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As Long as We Remember...

May 7, 2009

Dipping Into Your Wallet Again

Chris Cavey

Have you ever had the creepy feeling you were being watched? Perhaps you have experienced the frustration of fighting with the “computer” and coming up on the short end. Or maybe you have felt oppressed by governmental regulation, like you are spending every day in a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.


Stir these emotions together and you will know the feeling of being trapped by a speed camera.


Today’s cameras are out in the open on display for you to see, if you are looking. Unlike a “red-light” camera, these beauties just quietly snap your picture as you drive past them. They are calibrated to snap your picture based on your speed traveled past a set point. Today these automated revenue generators are well in sight, but what about coming improvements in speed camera technology.


Remember when your cell phone was the size of a brick and all you could do was call someone to chat? Technology changed, and we now have “media devices” that send e-mail, text messages, play video and are Internet capable. Speed cameras are changing, too.


In Scotland, for traffic usage, they have perfected the “cat’s eye,” a 4mm surveillance camera that can be embedded in the lane guidance markers of the road bed. You won’t even know who is watching, where or when – until the ticket comes in the mail.


Later you will find it a difficult chore to fight City Hall, or the “computer” when you enter District Court for your moment before the local judge. No cop, no one to ask or answer questions – only a still photo of your car. You might not have even been the driver at the time! You see, the fine (code word for tax) goes to the registered owner regardless of who was behind the wheel.


Local governments have the right to place, or not, cameras wherever they deem needed. The local government collects the fine and then is required to send 90% to the State of Maryland; looks like there is little advantage to the local government for speed camera cash. Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold has already stated he will not place speed cameras in his county.


There is, however, a big advantage for the bleeding state coffers. The implementation of speed cameras is little more than a new tax on Maryland’s registered vehicle owners, one which discriminates by the fact that the cameras will not be implemented evenly throughout the entire state.


Some people claim that speed cameras are safety measures for highway workers and children in school zones. Perhaps, but, if you really wanted to protect either, you would be aggressive in your protection with as more cops, jersey barriers, traffic barrels and school crossing guards.


Cameras, especially those which are hidden, are passive. You get your ticket two-weeks later in the mail and only then realize where you were in violation – or not. A detour around construction, a jersey barrier or a cop along the roadside is an immediate deterrent and promotes immediate safety.


Speed cameras are only notorious revenue generators hiding in disguise as public safety tools. Speed cameras are just hidden traps resulting in fines levied at a specific segment of our population – vehicle owners in jurisdictions that have a hunger for tax dollars and no guts to directly tax.


It just doesn’t “feel right” to openly know or agree with any form of government surveillance on its citizenry. It just feels wrong, like there is a loss of freedom, deep down in your guts – even if you are guilty of speeding through a construction worksite.


Many people will, in the next few weeks, exercise their freedom to protest by signing petitions to bring this legislation to public referendum in 2010. The process for the organizers is both tedious and arduous, but for the registered voter to protest it is only a signature.


Once 56 men signed a document because they knew in their guts they needed to control their own freedoms. They sacrificed everything for their cause, and the United States came into being. My signature against speed cameras will cost me nothing.


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