Red Light, Green Light

When we received the notice last May that the Mombus had run a red-light in Gulf Breeze, there was no doubt as to who was going to pay the $100 fine.

Most of the family had been at my sis-in-law's wedding, with the exception of a certain prom attendee who had use of the aforementioned vehicle and had taken her friends to the beach for pictures.

Whatever my feelings are about the legality of red-light cameras (I understand the idea behind using them, but feel they are a little too "big brother" for my taste), after listening to the Edge's reasoning and explanation I suggested that she appeal the violation and ask for a hearing.

We scanned the city codes and found the basis of our appeal: "The permissible grounds for a motor vehicle owner to contest a notice of code violation are: (4) The motor vehicle driver was required to violate the steady red traffic control signal in order to reasonably protect the property or person of another. . ."

She and I prepared her statement and waited. . .and waited. . .and waited. She finally got her night in court on Tuesday.

The first two "offenders" received little compassion - one asking to be provided with maintenance and reliability records of the equipment only to be shot down by a smirky attorney, the second using the same appeal we were planning to use, but stating that he was doing about 40 mph and going with the flow of traffic. They were both sent off to the cashier's window.

Next, they called the Edge's case. I could see her knees shaking even though she held her head high while she explained that she was travelling the speed limit. When the light changed, she had to make a split-second decision to proceed or slam on her brakes and possibly stop the large vehicle the intersection, putting her passengers at risk. The officer indicated that the light had been red for 0.23 seconds when she crossed the line.

The judge asked her to look at the indicated speed in the corner of the shadowy photo of the Mombus. It said 44mph. She insisted that she was only travelling 35 as she began to tear up with anger. She wiped her watery eyes in frustration and stood her ground.

"Sir, with all due respect, I KNOW I was going 35. I go to the beach all the time, and I ALWAYS drive 35 through Gulf Breeze. I usually drive my little red car, but this time I was in my parents' vehicle, so I was being extra cautious." I wanted her to also explain to him that we would take her off our insurance if she got a speeding ticket, and she knows better.

Instead, he asked to see the video tape.

The quality of the tape was much clearer. It was not dark, and it was evident that, not only was she telling the truth about her speed, she had her brakes on as she went through the light, supporting her claim that she contemplated stopping, but chose to continue through.

He found that the city could not prove its case, and dismissed the violation.

She could have easily paid the hundred bucks and been done with it, but she chose to stand up for herself and what she felt was right. Instead of punishing her, we listened to what she had to say, and felt very comfortable in supporting her.

I hope that this lesson makes has taught her that, as far as her Dad and I are concerned, she has the green light to make her own judgment calls without us always seeing red.

Have fun!

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