Room with a view: San Francisco
Rainy days on the East Coast... and a bit of a US Airways rant

Photo Radar Cameras... duh, what am I missing...

Photo radarPhoenix recently introduced Photo Radar Cameras on a number of the major highways around the city: stationary camera setups photograph vehicles, and their drivers, that exceed the posted speed limit by more than 11MPH. Various organizations and some legislators immediately took up the gauntlet opposing the use of the cameras... a cause celebre. I guess I don't fully understand what is going on because the use of these devices strikes me as a good thing.. even in considering the "negatives" being pushed.

Here is my opinion:

Radar war 1.   Photo radar slows down traffic on very busy, often over- congested, highways. This in turn cuts down on accidents and saves lives. Truth be known, if you drive a lot in Phoenix (I commute daily and make many trips from north Phoenix to the airport south of town), you would be a HUGE advocate of anything that slows down the crazies on our roads. Why is this a bad thing?

2. Those opposing say that it is just a scheme to bring money into the government's severely depleted coffers at the expense of drivers. I'm sorry, but where is it wrong that if you exceed the speed limit... a violation of the law... you have to pay a fine? I think this is a GOOD thing: why not help balance the budget by fining those who break the law? You don't like the speed limits? Go through the government processes to get them changed, but until then, the last time I checked posted speed limits are the law and those breaking the law should expect to be penalized if caught.

3. Some complain that the "flashes" from the camera lighting will cause accidents. I have driven by the photo radar sites late at night, seen the flash from the camera and somehow managed to survive... truth be known, it had no effect on my driving!

4.   Another complaint: the photo cameras force people to slow down and that creates more hazards on the roads because of slower moving traffic. Nah, I don't think so: my experience with the photo radar locations is that EVERYONE slows down, thus no hazard. Not to mention that the idiot zipping in and out of traffic at considerably over the speed limit is a much bigger hazard.

5. How about "drivers will realize they are at a photo radar camera, slam on their brakes to slow down and cause other drivers to back-end them." That is just ludicrous. I have not heard about or seen a report of a single incident justifying this contention. Come on: there are even signs 1/2 mile and 300 yd before the photo radar locations warning drivers they are coming up on a photo shoot. Anyone driving that fast needs to be off the roads anyway.

6. Some argue that it depersonalizes law enforcement. OK, maybe it does... so what? Break the law, pay the fine. 'Strikes me as just a more efficient way to catch speeders.

7. And then there are those that claim Invasion of Privacy. Ridiculous: you have no expectation of privacy when driving on a public thoroughfare and certainly none when breaking the law in public.  


8. The hardware makes mistakes. So? The same can be said for the Law Enforcement guy sitting in his car holding a radar gun. This is the ONLY argument that would give cause to question Photo Radar Cameras, but I have not seen anything documenting any pattern of inaccuracies. Besides, if you think you have been wronged, you can still have your Day In Court, just as if a cop had stopped you.   


Conclusion: this strikes me as Win-Win situation: decrease accidents while helping our budget by fining law breakers. It is a good thing... even if I get tagged by one of the cameras! 

Comments

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Joe

Hey Bill,

You and your ATS (or Redflex) colleagues must be getting at least a LITTLE nervous about the increasing likelihood that you'll be losing your jobs soon. With just the little "local" contracts, there won't be much reason to keep a US headquarters in the valley anymore.

Bill Terry

Joe,

What in the world makes you think I have any association with ATS or Redflex?

Just so you do not misunderstand, I should be very clear: I have nothing to do with Redflex, ATS, any civilian agency or any government agency that has anything to do with oversight or management of the Photo Radar System. I'm just a guy with an opinion.

Does expressing a point of view automatically make me part of the clique? If you think so then you may wish to review some of my responses to the various comments posted here.

By the way, please note that, unlike some other blogs, I have not censored any of the comments to my posting, except for the one full of profane language.

Bill Terry

To point on No One's last missive:

1. I'm not sure I understand the concern about the cameras running 24/7 and recording (although I doubt they actually do live feeds). There have been hi-res security cameras at intersections, on buildings in urban areas, in stores and in parking lots for years. Many of them feed directly to law enforcement and government agencies. To your specific argument of 24/7 up time and live feeds, this is different how?

2. Your argument about taxes is simplistic: it is a complex issue with many facets, not the least of which are our antiquated tax laws which often burden those least able to handle it. Unfortunately, it is not, as you state, a matter of a "burden shared by all." Nonetheless, equal taxation of the people is a integral part of our society and, you are correct, needs increasing.

3. Your comment "You say let them carry the increase" is inaccurate. I never made such a statement nor ever would. The inaccuracy carries through into your next paragraph, and reflects a total misunderstanding of the financial implications and my perspective. You make whole cloth assumptions without the fabric of knowledge or understanding.

