Speed Cameras are Watching You and Charging Big Bucks

Since 2008, Washington D.C. has been implementing dozens of mobile speed cameras disguised as green mailboxes next to bushes or trees where they are hard to see. These are much more convenient than pole-mounted cameras since they’re battery operated, can be moved easily and don’t involve underground wiring. But residents don’t like them because of the hefty fines they get slapped with if they happen to be going over the speed limit.

The public outcry prompted the D.C. Council to form a task force that would study the effectiveness and fairness of these cameras that many people claim are just another source of taxation.

Where I live we have red light cameras. If you get caught running a red light, you’ll get a $70 ticket in the mail. I’m sure we’ve all seen the studies that show that red light cameras actually increase overall accidents and injuries. So, red light cameras are not really about public safety as the invested politicians and camera companies tell us. It’s about revenue. And in this economy, local governments want all the revenue they can get their spendthrift hands on.

Speed cameras are more profitable than red light cameras because they can issue more citations and can charge more.

Even though Chicago pulled in about $60 million in red light camera revenue in 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a speed camera program that would potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year. But Mayor Emanuel claims it’s not about the money. He said he hoped he wouldn’t see any revenue from the speed camera program. Riiiight. Another city official claimed that it was just about getting drivers to slow down.

Washington D.C. has a population of just over 600,000. From nearly a half million speeding citations issued in 2011, it raked in a whopping $50.1 million in revenue. While I might pay $70 for running a red light here at home, D.C. residents might pay upwards of $250 per speeding citation, depending on how fast they were going.

A Montgomery County (just north of D.C.) Traffic Division official was lamenting how people slow down when they see the camera and then speed right back up after they pass the camera. This is exactly what happens on the freeway. It can be quite dangerous actually. You’ll be driving safely and comfortably at the speed of traffic, maybe 10 mph over the speed limit, and then all of a sudden people start slamming on their breaks, nearly causing accidents, and making you nearly rear-end someone. And then you find out it’s because of a cop on the shoulder that’s aiming his radar gun at drivers. This isn’t making anybody or anything safer or better…except for maybe the city’s budget.

The new speed cameras will be no different. They won’t prevent accidents; they won’t make people safer. And when people get used to where the cameras are, the city will simply move them to a place where people aren’t used to them to continue to bring in money.

Governments love enforcing regulations. People do speed, and car accidents do happen, and sometimes not even as a result of speeding. If someone causes an accident because he was speeding, then the injury, death or damage to property is the crime, not the speeding itself.