’m a victim” postings about these cameras please.

  • CMP February 18, 2008 (12:46 pm)

    If I am ever stupid enough to get caught speeding, then I deserve it and will not make up any excuses for it. If there’s opportunity to drive fast on the freeway, I take it since it happens so rarely. Unlike a lot of people out there, I actually pay attention to what is going on in front of me, behind me and to my right and left while driving, which includes looking for cops. Some of us (sadly, not many) are fully capable of driving well over the speed limit and be safe about it, believe it or not. My clean driving record proves it.

  • m February 18, 2008 (12:58 pm)

    I think most people run redlights on accident and are not repeat offenders on purpose (unless they are not capable of paying attention to the road at all, which is frightening).

    Also, I’m not a research genius, but my gut tells me that the Autobahn is safer to travel on than Seattle streets. Why? Because people in Europe pay attention and know how to drive, unlike the bulk of the population here. Everyone should have to retake the driving test every 4 years to refresh their memories and ensure our roads are safe. I bet half the people taking it wouldn’t pass, so congestion would improve, the state would make revenue from testing fees collected, and the best drivers would be on the road. Problems solved.

  • jai February 19, 2008 (11:17 am)

    “85 percent of individuals who are hit by a moving vehicle over 35 miles per hour are permanently injured or killed. That’s why there is a speed limit.”

    I love statistics like this. Maybe we should ban moving vehicles altogether? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Maybe we should ban red meat.

  • Cary CHGO February 23, 2008 (9:25 pm)

    What about getting flashed for turning legally on Red when it’s clear to do so, they didn’t put that into the camera’s ‘brain’ Let’s face it this is only the beginning, It’s Enemy Of The State. Visit this website and you’ll have a fighting chance no tickets ever!

Sorry, comment time is over.