Why New Orleanians Run Red Lights

The letters column on the editorial page of our newspaper regularly features gripes and complaints from redlight runners who got caught on candid camera.

What happened was that our leaders have contracted with a company that installs these high speed cameras at selected intersections around town, and they’ve been nabbing quite a few impatient drivers speeding through intersections after the light had turned crimson. Some of them are real unhappy about it, too.

What gets me is they complain about their constitutional rights being violated. Invasion of privacy, they call it, which is rather ridiculous. Hey friend, you’re on the street; nothing is private here. You are driving under the control of traffic laws with a state-issued license; your rights do not apply here. You gave them up when you pulled out of the driveway.

You have to wonder why some people think they have a right to run a traffic light.

Ron Mehl is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. In his outstanding book “The Ten(der) Commandments,” he tells a story you will enjoy.

Golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez was traveling with a friend who noticed that he was driving much too fast. As they approached an intersection, Chi Chi sped right through the red light.

The friend said, “Chi Chi! Man, what are you doing? You ran that red light!”

Rodriguez said, “My brother taught me to drive, and my brother never stops at red lights, so I don’t stop at red lights.”

A couple of blocks later, the light was red and again, they drove through the intersection at a high rate of speed. The rider said, “Chi Chi! You’re going to get us killed! What are you doing!”

Chi Chi said, “My brother taught me to drive and my brother doesn’t stop for red lights, so I don’t stop for red lights.”

A few blocks down the street, they came to an intersection where the light was green. This time, Chi Chi put on the brakes and came to a stop. “Now what are you doing?” said the friend. “The light is green.”

Chi Chi said, “I know it. But my brother might be coming.”

Your brother is always coming, friend. Slow down and let him go on living.

Ever since the cameras-at-intersections made the news, I’ve been pondering something and think I have it figured out. I believe I know why people in our city run red lights.

It’s not just about traffic, but all of life. Many of us are running all the stop lights God has erected for our protection in every area of our lives. We overeat, overdrink, abuse our bodies with drugs and alcohol, neglect our bodies by too little exercise and too much television, indulge our bodies by catering to our every whim, and worship our bodies with too many cosmetics, too much cosmetic surgery, and too much attention to outward apparel and appearance.

So running a red light is a natural extension of lifestyles characterized by widespread violations of legitimate laws enacted for our protection and well-being.

I find it fascinating to hear citizens hollering about the cameras, as though someone had violated their rights by catching them breaking the law. But, ask any minister, priest, or rabbi. He or she will tell you that people do not like to be told they cannot do something, even if doing it jeopardizes their lives or endangers their loved ones in the process.

God said, “Thou shalt not kill.”

The woman in Destrehan who gave birth, then buried the newborn in the back yard lest the family find out, was running God’s red light. The family pet that dug up the child’s remains was the Lord’s camera, so to speak. Caught on film.

There is at least one group of citizens we’ve not heard from in this discussion about cameras at intersections. Let’s have the families of victims killed by red-light violators weigh in on this subject. We can imagine they would have plenty to say.

From where I sit, something has to be done to stop the self-centered, hard-driving law-breakers among us who insist on having their way no matter the cost or risk to the rest of us.

There is no way to measure the number of lives that will be saved by these cameras, but if it were only my child or grandchild, no amount of money on earth would be too much.

2 thoughts on “Why New Orleanians Run Red Lights

  1. This reminds me of a story I read in the Reader’s Digest many years ago. A police officer was investigating a wreck. He wrote up the incident report and turned it in to his commanding officer and went back to work. His boss was amused to read that the investigating officer had referred to 1) the green light anticipator ran broadside into the 2) red light beater.

  2. Joe: This story relates in the fact that the person was speeding on a Parkway in Ky. The story was related by the State Trooper who made the stop.

    When the person, a lady, stopped, the trooper approached her window. “Do you know you were speeding”, he asked. “Yes”, was the reply. “Why were you speeding?” he asked. “I was afraid someone was in the back seat and I was trying to get home before he grabbed me”! Duh.

    Maybe those who are running red lights have someone in the back seat after them. I am not making light of the situation. It is a serious problem all over the country. I hear about it here in Ky. BE careful out there. Now I had better practice what I preach! You know who says so.

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