With all due respect to Liverpool F.C., in Massachusetts you never run alone.  Run a red light, that is.  I’ve driven the potholed roads of the Bay State for the past quarter century and, like my driving-challenged fellow citizens, I’ve been known to stretch the rules a bit.  Yet, at no time during my travels have I run a red light without at least one other car following right behind me.  Someone always “had my back.”  I was never the last sheep trailing the herd when revolving police lights approached from behind.  It was quite comforting.

All that may soon change.

The Massachusetts Senate is debating a bill that will allow towns to install automated road safety camera systems to identify and then photograph vehicles that commit any number of traffic law violations at intersections.  Soon, one will have to think twice before gassing it to get through a yellow light.  “No turn on red” will mean, “No turn on red.”  Speed limits will become, you guessed it, speed limits.

Under this proposal, towns will be allowed to install one camera for every 2,500 citizens. Violators, or at least the registered owners of cars photographed breaking the laws, will receive their fines by mail.  Sounds revolutionary (except for the snail mail part).  Traffic laws will actually be enforced.  Will the new bill have its desired effect?

The license plate reading technology will function as designed.  It is well proven.  Then again, so are Commonwealth drivers’ bad habits and, for that matter, so is Waze.  After the initial flush of fines, will Massachusetts drivers abide by the laws, or will they simply choose routes with fewer or no cameras?  Will fines sent weeks after the event to the registered owners of cars (which may have been driven by others) lead to improved driving habits?  Will the cameras be vandalized?

I do not know.

Technology and legislation are evolving.  Massachusetts now has a long overdue “hands free” driving law.  Soon it will have traffic cameras.  Could good driving habits really be next?  As someone who ran a local food manufacturing plant and watched the neighborhood rats outsmart most of the measures designed to change their behavior, I will simply say this:  Don’t bet against the rats drivers just yet.  It will take time.  After all, Massachusetts drivers’ licenses are valid for five years at a clip.  And, remember, they don’t run alone.

May 2021 update:   See Salem Stop Sign Cam


Peter Dragone - Co-founder of Keurig.