Speed cameras robbing us of our rights and our humanity

Armstrong Williams | 4/11/2013, 2:17 p.m.
Last year, Washington, D.C.'s speed cameras generated $95.6 million in revenue. That was double 2011's...
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Last year, Washington, D.C.'s speed cameras generated $95.6 million in revenue. That was double 2011's receipts, so you can bet there was dancing in the hallways over an extra $50 million in the coffers. And what did this cost you? Only your basic rights.

Speed cameras are sold as a means of protection. Over and over, you will hear politicians and the makers of these cash cows talk about safety. "Safety this. Safety that. Think of the children, and I'm offended you think that we are only doing this for the money."

The truth: It is all about the money.

How do I know? First, look at where the cameras are located. Most are on major commuter routes, like DC 295 and US 395, and very few are in school zones and residential areas. This tells me they are aimed at tourists and commuters more so than protecting school children.

I can also tell by the fact that these speed cameras do not cost you points on your license nor do they affect your insurance rates. Pay your fine and the city is happy.

Lastly, the speed limits change right before you pass a speed camera. Usually it is a sudden 10 mph drop. What was once legal is suddenly illegal, usually causing everyone to slam on the brakes once they realize the camera is there. So it's a gotcha game as well as a hazard.

We all hate getting pulled over by cops, but if someone is driving in a dangerous fashion, police can make that call and immediately do something to save lives. Speed camera tickets come in the mail two weeks later. If I were driving like a fool, these cameras are not going to pull me over and save a life.

Furthermore, officers can warn you. Many times you may not realize you broke the law. Say you forgot to turn on your lights, have a taillight out or blew through a stop sign you didn't see in an unfamiliar area; a human can stop you and instantly correct your behavior, determine you made an innocent mistake and let you be on your way. Even when the cop writes a ticket, you immediately know what you did wrong and can correct your actions.

Moreover, when you think the cop is wrong, you can challenge him in a court of law. That is why we have due process and the right to face our accuser. Humans make mistakes and it is a fundamental constitutional right that we can give our side of the story. A computer does not consider circumstances; it simply executes a code.

Makers of speed camera equipment have even admitted problems--e.g., incorrect speed limits, programming errors that led to one out of 20 cars being automatically ticketed--yet it is difficult, if not impossible, to subpoena the records and challenge the ticket.

"Just pay it. Waiving your rights is no big deal. It's not like it costs you your license," say the politicians.

$100 is a big deal for a lot of working folks. Even if they get caught once, suddenly their monthly budget is blown. Of course they won't know for two weeks, so they will probably owe more than $100.