Red Light Webcams = Big Money Bake Sale for Local Police Departments

The South Carolina legislature has under consideration a bill to allow internet webcams to issue tickets to motorists. The way I understand it, motion triggered webcams will be mounted at busy intersections, automatically issuing tickets and dropping them in the mail. Huh?

As I am quite experienced with the motion sensor that controls the light at the corner of my house, I can just imagine how this will turn out. Any vehicle with a roof mounted car flag, a Labrador Retriever's wagging tongue, or a hand waving five year old stopped at a red light can expect to have its picture taken by the automated system. The computer will then scan the picture for a license plate number, look up the registered owner's address in its database, print out a ticket, use its metal tongue to lick a stamp, and then mail the bill for up to $100 to the registered owner of the vehicle, who may have been home watching Judge Judy during the entire process. Won't he be surprised?!?

I can only guess that Red Light webcams sound like great money makers for local police departments. Every week these devices will issue thousands of dollars worth of tickets at the busiest intersections before the local constabulary have even left their desks. To cash strapped police departments, webcams are genius!

Since the tickets bear a maximum fine of just $100, a lot of people will pay the fine just to avoid trying to find parking at the courthouse. Others will pay rather than fight when they realize that their opponent, a Brownie Hawkeye camera equipped with an Ethernet jack will only be able to testify in binary protocol (the language of moisture evaporators, I've been told.)

If this measure is approved by the legislature, police departments across the state will be automatically issuing tickets all the while hoping that most people will, like good citizens, pay the fine rather than attempting to cross examine the Commodore 64 that has become the police department's newest officer and biggest moneymaker.

Me? I think I'll opt out of the system altogether. Anyone have a cardboard dealer tag I can borrow?

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.