So we read with relish The New York Times story of Hampton, Fla., (pop. 477) which has issued so many speeding tickets to strangers driving through its 1,260-foot stretch on Highway 301 that the state investigated. The Florida Legislature may wipe the tiny speck of Hampton off the map.
Hampton’s former police chief, city clerk and maintenance operator are under criminal investigation for alleged financial irregularities stemming from fining all those motorists who suddenly found themselves dropping from a 65 mph zone to a 55 mph zone with barely enough time to slow down. In 2011 Hampton collected $268,000 despite being on AAA’s list of speed traps. Tickets were issued by volunteers, some driving uninsured vehicles.
In an age of rampant skepticism about government overreach, bureaucracy and ineffectiveness, Hampton, Fla., does not inspire confidence.
Drivers are not taking such abuses sitting down. A common pleas judge just ruled the southwest Ohio village of New Miami must get rid of traffic cameras used to collect $1 million from 10,000 drivers. The judge said the camera violates the right of due process and gives the village a vested interest in fining motorists. Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court is considering a challenge against cameras used in Toledo. The Florida Supreme Court is also considering the legality of traffic cameras. At least eight states have put restrictions on traffic cameras, and some won’t permit them in cities of less than 1 million people.
We would like the Supreme Court of the United States to take up this issue, but in 2009 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the presumption of liability of drivers issued citations does not violate due process rights.
At least by the end of 2014 all states have to adopt standards that decree that yellow lights should have a minimum duration of 3 seconds and a maximum duration of 6 seconds to make it easier to stop before the light changes. If a vehicle has entered the intersection before the light turns red, it should not be ticketed.
Drive carefully, my friends. We ARE being watched.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.