So before we begin, lets get one thing out of the way: I think Speed Cameras are unfair and wrong. Recent articles like this one about Baltimore’s whole error-prone system should be enough indication that as much human interpretation as possible is needed in the charging of this crime (hell, all crimes for that matter).
So with that said, let me get to my main topic of discussion. I got a red light citation in DC some months back when I didn’t actually run the light, but went too far in the crosswalk. Apparently I missed my opportunity to appeal this (I don’t know how the stupid rules work in DC, MD’s speed camera tickets have a more straight-forward process where you can have the Speed operator present). And when I finally got through to Lucinda Babers of the DC DMV, she simply said the ruling on the field stood:
Meanwhile, fast forward to many months later in Montgomery County where I turn on a red and the red light camera flash goes off. A quick google search helps me find the Montgomery County Police Department’s twitter address and the following occurred:
So in conclusion, Speed Cameras are wrong, but what really makes it bad is how DC uses them. I hate this about you DC.
Sometime in 2011 I didn’t pay a speed camera violation (something else I have issues with, but let’s ignore that for now) on time. A MVA flag was put on. What ensued was a complex battle to get the flag released so that I could renew my plates.
There’s a lovely simple system in place to fine you, put on penalties, and put on flags. But when it comes to resolving things and dealing with issues, it’s not so simple.
So this is an annoying reality but nothing noteworthy enough for me to want to start a blog post.
The part that did though was what happened during the time my tags were expired. Two separate expenses occurred – speeding and a parking ticket (Yes, I know both were wrong but for now, let’s just leave them as common mistakes). The speeding ticket was issued by the State of Maryland via a State Trooper. The parking ticket was issued by the City of Baltimore via a parking ticket officer. For both, two separate expired tags tickets were issued.
When I complained about this to the City of Baltimore, the latter issuer. They said they were a separate entity and had a right to fine. Nevermind that Baltimore is a city within Maryland.
Really, the whole thing just seems like a money grubbing opportunity (more so than the usual fining method). On a smaller scale, I’d like to see my unnecessary expired fees violation from the parking ticket removed. On a larger scale, I’d like to see a stop to being penalized through multiple parties for the same single offense.
I was happy to see a letter from Nate Hammond of Laurel Maryland complaining to The Gazette (our local newspaper that covers Laurel, MD) about the placement of a new speed camera in laurel being at the bottom of a hill. I was hoping to see a response back to the page with the letter ( Speed cameras aid city, not students ) but have not seen anything appear yet. This is something that warrants a response.
Oh, and this complaint falls under a broader category of feeling that in many cases, speeding is used to just make money.
I came up with an idea today while reading a fairly recent Dr. Gridlock article in the Washington Post about speed cameras. One of the reasons they are hated (at least by me) is that there is no real way out of them. Once the flash goes off, your fate is sealed. Sure you can take it to court, but from what I’ve experienced at least, nothing happened, the fine stayed and I had a court fee on top. Compare this to the traditional methods of getting a ticket where you take it to court and either the judge reduces or takes off the penalty, or you could get lucky and the cop doesn’t show. And you’re off the hook and the world sleeps fine at night.
This is because while speeding is technically a crime, I (along with many) don’t really consider it one and it should not be lumped in with them. The goal is prevention to avoid a real tragedy, I get that. But just because mistakes happen (more often w/ speeding than red light violations) doesn’t mean you should be nailed everytime.
I’ve been thinking what if there was a chance that even if you saw that traffic camera flash go off, you wouldn’t get the ticket. Perhaps it could just be purely random. Perhaps it could be based on an algorithm based on the owner of the vehicle (and assumed driver at the time) and that there were things that could be done to help your chances of getting off. I think the desired effect of the camera would still happen without the penalty every time.