The other day I needed to buy a new 500 gigabyte external hard drive to backup files on my home computer. Instead of trekking to the Victorville Best Buy store, which I did for years, I drove to a smaller consumer electronics store in Apple Valley. Why? I rarely drive from Hesperia to Victorville nowadays because of that city's proliferation of red- light cameras. Unfortunately for the Victorville Best Buy they didn't get my $130 business.

I am a cautious driver without a moving violation ticket in many years, but I know that it's not only red-light runners who are getting the $446 tickets. Many Hesperians driving north on Amargosa Road at Bear Valley have experienced how incredibly short the signal sequence is at that intersection. With only a handful of cars making it across the street during a green, drivers can be going 10 miles per hour or less and still get caught by the red-light camera.

In fact, I have a buddy who was caught in the middle of another Victorville intersection. Was he driving dangerously? I don't think so. He says he was driving cautiously and conscientiously, but the red light flashed nonetheless. Rather than fight the ticket, which then was under $400, he decided to pay it.

Many communities in the state have red-light cameras. Beverly Hills has some, for instance. But who do you think has a greater ability to pay $446, a resident from Beverly Hills or Victorville? Many local residents have to humble themselves and borrow the money from a family member, or be late on their rent or utility bills. Being faced with an unexpected $446 ticket, especially when you were otherwise driving safely, could add undue stress to a person and their family. At best it's a frustrating nuisance. At worst it could be catastrophic to a struggling family's financial situation.

If I had shopped at the Victorville Best Buy store during my recent outing for a computer peripheral, the city would only have received several dollars in tax revenue. Next year, however, I'm hoping to buy a complete new computer system. That would have meant $100 or so in sales tax. With red-light cameras, the city of Victorville can get a quick few hundred bucks in their coffers without consumers spending a single dime in their stores.

Come to think of it, that's a truly clever municipal revenue model. Clever? Yes. But good for Victorville businesses, consumers and many good but otherwise unlucky drivers?