First, let me offer the regular disclaimers: 1). My wife is a Washington County Commissioner; 2). I was a paid advocate for a company that sold photo enforcement systems. That advocacy ended in January 2012. I still absolutely support photo enforcement of speed limits in school and construction zones.
Well, it had to happen. Several people have said it verbally and finally someone put it in writing. The following written comment appeared under a Herald-Mail website posting of a letter to the editor published April 27 regarding speed cameras: “When was the last time a child was hit in a school crossing in Hagerstown? This like many other things is a money making scam with NO accountability of funds ... Just like the TAXES we pay in MD. When do you EVER see a child in a school zone at 3 AM in the morning?”
Before I comment on this statement, let me point out a couple of facts about speed cameras (officially referred to as “photo enforcement”). First, in many school zones, we have a recognized speeding problem during school hours. You can call the Sheriff’s Department or the city/town police departments to get the particulars. The cities/towns of Hagerstown, Hancock and Smithsburg have already implemented speed cameras in some of their respective school zones. Why? To reduce the number of speeders in the school zones. And I believe it works.
Second, what is a speed camera? In the simplest terms, “a speed camera is a robot with a radar gun.” Not really very dissimilar to a human with a radar gun, the robot is mechanical.
Third, when the police officer with a radar gun issues a speeding ticket, who gets the money from the fine? The answer is the Maryland court system. Now, when that robot with a radar gun informs a “sworn officer” from the particular jurisdiction that is controlling the robot and the radar gun to issue a speeding ticket, the jurisdiction gets a percentage of the money.
Consider this: If a human (police officer) tickets a speeder, everyone (every taxpayer in the jurisdiction) pays for the cost of that human; however, if a robot catches a speeder, the guilty one (the speeder) pays for the robot.
Oh, the jailhouse lawyers and those who believe they know what’s best for everyone else will cry foul over radar/robot calibration, Big Brother is watching, privacy, too much government and I’m sure many other issues. However, the fact remains that the robot with a radar gun is cheaper than the human with a radar gun. And the robot (actually the jurisdiction that controls the robot) gets to keep a portion of the fine money.
Now back to the online comment. How sad is it (and I’m trying my best not to be judgmental here) that anyone would suggest that we must wait for the injury of a child before we take action to utilize the best in technology to potentially forgo that injury. I think that is what the commenter inferred.
Even if the robot with the radar was operating at 3 a.m. and caught you speeding, you were still speeding — whether there was a child present or not. You might want to say the posted speed limit is unnecessary; however, right now the speed limit is what it is. If you’re caught by a robot or by a police officer, you were speeding. Get over it.
Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.