Saturday, January 19, 2008

Radar love

By Capt. Fogg

"I don't know whether Arizonans want to be policed by cameras, It smacks of Big Brother to me."
said Senate Transportation Chairman Ron Gould of the plan to install photo radar in that state. It smacks of revenue enhancement to me. Most Americans aren't familiar with the apparatus that takes pictures of passing cars' license plates if they're exceeding the speed limit. They're common and a nuisance in England, but that's a country of narrow winding roads with blind corners every hundred yards or so. Arizona is a different story.

In my small town in Florida, some cameras have been installed at intersections to prevent the frequent (or so they say) running of red lights. Rear end collisions have risen and the popular suspicion is that the private company that manages the system has shortened the yellow light time because they get a cut of the fines. There is much credible evidence from studies not sponsored by those with a vested interest in enforcement, that speed limits aren't directly related to accident rates; it's more important that traffic move at a uniform speed. Strict enforcement tends to produce a greater disparity between the 15% or 20% who obey ( and have a higher percentage of accidents) and the vast majority that do not and thus it creates a more dangerous road. The prevalence of radar detectors ensures that that majority will continue to seek their own speed but will have to speed up and slow down constantly.

The assurance that we will be electronically monitored for our own safety is more transparent than most windshields - it's all about making up for revenue shortfalls. It's about extracting more money from the people without having to call it a tax.

The Arizona project was tested in Scottsdale and An Arizona State University professor who studied the results says that it reduced speeding and accident rates. No thought was given to the drivers who simply took an alternate route to avoid it and needless to say, I don't trust his figures. Even if it were true, the thought of being monitored in my actions by a soulless machine is enough to bring out the libertarian in me and I'm sure Arizonans will feel the same way. The real question is do we have any choice but to submit to the rules of those who make a living regulating us?

Cross posted from Human voices

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