May 12, 2009

On License Plate Paint and Red Light Cameras

I utterly despise on civil liberty grounds those red-light and speeding cameras that states and municipalities install to fleece motorists out of even more revenue. At the same time, I have not seriously entertained the thought of tampering with my license plate to reduce the likelihood that I will receive one of these expensive automated tickets.

Full disclosure: I received a red-light violation about five years ago, but they sent the ticket to my wife since that particular vehicle was in her name. In a spirit of chivalry, I should have insisted that the court reissue the ticket in my name, but since her record was spotless, it made better financial sense to keep the ticket in her name and prevent our auto insurance from rising (I had a speeding ticket at the time, and we worried that a second ticket might trigger a premium hike).

On Sunday we pulled up behind a vehicle whose plate is in the accompanying image, and I could tell that some sort of photo-blocking paint had been applied. In the evening light the plate's letters were visible, while the numbers were obscured. However, when my flash hit the plate, the letters became obscured and the numbers lit up.

The civil libertine that lurks within me applauds such efforts to keep the state at bay, though I suspect that a sharp-eyed and bored police officer might issue a citation some day for tampering with a license plate. I find that those blasted red-light cameras make motorists paranoid, and that people lock up their brakes too quickly rather than avoid getting a ticket. The net result, according to numerous studies on red-light cameras, is that rear-end collisions actually increase as a result of these devices.

What most surprises me is that angry citizens have not vandalized red-light and speeding cameras more frequently. While I do not advocate violence against the state (and certainly not on a public forum), I would think that this would be a more frequent occurrence. Someone in Tuscon took more of a civil disobedience approach, simply re-aiming the cameras instead of smashing or spray-painting them.

Hey man: people gots to do what they gots to do in the face of state tyranny, even when the affront to liberty is an automated camera.


Hooda Thunkit said...


Inside your chest beats the heart of a rebel ;-)

LTLOP said...

While perusing the net one evening I saw a web page where the person had attached a 12v infra red led to the bill of a cap and it competely obscured the face on a cctv camera. Now I aint saying, I'm just saying, put a couple around your license plate and you should be invisible.

historymike said...


I used to tell curious students who asked me about my political persuasion that I was still trying to figure out if I was a libertarian or an anarchist. Then a student pointed out that I could combine the two and become a libertarian anarchist, and my head started swimming, so now I just say that I am a political independent.

historymike said...


Whatever works. Who am I to judge?


Mad Jack said...

That's right, Mike. Get me all spun up before I've had my morning whiskey.

An intersection that most people are familiar with is Secor and Monroe. If you're Northbound on Secor and want to make a left on to Monroe, you are given a 15 second (approximate time) green arrow, meaning that if all drivers are awake and not banging their chops on a cell phone, picking their nose or screwing around with the five kids they are hauling, there might be time for three cars to get through the light. So after sweating through a three light wait in the August heat, you finally get a chance to make your left hand turn - and WTF! Some inconsiderate piece of cat barf is still in the intersection - and he's followed by three more oxygen thieves who tailgate him from Westbound Monroe to Southbound Secor road.

Red light cameras put a stop to these shenanigans, and for that reason alone I'm sorely tempted to support them.

Now, if there were some alternative to the red light camera, I'd be all for it.