LETTER: Resident Responds to State Senator’s Op-ed on Automated Traffic Enforcement

Print More

{The following is a response to an Op-ed written by State Sen. Will Brownsberger that was published on Watertown News on March 19, 2018. Read the Op-ed here.}

As someone who works with technology on a daily basis, I appreciate Brownsberger’s effort to convince us that cameras and computer programs can help us. But his message confuses me.

He hints that municipalities would use this tool transparently and conservatively, yet also tells us that this method will be a lucrative way of securing revenue from citizenry; the machines will “easily pay for themselves”.

He further perplexes us when in one line he says the barriers are “not technological” but then admits “no currently [sic] mechanism” that can ascertain the actual perpetrator. How do you circle that square?  A mechanism is, well, technology, so he would have us believe that the technology works but actually doesn’t.  

Further, he claims that such a fallible & lucractive technology will save lives but offers no proof.  Speed limit laws exist to save lives but it’s worth noting that deaths by vehicle have been downward trending for decades–without cameras.  For more on that and other misunderstandings about our safety in the modern world, check out Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now (and his previous: The Better Nature of Our Angels).

Finally, he asserts that our privacy would be safe and that this wouldn’t be government overreach. I’m just curious how he plans to guarantee that. Given that government agents overreach in their data-collection for all sorts of questionable mining and uses (here’s looking at you, NSA), I’m not ressaured.

Additionally, they will inevitably enlist a third-party vendor who only provides services but maintains proprietary rights over the software and data derived from it. His words do less to reassure me and more to make me skeptical about his actual understanding of the issues.

Maybe because I’m watching the Cambridge Analytica case spin out or am woefully aware of so many personal data violations of government and tech companies that claiming we are doing better by going with machines when we know the current system works quite effectively, seems misinformed at best and intentionally misleading were I to think less of our government representatives.

Lance Eaton
Watertown Resident

OP-ED: Are We Ready for Automated Traffic Enforcement?

8 thoughts on “LETTER: Resident Responds to State Senator’s Op-ed on Automated Traffic Enforcement

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful, well articulated letter Lance. I agree with your assessment and am concerned about technological overreach regarding revenue enhancement, invasion of citizen privacy and data mining, and the loss of law enforcement discretion regarding public safety issues.

  2. Wow, I think Lance just convinced me that this is a bad idea I was on the fence, but have jumped to the side of “NO”.

  3. I have also tipped over to the “No” side. Too many possible negative consequences. But I am concerned about speeding and reckless driving in densely populated areas like my neighborhood in the East End. We need more human enforcement.

    • While I understand it is a concern, it’s one of those concerns that not nearly as threatening as we think. In 2017, there were 6,000 deaths in the US of pedestrians by cars. That sounds like a lot, until you realize, that’s out of 310,000,000. That means the average person has a .001% chance of getting hit. To put it another way, you have a 1 in 100,000 chance of being killed by a car each year. Those are damn impressive odds (and US is not even in the top 5 states of vehicular deaths).

      • Lance, you point out that the the average American has a 1 in 100,000 chance of being killed by a car as a pedestrian. But most Americans don’t walk; they use their cars for even short trips. Walking is not a dominant mode of travel anymore in this country. For those of us who spend considerable time as pedestrians or on a bicycle, I am sure we have much higher chances of being killed. Higher than I am comfortable with.

        Part of the reason for the decline in fatalities is a decline in time spent walking as a way to get somewhere. Part of it is also the fact that emergency medicine has gotten so much better.

      • https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812375 – In 2015 there were 5,376 pedestrians killed…and an estimated 70,000 injured…in traffic crashes in the United States…The 5,376 pedestrian fatalities in 2015 were a 9.5-percent increase from 4,910 pedestrian fatalities in 2014. https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2018-03/pedestrians_18.pdf – In recent years, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States has grown substantially faster than all other traffic deaths. The number of pedestrian fatalities increased 27 percent from 2007 to 2016…The number of states with pedestrian fatality rates at or above 2.0 per 100,000 population has more than doubled, from seven in 2014 to 15 in 2016. From 2015 to 2016, pedestrian fatalities in the nation’s ten largest cities increased 28 percent (153 additional fatalities)…GHSA estimates the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide in 2017 was 5,984, a decrease of less than one half of one percent — essentially unchanged from 2016. This means that nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 and 2017. It has been more than 25 years since the U.S. experienced this level of pedestrian fatalities. Because both 2015 and 2016 saw large increases in pedestrian fatalities, the continuation of pedestrian fatalities at virtually the same pace in 2017 raises continued concerns about the nation’s alarming pedestrian death toll…Although the number of pedestrian fatalities has fluctuated within a relatively narrow range over the past ten years (4,699 in 2007 to 5,987 in 2016), with no consistent pattern of annual increases or decreases, they accounted for a steadily increasing percentage of total traffic deaths. https://www.curbed.com/2018/3/1/17064814/walking-pedestrian-safety-traffic-deaths – Another study has confirmed that U.S. streets are not getting safer for pedestrians. A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that the number of walkers killed on roadways hit a 33-year high in 2017, even as all other kinds of traffic deaths decreased…“Despite the apparent leveling off of pedestrian fatalities, 2017 is still on par to become the second consecutive year with nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths,” according to Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, who authored the report. “The last time the U.S. saw more than 6,000 pedestrian deaths was 1990.”…The study also looks at 10-year trends, which show other troubling statistics. The number of walkers killed on U.S. streets have increased by 27 percent since 2007…After decades of decline, traffic deaths had begun to creep up over the last few years. What this study and others like it show is that while cars are getting safer for drivers and passengers, streets are getting more dangerous for walkers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *