Smile for the Cameras

It’s been a crazy last couple of weeks, but things will hopefully be leveling out in a rather odd definition of that term.  Time to get back in the writing saddle!

I read this article a couple of weeks ago, but it was brought back to mind having just come into Phoenix on Sunday.  The story details the controversy generated by Phoenix’s extensive use of photo radar units to deter speeders on the freeways in and around town.  Coming in to Phoenix Sunday, there were two portable, van-based systems stationed a good 15+ miles out of the outer limits of town.  Then, as we entered the western suburbs of Phoenix proper, there were intermittent speeding cameras.  In all cases, drivers were warned of the upcoming photo-radar installations by not one – but two – large yellow signs, the first about 1/2 a mile before the actual cameras, and the second about 300 feet from the cameras.

I was snagged by one of these a year ago, shortly after they were installed.  I didn’t know what they were – or more accurately, what they looked like.  Coming in late they got a nice picture of me driving over the speed limit on I-10.  I paid the fine by mail.  As the article indicates, the ticket doesn’t count against my driving points for insurance purposes.  It’s simply a financial transaction. 

Response to the cameras in Phoenix has been generally unpleasant, despite the lowest freeway collision fatality levels in 15 years. 

Objections seem to center on the possible errors and abuses of such a system.  “How do you know that is my car?”  “Do you know if I’m the registered driver?” the article quotes one defendant as asking the judge as she attempted to fight the ticket.  “Were you driving, yes or no?” the judge responds.  “Were you speeding, yes or no?  It’s pretty simple.”  The defendant ended up paying the fine. 

I tend to side with the judge.

I speed.  I’m also very observant.  Often times I spot police cruisers or motorcycles tucked off the sides of the roads in plenty of time to slow down.  Despite consistent speeding – though at gradually reduced speeds as I age – I’ve only had three or four speeding tickets in my life. 

I know that the speed limits are the law.  I know that I often exceed the legal limits by some amount, and therefore, if and when a police officer pulls me over, I don’t have any bitterness about being cited.  I might be angry at myself for not seeing them, and I don’t voluntarily hang myself for them, but if they see fit to write me a ticket, and there aren’t any mitigating or unusual circumstances, I figure I deserve it.  I pay it.  I move on with life.

Are photo radar installations a violation of our personal liberties?  Is the fact that the state installed these to generate revenue in any way a factor that should nullify a citation I’m given if I’m actually speeding?  Remember, there are plenty of warnings about the radar installations, so it’s not as though they should surprise anyone.  The speed limits are pretty clearly posted shortly before the photo-radars, so you know what speed you should be doing.  The cameras allegedly only go off if you’re going more than 11 miles over the posted speed limit (which in Phoenix on most freeways is 65mph). 

I can’t see why people would be upset about this.  Can you?

2 Responses to “Smile for the Cameras”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I don’t care if there are cameras or not. I try to never go over the speed limit because that’s a rule and while driving, I’m not really comfortable when I break them. I’m the 40 year old “grandma” (my oldest is five) in the slow lane. I have had one ticket when I was 21 for doing a California roll – not stopping all the way at a stop sign. I got rear-ended about 6 years ago because I did stop all the way.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    I admire your carefulness!  I’m fastidious about the rules of the road, but speeding is one exception – especially when I was younger.  I don’t speed as much – either in frequency or rate of speed – as I used to, but it still happens.I think that traffic laws are an interesting arena to see how people deal with obedience to the law.  It seems that many people – myself included – tend to selectively obey the law (any law).  I enjoy discussions with my students about why they feel that ripping software for free off of the Internet is acceptable, yet they wouldn’t go in and try and steal a copy of the software from a shelf at Fry’s Electronics.  Sometimes the form or shape of breaking the law determines how willing we are to break it. 

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