EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 15, 2014

Column: Revenue-generating traffic cams: Something we all can hate

Finally. An issue that unites both rabid Democrats and rabid Republicans: Those demon traffic cameras.

Not too long ago in the otherwise very nice state of Ohio, on a quiet Sunday morning with no other cars in sight, I made a right-turn-on-red maneuver after slowing to 2 mph. A traffic camera caught me. A few weeks later I got a ticket in the mail for $130 for failing to come to a full stop.

After a lot of fulminating on the questionable constitutionality of this injustice I paid the fine, but it rankles. My 93-year-old neighbor who has never been in an accident in her life, seems to get a speeding ticket from a secretly situated, frequently moved camera every time she returns from the supermarket. Another friend automatically allots a certain percentage of income each month for the $30 speeding tickets she gets whenever she cruises down a long hill bound for volunteer duty at the hospital.

Chicago collects almost $70 million a year from speeding and red-light or stop-sign violations tracked by cameras installed at 400 intersections. In the Dallas and Fort Worth area one single camera has resulted in collected fines of nearly $2.5 million. The total of all the cameras soars into the millions.

The District of Columbia collected $85 million in 2012 and hopes to get much more this year.

Safety advocates insist traffic cameras, installed and maintained by private companies that get a huge amount of money from the gross take, save lives and spur safer driving. Critics scorn the cameras as revenue enhancers for local governments and warn they are often abused. There is a lot of conflicting research backing both sides.

Traffic cameras are just the latest technological development in the long war between drivers and over-zealous authorities who see legitimate speed limits as a way to profit.

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