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Please, slow down

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* I’m not unalterably opposed to proposals like this

Proposals in both the House and Senate would allow governments in heavily populated counties to install camera-radar mechanisms on accident-prone thoroughfares.

“People are driving just too darned fast,” Rep. Joseph Lyons, a Chicago Democrat who’s sponsoring the proposal with Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said Thursday.

The cameras would take photos of license plates on cars moving too fast. Violators would get a $100 ticket in the mail, but the infraction would not count against the number of moving violations necessary to suspend a driver’s license.

At a state Capitol news conference, Link and Lyons cited federal statistics showing 520 speed-related deaths in Illinois in 2007. They claimed cameras have reduced accidents in El Paso, Texas, by 80 percent; annual crashes in Dayton, Ohio, by 37 percent; and that cameras monitoring red-light runners in Chicago since 2003 have reduced that problem by 55 percent.

This looks like a good idea which will save lives.

My generic objection to all of these sorts of proposals - including the overuse of home confinement - is that we may be making it too cheap and easy for the government to penalize and incarcerate us.

Now, I don’t wear a tinfoil hat and I don’t believe we’re in immediate or even longterm danger of becoming one big prison, but the easier and cheaper it is to ding us or lock us up, then it is logical to assume that more of us will be dinged or involuntarily confined.

* The Tribune editorialized in favor of the bills today, but offered up a caveat

Municipalities should use these only in areas that are known to be hazardous, where speeding is a real problem. And they should rig them to catch only the worst scofflaws, not the driver who creeps up to 35 in a 30-m.p.h. zone. Just as the average cop allows drivers a margin over the posted speed limits depending on conditions, so too should these cameras. (In Arizona, cameras on highways are set to issue tickets at 11 m.p.h over the posted limit. Sounds fair.) The point here is to reduce recklessness, not dun every driver who happens to harmlessly drift a few miles over the posted limit.

Still, if not watched carefully, bureaucracies will always tend to take their mandates to a relative extreme.

Again, I’m in no way suggesting that we’re all gonna be imprisoned in a vast, statewide jail. I just wish that legislators would try to think about how they’re making punishment too cheap and easy when voting for bills like this.

I’m interested to hear what you think.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Vote Quimby! - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:11 am:

    I would be in favor of them for flagrant speeding violations–starting more like 15 to 20 miles over the limit at highway speeds. I’m worried the technology is not there yet to target the roving packs of crotch rocket riders, weaving in and out of traffic. I saw one older lady nearly kill three of them last week. But, again, the slippery slopers will argue against this one.

  2. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:11 am:

    Is the point of this to promote safety or to generate revenue?

    Is speeding the cause of accidents?

    I would prefer a system that allows drivers to report drivers who engage in illegal, aggressive or rude driving.

    People who get reported repeatedly need to come in for a visit that includes counseling. People who continue to be a problem have their information given to their insurance company. And if they still receive complaints then they have to put a special bumper sticker on their car, like new drivers in Japan.

  3. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:12 am:

    I’m in no way suggesting that we’re all gonna be imprisoned in a vast, statewide jail.

    Too late!

  4. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:14 am:

    Just another way to shake down the citizens for a few more bucks. (and millions to those companies who make campaign contributions to the pols)

    If it is a safety program, then it should be for all the state, not just the collar counties.

    Look what the municipalities have done with the right turn on red ticketing. They now insist on a non-statuory 3 second stop before proceeding. That is not on any state or local statute, but people are being fined.

    Due to the high rate of crimes being committed by elected official, I propose a legi-cam which will record all illigal contacts and activities and immediately route the official to jail when he or she commits a violation of the law. Imagine how much better off Illinois would have been if the Last two Governors would have been incarcerated early in their criminal crime binges.

  5. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:16 am:

    Seriously - traffic tickets modify driving behavior. We know this. Speeders should be stopped and ticketed, even if it is via a camera. It will modify their driving behavior. Driving isn’t a right, it is a priviledge that has to be earned and re-earned.

    Go with the cameras, and let’s see what happens. When the Mayor discovers a ticket from his daily commute, or has to explain to angry constituents why they have been fined, I’m confident appropriate and fair actions will be taken to modify this approach.

  6. - carbon deforestation - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:17 am:

    I agree that municipalities need to have control over this. If it is a state police or tollway thing, it will get out of control with no ability to fight the system by citizens. Tribune’s position seems reasonable to me.

  7. - tanstaafl - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:18 am:

    VM - more likely, a legislator will be caught with a ticket as he is “racing” to Springfield for a session.

