Friday, March 30, 2007

Driving a taxi from the grave

Today a fellow driver, Carey, told me he was worried about getting a ticket from one of the few red light cameras in San Diego. He drove through an intersection recently, and the camera's flash bulb went off.

He has good reason to worry, since it's the camera at Hawthorne and Grape, close to the airport. We all have to run the gauntlet making the turn onto Grape. It's so predatory that if the green arrow is lit when you cross the line, entering the intersection, but turns yellow just after, you cannot make it out without the flash bulb going off. During the day you never know if you've been photographed, but at night the intersection looks like paparazzi.

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The despised red light camera at Grape and Hawthorne

We hate it and curse the city. There is absolutely no chance the camera is there for anything other than sucking cash from ordinary citizens. Interestingly, the first time San Diego put up red light cams, the city was sued and found guilty of putting up the cameras just to make money, not for the stated purpose of reducing accidents. All 290 tickets issued by that first set of cameras were thrown out. More info here.

The cameras disappeared for a few years, but they came back. There's no stopping government from taking money from us, is there?

Carey was sufficiently worried that he called the cab company owner, who said not to worry about it. I don't know, maybe the camera misses a lot of them. The owner would be in a position to know that. But Carey had another theory, which I found amusing.

"Why not just put the ticket on Donnie?" Donnie was an older driver who had a stroke several months ago, and died about one month ago. I met him once, but since he was a morning driver I hadn't seen him in over a year.

The owner of the cab company, according to the worried driver, could tell the city Donnie was driving. No matter how hard I tried to demolish this theory, I couldn't.

The camera gets the front of the car, including the license plate and the driver. The city must issue a ticket based on the plate number, and then mail it to the car's owner, who is the owner of the cab company. The city isn't sophisticated enough to do a facial recognition search -- they don't know who was driving.

The camera also has the ability to photograph the rear of vehicles, but that rules out the face altogether.

Carey isn't going to ask the owner, and I wouldn't do that either. If this is what's happening, we could inadvertently stop the practice just by inquiring. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

We immediately set about telling morbid jokes, of course, like "Donnie is more of a company man now than when he was alive" and "Donnie's a team player even from the grave."

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