Technology Doesn’t Discriminate: 44 Years of A Clean Driving Record

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Getting Caught by Internet-Enabled Traffic Cameras – No discrimination with technology.

The transportation industry, specifically, the departments of transportation, has embraced technologies to potentially assist motorists, keep roads safe, mitigate risks, and employ efficiencies. As motorists, we benefit the use of technology as we try to get from Point A to Point B.

  1. We leverage our news reporters’ updates about traffic conditions since they are able to view traffic from strategically placed cameras.
  2. We may use a traffic app to obtain near real-time navigation tips and warnings about red-light cameras (or speed traps).
  3. Our mobile devices may have a map app to also assist with navigation.

From everything I’ve read, the jury is still out on the safety benefits surrounding the Red-Light Camera Program.  For instance, there are studies illustrating that installed traffic or speed cameras influence motorists’ behaviors and contribute to safety benefits (Phys.org, 2020). In contrast, there are other studies that illustrate that the traffic cameras do not improve safety (National Motorists Association, 2021). According to Montana State University’s (2020) research, there are 23 states within the United States of America and Washington, DC that uses a red-light camera program; however, Montana banned the use of the red-light camera nearly 12 years ago. What are your thoughts?

Simply put, traffic cameras are video cameras; and these cameras observe vehicular traffic on the roads. I am specifically using the term “vehicular” because some people believe that these cameras are observing and tracking them. How technology is used to observe people is a different topic worth discussing at another time.

Where I’ve resided, many of the local Departments of Transportation participated in the Red-Light Program. Most of them expanded the use of these traffic cameras beyond the traditional locations: major highways, freeways, expressways, arterial roads, tunnels, and intersections. As you may have noticed, traffic cameras are now in many of our neighborhoods to monitor residential and other local roads. When the traffic cameras transitioned to our neighborhoods, eyebrows and suspicions rose because there were concerns surrounding how the cameras may invade our privacy or how the cameras may be used to solve crimes.

One may wonder: Are these cameras recording or streaming in real-time? The answer is ‘yes!’…the traffic cameras are recording and streaming in real-time because there are variations of the traffic cameras. Also, many of those cameras are monitored by Earthlings 24×7 to dispatch assistance to motorists when needed (e.g., accident, road safety issues, and other road-related incidents). Some department of transportation has adopted artificial intelligence (AI) to help with adapting to traffic and learn from traffic lights (Time, 2019). The next time you are outside, you may discover cameras are on street light poles, traffic lights, buildings, telecommunication towers, and other structures. 

So, why am I sharing this with you?  I am sharing this with you to:

  1. Increase awareness about the use of technology that help many of us get around town.
  2. Inform you that there is ‘another set of eyes’ surveilling us (even if it’s cyberly (cyber+virtually)).
  3. Tell you a story that ties to the title of this post. 
  4. Empower you to consider cyber security and technology career opportunities. Have you looked at your Department of Transportation or Traffic Management Center for a cyber or technology job lately? 

Now for the story…

On 6 December 2020, a 60-year-old gentleman and his grandson decided to have lunch together. Since this was a new lunch spot for the both of them, they decided to follow one another in their own vehicles because the grandson had other plans after lunch. As they followed each other, they arrived at the major intersection where there was a 3-position traffic light. 

Normally, the gentleman stops when the light turns amber; however, he was following his grandson. The grandson accelerated to make the left turn while the traffic light was amber; and then straight into the restaurant’s parking lot.  The gentleman threw caution to the wind  and also accelerated to keep up to make the light. While in intersection, the gentleman noticed that the traffic light turned red.

The gentleman safely made it through the intersection and also parked to met up with his grandson. They enjoyed the lunch and time together.  Before parting ways, the two made plans for their January 2021 lunch date. 

Approximately, two weeks later, the gentleman received a notice in the mail with a $150.00 fine for the traffic violation. He was perplexed because he didn’t have any encounters with a police officer yet he saw his license plate number as well as vehicle on the notice. He called the number on this notice to get a better understanding. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles representative explained that the red-light traffic camera was triggered as his vehicle went through the red light.

After getting his questions answered, I was contacted to provide further explanation the concept of “how technology replaced the flashing lights of police officer (in this situation)“. Unfortunately, this is how the gentleman was introduced to the advancement of technology, demonstrated how technology impacted his life, and learned that technology doesn’t discriminate (e.g., age or gender). Up until that day, the gentleman was proud of his clear driving record — 44 years without a traffic violation.

Technology has replaced the flashing lights of police officer when motorists run red-lights. Therefore, it’s difficult to view the technology enabled-red-light traffic cameras profiling motorist by age, race, or gender. The traffic cameras are programmed to capture an action (e.g., the timing of the vehicle’s tires touching a line/section of the road or the vehicle itself crossing a specific area).

– Dr. Bonita Best

In closing, remember when the 3-position traffic signal turns amber (yellow), it’s a warning to motorists that red signal is about to appear. When motorists see the amber light, the motorist should “Stop” if you can safely do so or “Go” if it is safe to do so. Either way, as motorists, we are responsible for knowing and adhering to the jurisdiction’s driving and traffic signal rules. Remain safe on the roads and look out for one another. 

References:

National Motorists Association (2021). Red-Light camera studies. Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://www.motorists.org/issues/red-light-cameras/studies/

Montana State University (2020 November 23). MSU economist publishes research on traffic camera effectiveness. Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://www.montana.edu/news/20638/msu-economist-publishes-research-on-traffic-camera-effectiveness

Phys.org (2020 November 24). Economist publishes research on traffic camera effectiveness. Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-economist-publishes-traffic-camera-effectiveness.html

Time (2019 January 19). Want to fix traffic? Try smarter signal lights. Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://time.com/5502192/smart-traffic-lights-ai/

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