- (Photo: Popular Science)
A story earlier this week highlighted multiple dimensions of justice and automated traffic enforcement and issues of pedestrian safety. A woman received a $150 ticket from the police department that accused her of running a red light. She pointed to video of the incident and insisted that she had, in fact, stopped.
And it's true. The woman did stop. But a red light camera captured the incident and showed that she stopped in the crosswalk — a bad behavior that intrudes on pedestrian space and could, potentially, threaten pedestrian safety.
Many people reacted with fervor in favor of pedestrian rights. Should the woman get a $150 ticket for stopping in the crosswalk? Absolutely, many of you said. She's in the wrong and that's the pedestrian's space. I agree that protecting the crosswalk is important. I don't, however, believe $150 is an appropriate fine — it's punitively high and while it makes sense for running a red light, I don't believe it's at all fair or equivalent to the violation of stopping in the crosswalk. Perhaps a fine of $10 to $50 would be more in line with the crime while still providing an incentive for drivers to act more cautiously.
Red light cameras are a very 21st-century way of increasing traffic safety, and as the discussion about pedestrian safety expanded, I found myself turning back to a May 1932 issue of Popular Science to refresh myself on when our culture first turned to these pedestrian dangers. You know how many pedestrians were struck by cars in 1931? Automobiles ran down more than 310,000 people and more than 14,000 died. Cars killed more than 34,000 people total in that year, according to the author.