Oct 12, 2008

Smile. You're on camera

Have you ever received a ticket from an automated traffic camera?   There was a compelling letter to the editor in Thursday's Arizona Daily Star.     George Brookbank, a retired teacher, complained about the $280 traffic fine for driving through a red light.   He said that the fine would " ...be a flea-bite to a doctor or lawyer".    But for George, this fine and the cost of the traffic school will take up almost half of his Social Security retirement check.   He pleads that the fine is excessive and cruel.   I agree.


Red light and speeding cameras are proposed as a way to slow down traffic and keep the citizen's safe.   But in truth, they are sold to cities and counties as a way to generate incredible revenue.   And if the camera is placed in a strategic location, the money generated could run a small country!


I don't want to get too technical, but it is helpful to know how speed limits are supposed to work.   Speed limits are supposed to be set to catch "the bad guys".   In a perfect world, a city would find out how fast people normally drive on a street and set the speed limit accordingly.   In fact, the recommended practice is to set the speed limit so that only the fastest 15 out of 100 cars would be classified as "speeding".   So, if a city puts a camera in a location where the speed limit is too low, they can make a lot of money.


When I lived in Phoenix, the town of Paradise Valley installed a speed camera.   They placed a camera on a road that was signed at 45 miles per hour, but everyone drove much faster.   In fact, it was a road very similar to Mary Ann Cleveland Way.


At first the camera was set to take a picture of people driving faster than 50 mph.   But there were so many people exceeding that speed, the camera burned out on the first day. So the town replaced the camera and set it at 55 mph but the new camera burned out too.   In fact it wasn't until the speed was set to 70 miles per hour that the camera was able to keep up with "the bad guys".


(Talking about burning up machines, there's a recent story about two men running for congress in Indiana's ninth district.   One of the contenders suggested that they both be hooked up to a lie detector during the debate.   Right.   I hope it's an industrial-strength machine!)


I don't like traffic cameras.   They remove the human element.   There are no extenuating circumstances.   It's hard to plea your case at the time you get a ticket.   You can talk all you want to the camera but it will still give you a ticket.   I also believe that $280 is outrageous.


But who said life was fair?   If life were fair, we'd all be punished for our multitude of sins.   Thanks be to Jesus who went to our traffic court and successfully pleaded our case before the Judge.




Pastor David Hook

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