Monday, February 21, 2005

That Didn't Take Long

Just yesterday, I expressed a hope that other localities such as Washington, D.C ., would follow the example of Virginia and rid themselves of their traffic cameras. It looks like D.C. is going in the opposite direction. The Washington Post reports that the police are activating four new stationary photo radar cameras.

The D.C. police argue that the additional cameras are needed to reduce the number of the speed-related fatalities. The problem with that argument is that one of the locations that a new stationary camera is going up, MacArthur Boulevard NW, has not had a speed-related crash in seven years.

Another problem with that argument is that the burden of paying these photo-enforced tickets is on non-D.C. residents. According to the article, 60 percent of the photo-tickets issued last month were to cars registered in Maryland, 1o percent of tickets were to cars registered in Virginia and 25 percent of the tickets were to cars registered in D.C. This statistic suggests that the locations of the cameras are in areas more likely to nab non-D.C. residents (e.g., New York Ave, NE which is near I-295).

If this is the case, it's politically astute on the D.C. government's part because non-D.C. residents can do little to get the D.C. government to change its stance on traffic cameras. I think if the numbers were reversed and 60 percent of these tickets were issued to D.C.-registered drivers, there would be much more of an uproar to the city's efforts to expand the traffic camera program than there is now, especially when these tickets cost drivers anywhere from $30 to $200 a pop.

While it's politically astute to be ticketing non-D.C. registered drivers instead of D.C.-registered drivers, it shows the fallacy of the police's reasoning that these cameras are about safety. If these cameras were about safety, shouldn't most of the people ticketed have cars registered in D.C. I think it's a safe assumption that a majority of the cars on roads of D.C. are D.C.-registered cars. Are D.C. drivers that much safer than non-resident drivers? After driving around this town for six months, the answer is a firm no. But hey lets keep the good times rolling in D.C. The government has a $1.2 billion surplus, and it doesn't hurt that since 1999, that the traffic camera program has generated nearly $100 million for the government.