The cameras! They’re everywhere!
There are a lot of misconceptions about traffic cameras, their purpose, their use, and why they are in so many areas now. Many people understandably believe that traffic cameras are part of a sinister conspiracy to spy on Americans. With recent revelations of NSA spying and the sudden, exponential growth of the surveillance state and surveillance industry, this is a valid concern.
When an intersection near my apartment was improved, my neighbors freaked out because of the traffic cameras being installed. Since they knew I was in school majoring in Civil Engineering, they wanted me to fight this horrible travesty! Now!!! But before the improvements, I had witnessed no less than three pedestrians get hit by cars at that intersection. The sound of a car slamming into a person and the sight of someone lying on the pavement right outside my living room window, and then me having to call 911, not one but three times, is something I won't soon forget. Since the intersection was improved, the crosswalk carnage has stopped. No pedestrians have been hit there since the improvements, and a big part of that is better, smarter traffic flow because of traffic cameras.
In reality, traffic cameras and related systems are recommended and designed by well-meaning engineers who are simply using the best, cheapest, and newest technology available to monitor dangerous intersections and reduce fatalities, injuries, and damage, as well as increasing the capacity and flow of existing roads for much less than the cost of adding lanes or other physical infrastructure improvements.
In English, this means that traffic cameras are used for the primary purpose of making intersections safer and reducing traffic gridlock. While any technology can be abused, traffic cameras are not meant to be an extension of the all-seeing eye of Big Brother. Traffic cameras are a new technology that works better and is cheaper than existing technology. New, cheap, and better are not a combination one encounters often in civil engineering, hence the rapid expansion of traffic cameras.
Traffic cameras keep you safer on the way to work and help keep you from getting stuck in traffic jams, and make it safer for your kids to cross the street. And most of them aren't high res enough to see your license plate number. These cameras are built to count cars and trucks, not to catch you speeding and fine you big bucks.
Let me start below the orange cloverleaf interchange by debunking many of the myths and fears about traffic cameras.