  8. - HoBoSkillet - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:20 am:

    I’m not fundamentally opposed to a proposal such as this - as long as it applies to everyone else other than myself.

    Seriously though, I don’t like the idea of having cameras everywhere, but something needs to be done with out of control drivers in the Chicago area. I’m willing to go along with this proposed legislation and I don’t really mind if the purpose is for safety or revenue generation. It’s time to step up prosecution on speeding violations.

  9. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:22 am:

    Go ahead, use the cameras to ticket. I’ll show up in traffic court and ask to confront my accuser and cross-examine the evidence.

    You’d have to be a schmuck to pay such a ticket.

  10. - Snuggie-lufagus - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:23 am:

    Another disguised revenue generator that allows politicians and voters to tell themselves that they “hold the line on taxes,” which in turn perpetuates the myth that taxes should never be raised and that government shouldn’t cost ‘us’ more money.

    Why not just lower the speed limits? Its definitely harder to speed when everyone else is going a little slower.

  11. - Skeeter - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:24 am:

    More nanny state legislation.

    Too many speed limits have no connection to reality. 55 or 65? What’s the point if my car can do 105 comfortably and if the road is wide open? There is not too much difference between a collision at 65 mph as opposed to 105. At either speed, I’m not going to do well.

    It seems like we are so intent on “rules” that we’ve abandoned common sense.

    By the way — “Nanny State Legislation” translates, here, and always, as “Legislation Imposing Limits I Don’t Like.”

  12. - anon - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:25 am:

    Drivers will know where the cameras are. They will slow done, pass the camera and speed up. Will not really solve the problem nor generate revenue for communities; another boondoggle.

  13. - Anon - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:27 am:

    I’d be curious to see how many of those “speed-related deaths” even occurred in the intersections they are proposing the cameras are set up. I would assume that 90% of these accidents happened on interstates, state highways and country roads. I doubt there will be any cameras placed in these rural areas of IL.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, this is a revenue measure, simple as that.

  14. - Vote Quimby! - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:28 am:

    I’ve always wondered why ISP didn’t set up little radar transmitters to trigger radar detectors on the interstates…that alone would slow people down.

  15. - Fan of the Game - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:28 am:

    Revenue is the only reason cities are installing red light cameras and would install speed cameras. They are revenue generators.

    The way red light fines are set now, the vehicle is the violator, not the driver. if the owner lends his car to someone else, the owner is punished for a violation of which he is innocent. I can’t see how any fine generated by such means could be upheld.

  16. - The Doc - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:36 am:

    It’s the intellectual dishonesty of the proposal that irks me. Claiming that revenue generation is not the primary motivation for this bill is being disingenuous at best. And if I can’t trust the legislature to level with me as to the rationale for such a bill, I certainly don’t trust them to implement and monitor this program.

  17. - Louis G. Atsaves - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:36 am:

    There is big time money in those cameras. Let’s not kid ourselves. Governments are falling all over themselves to install these devices not to save lives, but to generate desperately needed cash.

    Sorry, I’m not a fan of traffic stop cameras or speed trap cameras. And yes, I believe that people should slow down and they should stop when the light turns red.

    The political spin notwithstanding, this is a revenue generator for governments.

    Orwell is turning over in his grave.

  18. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:38 am:

    Why doesn’t the government just plant micro-chips in our heads and that way anytime we speed, run a light, jaywalk, text while walking, spit on the sidewalk or eat foie gras the government can just send us a bill or charge our credit cards. This isn’t slippery slope, this is the start of complete government regulation of our lives. I’m not a black helicopter guy at all, but with this type of proposal I think I might want to become one.

  19. - Its Just Me - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:41 am:

    No, it is just the city’s way of getting more cash. They send tickets to people who turn right on red in hopes they don’t fight it. If you give them the ability to do it for speeding they’ll just abuse it for the cash to pay for the corruption tax.

  20. - dupage dan - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:49 am:

    =Drivers will know where the cameras are. They will slow done, pass the camera and speed up. Will not really solve the problem nor generate revenue for communities; another boondoggle.=

    So, people will slow down. Isn’t that the point?

