City Paper is not for tourists
You all have a lot of thoughts on the topic of red light and speed cameras—the little revenue-generators that catch drivers breaking the law when cops aren’t around. Let’s recap!
Our take: There’s nothing wrong with the District trying to raise revenue this way. If you don’t speed or break traffic laws, then you won’t get a ticket. And if you don’t like the speed limit, work to change it.
The commentariat breaks down into a couple of groups. First up, there are the people are correct—er, who agree with us—like commenter John, who writes:
Sounds to me like people have a problem with the speed limits themselves, which they should address to the city. Otherwise it’s just whining about being unable to gamble you can avoid the police. Mean old camera just catch you, eliminating your magical skillz in dodging the cops!
Or commenter TM:
Shorter version of arguments against cameras: WAAAH!!!
They create a false reality where the fact that a city may benefit from the fines somehow invalidates them. Let’s say the city said “yeah we care as much about revenue enhancements as safety. So what?” Even if you strip away the very real pedestrian and other-driver safety improvements, you’re left with a tax on a undesirable behavior. That’s a much better way to raise money than a tax on desireable behavior like income and sales.
And if speed limits don’t reflect the road design then we ought to change the road design. Don’t like it? Keep your car home then. We won’t miss it.
Then there are the folks who see underlying problems with how camera placement is defended by the city, like commenter anon:
What’s wrong is the city using the whole “to increase pedestrian safety” excuse when it adds more speed cameras, and then putting them in places that have almost zero pedestrian traffic. Like, say, any of the city’s freeways, or the ridiculous mobile cameras on New York Avenue east of Bladensburg, or the one on Porter between Cleveland Park and Mount Pleasant.
A few folks want to point out that the law itself is the issue, like commenter Art:
I think problem here is that the law that is being broken is ridiculous in some instances. DC is overdue for an extensive study of its speed limits to come up with reasonable. I guarantee you that if even 75% of drivers on DC roads started strictly following posted speed limits tomorrow, traffic would get even more out of control than it is now.
And then there are the people who don’t think the cameras—which don’t have discretion about who they catch in the act—are fair to drivers. Self-professed retired police officer with the nom-de-net Paul Henry writes:
As a retired police officer, I can tell you I did not ticket everyone I stopped for a moving violation. A camera cannot take into account environmental or traffic conditions.
Of all of the problems with the number of tickets handed out, we think this last argument makes the most sense (sorry, everyone else). Cops don’t always ticket, and there are some events—like bad traffic or bad drivers or fire engines or ambulances—that force drivers to “break the law” in order to get out of the way or avoid an accident. And it should be easier to contest tickets under those conditions. But we’re not persuaded that they happen often enough to slow the rollout of traffic enforcement cameras.
Photo by dlofink via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License