What’s the Deal with Missoula’s Traffic Light ‘Cameras’?
I'll admit it, I can get paranoid sometimes. Maybe because I've seen too many post-apocalyptic or dystopian movies, occasionally I'll imagine Big Brother is like, watching us, duuude. That's why I investigated those contraptions on top of Missoula's traffic lights, thinking it would be my journey down the rabbit hole, unravelling a vast, international conspiracy and criminal enterprise that dates back to the Roman Empire.
The truth is less fantastical, but still interesting.
They're called video detection censors and they're for detecting vehicles and changing the the traffic signal accordingly. That way you're not sitting at a red light forever when no one else is around. They're preferable to the older technology of detection loops under the asphalt because they're easier to maintain and don't get dug up during any street maintenance, according to Lori Hart, a communications specialist at the Department of Public Works and Mobility.
I know what you're wondering and the answer is: no, they are not a tool for law enforcement. The cameras don't actually record anything, again according to Lori Hart. As a privacy-loving Montanan, I'm glad that's the case. I'm also glad Montana doesn't have cameras that take pictures of people running red lights, I'm all for safety but that approach doesn't seem fair to me.
On the other hand, there are advantages to having more surveillance such as finding missing people or violent criminals. I'm no philosopher or ethicist, which makes it hard to weigh the pros and cons of such an important and controversial subject. For now, I'll just enjoy the green light to get where I'm going.