    I have heard of concerns at intersections where people slam on their brakes to avoid the red light ticket only to cause rear end collisions because of the severe braking. That doesn’t seem to be a problem here. I would target aggressive speeders - 10+ mpg over the limit. Why? Because I always drive 5-7 mpg over the limit. I don’t want to get any of these tickets. Let the other guy pay. ;)

  21. - HoBoSkillet - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    Anon@11:38 - Where do you buy your tin-foil hats at? Mine must not be working right today ;)

    Also, in one form, way, or function or another, the government already has complete regulation of our lives from cradle to grave. It has been that way for many many years. These cameras are meant to enforce an existing regulation that government has imposed on our lives. (And make money on the side)

  22. - the Other Anonymous - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:53 am:

    I’m surprised and more than a little gratified that so many commenters see this proposal as a revenue generator.

    The problem of using regulations as a way to generate revenue has been especially acute in Chicago, where parking restrictions are no longer a matter of regulating traffic but generating revenue, viz. the privatization of parking meters.

    I think that a revolt is brewing against the use of quality of life “crimes” as a way to generate revenue. 2011 is just around the corner.

    Having said that, I think that the Lyons-Link proposal is innocent enough, but will be taken over by municipalities as a revenue-generator. The Tribune editorial does a decent job suggesting some restrictions that must be included in the legislation. I would add that the money from the fines should not go into the hands of the muncipality, but perhaps into a special fund that has a very restricted purpose, like compensation for victims of auto crashes.

    Let the municipalities pay for the cameras but not get the revenue; then we’ll see how much of traffic enforcement is about revenue and how much is about our general welfare.

  23. - paddyrollingstone - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:55 am:

    I received a red light ticket on Sheridan Road near Loyola. The video quite clearly showed me going through a red light. I knew it was wrong, I got caught, I paid $100 bucks. I also stopped doing it. I have no beef with it.

  24. - Legaleagle - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 11:58 am:

    I hope those cameras are placed on the Tri-state Tollway. Try even driving 15 miles over the limit -you will be passed by ten cars a minute and nearly get rear-ended often! It’s either camera and fines, or expand the death penalty!

  25. - Anon E Mous - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 12:17 pm:

    I agree with the Other Anonymous. How motivated would traffic cops still be if they were not to receive a penny of the money made on writing speeding tickets.

  26. - Anon - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 12:19 pm:

    Solution: Rod Blagojevich Halloween masks for everyone driving in these areas..

  27. - Deeda - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 12:42 pm:

    The red light cameras in Schaumburg is making tons of money. Yet they have created lots of accidents and I don’t think speeding cameras would be a good thing to have. Think about it. You have a cell phone ringing you are getting a text message. How many distractions can one driver get? This is a recipe for a car accident. And I think lots of people including myself would be included in this.

  28. - Amy - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 12:45 pm:

    it’s never fun when one is caught violating a traffic law. but they are laws. these cameras are in regular use in England, have been for more than 10 years and it made me more mindful when driving there. the speed of the car plus reaction time equals consequences. it does make a difference in terms of safety.
    also more police time to fight violent crime.

  29. - SUPERDAD - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 1:00 pm:

    I don’t remember the town but I do remember reading a story in “News of the Weird” that after cameras were installed, they worked so well in reducing speed the city lost revenue from tickets and removed the cameras!

  30. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 1:09 pm:

    Some of the comments show how little folks know about how this automated enforcement works.

    First of all, it will not be done on the highways or toll roads at this time. The statutes are changed so that the offense is no longer a traffic ticket. There are no points, no information sent to the insurance company, It becomes an administrative matter with a politically appointed party acting on behalf of the municipality.

    The ticket is issued to the owner of the car, not the driver. You have no rights to confront the accuser and as you know in the Chicago system, you have no chance to win.

    Judgement is why a police officer should be writing tickets, not just an automated money machine for the corporations and politicians.

  31. - Deeda - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 1:22 pm:

    Has anyone used that Photo Spray? You spray this stuff on your plate and when the camera takes the picture the plate is unreadable. Yet you can read it just fine with your own eyes.

  32. - Waco Kid - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 2:05 pm:

    It’s a revenue generator. I really can’t see it as anything else. The company that provides these comes in, promises the world in terms of money to the municipalities, and bingo, speeding cameras go up in the name of safety.

  33. - Irate in Glenview - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 2:43 pm:

    Just how effective is it to effectively ticket the car and not the driver? The Big Brother aspects of this scare the daylights out of me. The Tollways are now lined with Big Brother cameras. Richie Daley wants a camera on every street corner. All under the watch of Democrats. George Orwell had it figured out way back when.
    The “STATE” will control us by watching our every move.

    It all strikes me as anti-business and anti-productive on a very fundamental, very PARANOID level.

  34. - Ghost - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 3:09 pm:

    Not to sound crazy, but if a city knows an intersection is dangerous, why not have police officers on a fequent but random basis show up and start ticketing.

