Speed Cameras: Are They All About the Revenue?

Drive at night on a certain section of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and you'll routinely see bright white lights flash. This is ...
by | September 17, 2009

Drive at night on a certain section of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and you'll routinely see bright white lights flash. This is an indication that cars are zipping along far enough over the 30-mph speed limit to trigger speed cameras.

The local police used to park on side streets and train their radar guns on cars coming towards them. I guess they decided it was time to go higher tech. I, for one, am careful not to speed on that section of the road because I know it will cost me.

In response to these red light and speed cameras employed throughout the country, entrepreneurs have come up with services to avoid them.

I recently received an email with the line "DRIVER OUTRAGE GOES PROACTIVE." It was selling an alert on mobile phones so drivers know when they're heading into "speed traps," red-light camera intersections, school zones and more. "Now drivers will have an in-car reminder to obey traffic laws and stay alert."

But only when a ticket is at issue? Otherwise, damn the torpedos and full speed ahead? 

One argument against the cameras, according to the email, is that studies show that rear-end accidents go up where these cameras are found, presumably as people slam on the brakes to slow to posted speed limits.

Another argument against them is that cash-strapped cities are deploying photo radar to generate revenue. The mobile service will level the playing field, the email says. I don't buy this. Cities would get no revenue if people didn't speed. It's the driver's choice. Do taxpayers prefer to pay for extra police to do the same job?

What do cities think this sort of product? If it makes people obey traffic laws (albeit only at the places where speed and red-light cameras are trying to do the same thing, it seems) is that okay with officials in cities and towns with these cameras? Or do you, officials out there, have a problem with this?

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman  |  Former columnist
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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