The emergence of technology in our lives certainly poses some big brother questions. I often wonder why Gmail is constantly trying to get me to buy pregnancy tests and what I said on Facebook that makes it think I want to join Weight Watchers. Does Facebook know my weight? Does Google track my doctor’s appointments and CVS purchases, beyond just reading my email? What else do they know about me? It definitely feels a little too invasive at times.
Having said that, there is no question in my mind when safety trumps privacy. Turns out, the results of a new study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an example of one of the times when safety always gets my vote. According to the study, the emergence of red light cameras in major intersections in 14 cities resulted in 24 percent fewer fatalities over the last five years. If I understand what I read correctly, 159 fewer people died because technology does impact our behavior and, in this case, for the better. I admit, I am more likely to slow down at a yellow light when I know there is a red light camera in the intersection. No one is ever thinking about fatal crashes, we are all just rushing to get to our destination, and sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that one light will get us there faster; except when we know we could pay the price later when the ticket arrives in the mail.
IIHS' study also reveals that not only was there a 24 percent drop in fatalities in intersections where the red light cameras were present, but if red light cameras had been installed in every major intersection in big cities nationwide, 815 lives could have been saved. So why in the world aren't there red light cameras everywhere? I am certain that the families of those 815 lost lives are wondering the same thing.
It turns out a very loud and powerful opposition to red light cameras are privacy advocates. Let me get this straight - there are presumably rational people out there, some perhaps even moms and dads with children, who think that it is more important that they not get ticketed for breaking the law than another 815 lives saved? Because they are philosophically opposed to the camera catching them breaking the law instead of a police officer? Because it's more important for police officers to be ticketing red light runners than deployed into crime-ridden neighborhoods?
I'm having trouble following this argument. In fact, I find it appalling. Adding fuel to my fire is the IIHS evidence that the people who run the red lights are commonly intoxicated drivers or people who already have a record of speeding. Isn't ticketing these people exactly what they deserve? We punish our kids for breaking the rules, why don't we want those who break the law and jeopardize the safety of others on the road, ticketed? Big brother isn't photographing what we're doing in our car; the police are simply taking a picture of our license plate if we break the law.
The IIHS study also reveals that among the fatalities due to red light runners, those running the red lights are almost never fatally injured, it's the innocent person behind the wheel, riding their bike or crossing the road, who gets injured or killed. So further adding to my confusion over the "logic" of the privacy advocates: let's protect the law breakers so they can kill more innocent people AND not ticket them.
Are you as confused as me? I bet you are.
As a law-abiding citizen, as a mother of a 2-year old son, as a person who believes in our right to freedom, I think there should be red light cameras in every major intersection nationwide. If there is technology out there that can help change behavior and keep my son safe in the car, then by all means, distribute it throughout my town. We should all be working together to keep each other safe on the roads so that not one more family has to suffer an unnecessary and heart-breaking loss.
Now I wonder if my Gmail ads are going to change to privacy concerns instead of pregnancy tests......
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