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Published: Thursday, 8/27/2009

'Stop' on camera issue

THE local group called We Demand a Vote got the fate it deserved this week when Gerry Dendinger, clerk of Toledo City Council, threw out its attempt to force a popular vote on the city's use of red-light cameras.

If law-abiding Toledoans are lucky, its expected appeal will fail and the group, which acts as if reckless driving is a cherished civil right, will have to hit the brakes for good.

It's not surprising that 8,500 people were willing to sign the petition to amend the city charter to ban cameras used to ticket people who run or speed through red lights. The cameras typically catch many more than 8,500 scofflaws each year, some of whom would love nothing better than to be able to blow off traffic signals without penalty.

Nor is it surprising that this hare-brained idea originated with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, a group founded by Cincinnati's former anti-everything, state Rep. Tom Brinkman.

Of course, proponents of the charter amendment don't say that what they want is the right to break the law with impunity. Instead, they cloak their effort in defense of civil liberties. But the right to ignore the law when nobody's watching isn't enshrined in any of the nation's or state's founding documents. Here's the only salient fact: Red-light cameras work.

Nationally, red-light violations cause more than 90,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths each year. In fact, these infractions are responsible for more injuries and deaths than any other type of intersection accident.

Study after study has shown that the presence of cameras reduces dangerous T-bone accidents that are the typical result of red-light infractions. In Toledo, a police study found that accidents at intersections with cameras declined by nearly 21 percent in the four years after the cameras were installed compared to the preceding four years.

And collections from fines this year through June are well below projections - bad for the city's budget deficit but balanced by a positive indication that people are getting the message and driving more carefully.

That's a success story, not an attack on civil liberties. Toledoans shouldn't demand a vote, they should demand an end to counterproductive fiddling with the city charter.

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