More and more places around the country are installing cameras that take pictures of motorists who run red lights. The owner of the vehicle is then sent a summons and forced to pay a fine. Running red lights has caused untold number of accidents, injuries and fatalities throughout the country and ways should be pursued to stop the carnage. Unfortunately, the motivation for the red light cameras is merely to try and raise more money for government programs.

Proponents for the new kind of “red light tax” describe how awful red light violations are and sometimes have family members of those killed in accidents come and speak at public events to promote the new technology. However, they cannot resist adding that there is much revenue to be made from these cameras as well. One must question the true motivation of these politicians.

Recently, in Suffolk County, New York, County Executive Steve Levy announced his new budget for the next fiscal year. According to his plan, the new budget relies on a certain dollar amount that will be generated from the new cameras recently installed throughout the county. Some critics have said that Mr. Levy has overestimated the amount that will be generated.  It is immediately apparent that if Mr. Levy’s projections fall short, then the County will not have enough money to pay the bills. In other words, the County of Suffolk is planning and hoping that there will be plenty of red light violators next year so that the bills can be paid.

I find it troubling that a politician will condemn a particular act such as red light violations and proclaim the importance of ending such behavior while at the same time, rely on continued and perhaps increased violations as a means to pay the bills and balance the budget. Call it a conflict of interest.

So it goes with alcohol and cigarettes as well. Big Government spends Big Bucks on educating the masses on the dangers of these vices but at the same time, hopes for the continued use and abuse of them in order to reap the tax revenues.

My question is – what will you do if these red light cameras work and red light violations are greatly reduced? Literally millions of dollars have been spent on these cameras and what will you do if nobody runs red lights anymore? Now, not only is your budget not balanced, but you (we) are also out the millions that were spent on the cameras in the first place. Similarly, what will Big Government do if people heed the advice and stop smoking and drinking? These cash cows cannot be let go!

In addition, there are the legal aspects of the red light cameras as well. A former judge from Nassau County New York filed a lawsuit against the use of the cameras since it violates the legal principle of being able to face your accuser. You cannot cross examine a camera that has accused you of violating a law. Not surprisingly, the lawsuit was dismissed on the basis that a red light violation is not a criminal charge, it is merely a civil penalty that is charged to the registered owner of the car. In other words, stop making trouble and just pay the tax, er.. fine.

And for the sake of the financial future of the government, please continue to run red lights and encourage others to do it as well – we need the money!