If you spend any time at all driving in Cheyenne, it came as no surprise when a tragedy occurred last week in Cheyenne. It was both predictable and preventable. A Cheyenne woman was killed when another driver refused to stop for a red light and broadsided her car. Red lights should prevent this kind of tragedy. But the assumption we make that others will stop for them is one we make in Cheyenne at our own risk.
Each day we all experience drivers failing to stop for red lights at intersections throughout town. There is no more dangerous violation of traffic law than to run a red light. The report of last week’s death said the victim was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center where doctors attempted to save her life. The time to save her life came when that traffic light turned yellow.
The Cheyenne Police Department should re-double their efforts to ticket any drivers who believe the red light doesn’t apply to them. Few acts are so selfish as to run a red light. Apparently the drivers believe their time is more important than the lives of anyone who might be driving from the other side of the intersection. Truthfully, many more times than not, the offender gets away with it. No accident. No ticket. But on too many occasions someone is seriously injured or dies.
In 24 other states and more than 660 communities, lawmakers have given the police the tools they need. There are not enough policemen to cover every intersection. Those who believe the right to be safe is worth protecting have allowed for the installation of red light cameras at key intersections. The cameras record the license plate number of any selfish motorist who can’t be bothered to stop for the red light. A few days later, the driver gets a letter with a picture of their violation and a ticket. Fines have a way of changing behaviors.
Of course, you can hear it now. “That’s Big Brother.” Some would prefer the cat and mouse game. Maybe they will get caught, likely they won’t. It’s awful when someone gets hurt and dies, “But hey,” they say, “”I don’t want a government camera taking my picture.” They shout it’s unconstitutional, that it invades privacy. Their complaints are as selfish as their driving habits. Bemoaning what they call the intrusion of “Big Brother” or falsely citing mechanical failures in the cameras sound a lot like those who tried to avoid stronger DUI laws.
How it can be “Big Brother” when a camera witnesses dangerous behavior but not when a policeman witnesses the offense? But, it was just those empty arguments that persuaded Wyoming legislators to protect the “rights” of drivers to run red lights over the rights of innocent victims to live.
Are the cameras effective? Do they save lives? Absolutely yes. The Federal Highway Administration has found cameras reduce red-light violations and T-bone crashes, the most common and dangerous collisions at intersections.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the devices reduced the rate of fatal crashes due to red-light violations by 24 percent. "The research is conclusive that they make intersections safer," Jackie Gillan, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told National Public Radio. "If you run a red light and put somebody in danger, I think a ticket is a small price to pay."
Wyoming people seem comfortable with the idea that they should be able to live their lives as they want, unfettered by government. But they generally draw the line when someone’s behavior endangers others. Running red lights endangers you, your spouse, your children. Your legislators should draw the line and care more about that than they do about some phony political argument implicating buzz words like “Big Brother.”
My guess is the family and friends who buried their loved one last week would’ve liked her to have had a big brother.