I knew the camera was there; I knew co-workers had been busted. And still, as you see below in living color, I got nailed.
In my defense, I was taught to avoid coming to a complete stop on slippery pavement lest my vehicle be unable to regain enough traction to merge safely into traffic. But because that's not a contingency for which the Village of Rosemont in Illinois makes an exception, I mailed in a check for $100. C'est la vie.
As cities, counties, and states desperately seek new revenue sources, they have two strong arguments for automatic enforcement of traffic safety laws: Cameras lower crash rates and have been deemed constitutional.
A recent review of studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concludes that cameras reduce red light violations by 40% to 50% and crashes by up to 30%.
Chicago tickets the vehicle owner even if someone else was driving, the only exception being if the car was stolen. In January a federal appeals court ruled that this “vicarious liability” doesn't violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th amendment, noting that “owners will take more care when lending their cars, and often they can pass the expense on to the real wrongdoer.” If plaintiffs wish to pursue the matter further, they'll have to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the court writes, “That the system raises revenue does not condemn it. Taxes, whether on liquor or on running red lights, are valid municipal endeavors. Like any other exaction, a fine does more than raise revenue: It also discourages the taxed activity.”
I'll say it does. You can bet I now come to a complete stop at intersections. I also monitor my speedometer more closely. I'm just grateful that, having paid up, the ticket won't be reported to my insurance company.
This being America, though, others don't give up so easily.
“Motorists Against Detection” and other opponents constitute a thriving online community on Web sites like http://photoradarscam.com. Companies hawk “photoblocker” sprays and license plate covers designed to protect drivers against “unjust tickets.” (To find out how well these and other measures work, visit http://mythbustersresults.com/episode73. The episode was so popular and prompted so much viewer feedback that the television program revisited the issue.)
I was surprised, then, at the results of a January survey of voters in Arizona, where the legislature is contemplating putting an end to the Department of Public Safety's speed-limit-enforcement program, which uses photo radar. Seven out of 10 respondents support the technology, including those who'd been caught and ticketed.
Maybe, like the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, they feel that “no one has a fundamental right to run a red light or avoid being seen by a camera on a public street.”