4. You just can't let go of probable cause, can you? It really has no bearing. "Why should the method of enforcement alone negatively impact my rights as a citizen?" Oh come on, you cannot seriously believe that question. Add it to the pile of your other absurd statements.

No One

Point by point:

1) Traffic camers are different in many ways. In terms of stores and parking lots, or basically any privately-owned camera, a) I an choose to frequent an establishment, or not b) they do not have facial recognition software (unless you're in a casino) c) they are looking for very specific, purposeful acts. They are not looking for a momentary slip-up, d) they are not able to fine me directly for any alleged misdeeds they believe they see and e) even if they do find something, they are not the enforcement themselves as the camera companies are. The camera company makes the ticket and DPS just rubber-stamps it based on what the company tells them. Lastly, f) it is up to the owner of the camera to prosecute, or not, and they bear the burden of proof.

As to the idea of hi-res traffic cams, as far as I am aware (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong) they also do not have facial recognition, nor are they capturing license plates. They are also not running people's identities up against various databases, looking for criminals. They are looking for traffic patterns in the aggregate and not focussed on individual vehicles or individuals.

On #2: You are quite correct there, the overall subject of taxes is quite complex, and as that is not germane to the discussion I will leave it at that.

On #3: I may be a simpleton in your eyes, but I know my household budget, when I have a shortfall I have two choices-- increase income, cut expenses, or go into debt. There's not much else. Now, when applying that to the state's position, and taking a look at the fact that there's WAS a projected budget shortfall of tens of millions of dollars, and they are cutting some expenses, but not to the amount required, they did NOT raise taxes (the traditional source of income for a government) and are apparently projecting a "balanced budget" (ie not going into debt.) How did they do this? They plugged the hole with the money generated from the cameras.

Now, I didn't hear anything from you about the government needing to cut expenses, nor did I hear anything about either raising taxes or running a deficit. What I did hear included "helping our budget by fining law breakers. It is a good thing" that's where I got that from and that's my reasoning. Perhaps I jumped a little from point a to point b, but certain people do hold that opinion-- they are for the cameras in an effort to contain taxes-- and this is an irresponsible attitude for the reasons I stated above.

4) So probable cause has no bearing? Again I ask, why not? But allow me break down my argument. A regular policeman cannot pull anyone over without probable cause. Without the ability to pull a person over, the policeman cannot write a ticket. Therefore, probable cause has always been (until recently) an integral part of any traffic citation.

Now, step back, and consider the implications of this. We are talking about the same law being broken in both instances-- speeding caught by a policeman and speeding caught by a camera. The same laws apply, and the same laws are being broken in the same manner. Probable cause is required in one instance, but not in another. What makes the cameras immune from this requirement? I simply do not see how this question is "absurd." (speaking of the word absurd, you need a new buzz-word.)

and, while we're on the subject of rights being impacted, I'll go one better and add #5), the whole issue of service. In a normal citation, the motorist is served immediately, and the cost of that service is included in the citation. With the radar it takes weeks, or even months, to where a person may not remember if I was speeding or not. If a person either misses the mailing, or elects to exercise their legal right of being served as opposed to the less-than-legal mailings they give, the cost of the server is added on! It should have it for free and immediate, and now it is served considerably later at additional cost. Again, we're talking about the same laws being broken in the same way, but a net difference in the rights of the person involved. I take issue with that.

Now, feel free to call my arguments whatever you'd like, but I haven't seen them addressed yet-- either by you or anyone else. And I have yet to see sources as requested.

Joe

Bill wrote:

"There have been hi-res security cameras at intersections, on buildings in urban areas, in stores and in parking lots for years. Many of them feed directly to law enforcement and government agencies. To your specific argument of 24/7 up time and live feeds, this is different how?"

People can record whatever they wish on their private property. And yes, the police have been capturing video of intersections and other various points of strategic interest for years. And now they have stepped it up. I would imagine that even YOU have a "threshold" that defines your limits for government intrusion in terms of monitoring your movements. How many cameras would it take before you start to feel just a bit weird about being watched?

I've just noticed that they've installed 3 new cameras on sounthbound 17 in just a few days. I do not fear the radar (it's been a long time since I've even had the opportunity to speed there during rush hour), but I do feel a certain degree of intimidation when I pass by these devices that are so intrusively aimed at me and my car. The more cameras I see installed, the more intimidated I feel. My round trip commute now has me passing by 8 of these cameras each day. And I notice them each time I pass by them (as I'm sure you would).

So at what point do we stop feeling "safer" because of the cameras, and start feeling like we can not be trusted as citizens to freely move about in our own country? It's like being a kid and having an overbearing parent that follows you through the house as you pick up your toys. At some point, you want to say "leave me the hell alone".

You may not have any issues with privacy, but seriously, you know from just being alive that other people in this world have differing degrees of privacy needs. At some point we need to draw some limit lines.

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