    The police catch or discover other crimes many times whith what starts as a routine traffic stop. I think remote policing dangerously remoes police from the street. I dont want us to cut and trim away the police in favor of remote law enforcement. Id rather have police on the streets who are able to detect and respond to crime, even if they are starting with basic traffic enforcement.

    I would rather hire another officer to watch an intersection then put in remote policing devices.

  35. - taxmandan - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 3:10 pm:

    Can anyone answer why it’s a $100 fine on camera and it’s a $75 fine if you get pulled over by a human?

  36. - Fan of the Game - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 3:40 pm:

    ===Can anyone answer why it’s a $100 fine on camera and it’s a $75 fine if you get pulled over by a human?===

    Kickbacks for the city? Just Kidding!

    You are likely paying for the technology.

  37. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 6:37 pm:

    This is an outrageously bad transparent attempt at a money grab. And the reason it doesn’t improve safety is precisely because people realize there’s a speed cam, jam on the brakes and get into accidents. Speed differences cause accidents. Not speed itself. That’s why the truck speed increase is a counterintuitive move towards safety. Enough of these automated enforcement money machines.

  38. - reformer - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 8:28 pm:

    Those who insist the sole purpose is revenue generation should consider one inconvenient fact: Illinois has had photo radar in highway construction zones for several years. The speed cameras were approved to reduce worker deaths. And they have succeeded.

  39. - reformer - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 8:29 pm:

    Irate in Glenview: If you lived in a high crime inner-city neighborhood — instead of an affluent suburb — perhaps you’d want cameras on corners just as much as many inner-city residents do.

  40. - reformer - Friday, Mar 27, 09 @ 8:31 pm:

    There’s no racial profiling with automated enforcement. Most of us would consider that an attribute, not a drawback.

  41. - Ultra50k - Saturday, Mar 28, 09 @ 9:16 am:

    I am totally against use of cameras and radars being placed at intersections or anywhere else. How about hiring some humans to do the job. Besides that it is just another invasion of our privacy and freedom. Any good that could come from this is heavily outweighed by the eventual unintended consequences that are sure to follow.

  42. - bugs - Saturday, Mar 28, 09 @ 5:05 pm:

    legislators going to a meeting are exempt from all traffic violations-they cannot be detained or hampered in any way from their duty

  43. - Beowulf - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 7:12 am:

    Saving lives is Priority # 2. Raising revenue is Priority #1. When they allow truckers to go from 55 mph to 65 mph despite the decrease in fuel economy and more importantly the decrease in the public’s safety, that told voters the tale. It is all about the trucking owners who make the largest political contributions to Illinois politicians down in Springfield. Put caps or limits on political donations and then we will see real change (rather than our current phony change) in Illinois.

  44. - Springfield Reformer - Wednesday, Apr 1, 09 @ 10:50 am:

    I oppose the cameras in general on constitutional grounds. If violating the speed limit is a crime, then prosecuting that crime is subject to my right to face my accuser, per the Sixth Amendment. The camera is merely a means of gathering evidence. It is not an accuser. I cannot confront it. I cannot cross-examine it. I cannot have a jury of my peers render their own independent judgment concerning its accuracy or reliability. I must simply give my money, right or wrong, to the Bureaucracy.

    Furthermore, as a matter of *traditional* procedural due process, you cannot penalize someone under the criminal code until *after* you have properly identified them as the perpetrator and provided evidence that proves them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This new system effectively inverts that process, moving us directly into the fundamentally unconstitutional space of “guilty unless you can find a way to prove yourself innocent.”

    Furthermore, unless the penalty for an officer-written ticket and an automated ticket are identical, the same act can result in two different penalties for two similarly situated individuals, not as a matter of judicial discretion, but as a matter of systemically unequal application of the law, thus violating the Equal Protection clause.

    Furthermore, even if violating the speed limit is recast as a mere regulatory violation, then a purely administrative approach involving anonymous determinations of infractions and imposition of effectively unlimited fines might be acceptable for the more well-heeled, but it substantially impairs the liberty interests of those with lesser resources. In other words, the poor and middle class, who rely more for their living on transportation, are going to be forced to live closer to the law than the well off. There’s nothing wrong with doing well and reaping the financial benefits of one’s success, but it has long been thought wrong for government to take money in exchange for preferential treatment under the law. They used to call it a bribe. Wait, in Mexico they still do call it that. But here, it’s a “revenue generator.” I sense a potential for abuse.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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