More Speed Scameras On The Horizon?

During Martin O’Malley’s mayoral tenure in Baltimore, you may have noticed a surge in the volume of red light cameras, or more appropriately “scameras”, on countless city intersections. Naturally, O’Malley and his silly council buddies praised the use to these instruments because it supposedly increased safety. Of course, you can make no mistake about it. Revenue drove the expansion of that program. Without that factor, the city would moved along to the next venture.

As usual, the People’s Republic of Montgomery County did. Although they also had a red light scamera on every other block, they announced earlier this year that they would add speed cameras as well. Frankly, I am surprised it took that long for the People’s Republic to enact them, especially considering Washington DC had been generating over $138 million in revenue between the camera’s inception in 1999 and last year.

Now there’s a push to add them in Howard County. Sen. James Robey, D-District 13, said he would introduce legislation next session to allow Howard to become Maryland’s second jurisdiction to enact the scameras. I think we can all see where this is going. With a governor fully in favor of generating revenue by any means necessary and a legislature filled with influential delegates and senators from liberal cesspools, I see an across the board approval for these money machines once they are rubber stamped, I mean debated, in the general assembly. I would expect anyone who voted for the recent tax increases to also be on board with statewide use of speed cameras. The potential payday would certainly outweigh any ethical, privacy or safety concerns.

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I have several reasons for opposing the use of cameras for traffic enforcement. First of all, when a police officer pulls one over for a traffic violation, s/he has something known as officer discretion. For various reasons ranging from medical emergencies to good PR, police officers sometimes give breaks. Even if the officer issues a citation, the U.S. Constitution allows any alleged law breaker to confront his or her accuser in a court of law. How can anyone confront a machine that snaps a picture? The camera doesn’t prove who drove the vehicle when the alleged violation occurred. At least a police officer can testify whether s/he witnessed the defendant at the scene of the crime.

Next, traffic cameras can cause accidents due to people suddenly slamming their breaks to avoid risking going through an intersection once a light turns yellow. Certainly, that increases the risk of rear end collisions. In turn, that kind of blows the bogus safety argument out the window. There’s actually been a commissioned study done by the Urban Institute at North Carolina A&T University. The finding noted the increased risk of accidents at intersections with red light cameras. The same concerns would apply to speed cameras. Seriously, look how often people abruptly slam their brakes at the mere sight of a police car. The same behavior would also present itself at the scene of a speed camera.

Finally, I am extremely suspicious of a for profit company running these cameras. Clearly they have a vested financial interest in ensuring the maximum amount of revenue possible. While that, in and of itself, cannot prove any impropriety on their part, it still reeks of bad public policy.


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