This week, I got a call from a friend who had a run-in with red light cameras. Or at least, a computer in Washington, D.C., thought he did.
He hasn’t been in our nation’s capital in years, so when Flagler Beach resident Eric Jordan got a letter last week from Washington informing him that his car had been caught on camera running a red light there, and that he owed $200, he was not pleased.
“This is actually the second notice,” he said. “I didn’t get the first notice.”
He visited the website as directed in the paperwork and found a picture of a white car that he does not own, bearing a license plate that he did not recognize from any car he has owned in the past. According to the letter, the car had run a red light Feb. 26.
On one hand, it was so obviously a mistake that it was comical. And when he called the police in Washington, they were sympathetic, finding humor in the apparent glitch. But they said they were not able to gather information for him because of privacy concerns.
On the other hand, he was nervous. What if some criminal had stolen his identity and purposely registered a car in his name, to avoid being tracked by the police?
He was told that his appeal would be considered within six months. In the meantime, he has checked his credit cards and found nothing suspicious.
The glitch, though, is proof of one thing in Jordan’s mind: The red light camera system, whether in Washington, D.C., or in Palm Coast, is fundamentally unfair.
“Now, I’ve got to take time out of my day and prove my innocence,” he said. “Who’s going to pay me for my time? If I have to travel to Washington, who’s going to pay for that? Who holds the private company accountable for putting the citizens through this exercise?”
Jordan has received red light camera violations in Palm Coast, as well. The first time was about two years ago, and he was driving late at night and was sick. He felt suddenly like he was going to throw up. So, he decided to run a red light and pull over to a place where it would be safer to be sick.
“I didn’t take any chances,” Jordan said. “There was no oncoming traffic.” If an officer pulled him over, he said, “I guarantee a cop wouldn’t have given me a ticket for that.” Without a real person to issue the violations, he said, “It takes all judgment and all common sense out of it.”
And because the appeal process is so cumbersome and could result in paying additional fees if the appeal fails, he didn’t bother. The way he sees it, “You’re getting penalized for defending yourself.”
About the supposed violation in Washington, he added: “I have to prove my innocence, and it’s just wrong that I even have to go through this process. And there’s no help for you. None.”