The Speed Camera Wars

The Washington Examiner reports that D.C. police are frustrated by new technology that allows drivers to pinpoint and avoid speed and red-light cameras. The technology, called PhatomAlert, streams to iPhones and GPS devices, sounding an alarm as drivers get close to cameras. Radar detection devices are illegal in D.C. and Virginia, but outlawing these devices may prove impossible.

D.C. police say their 290 cameras, first installed in 1999, have saved lives. Studies of the effectiveness of cameras on road safety offer conflicting data. The Governors Highway Safety Association says they’ve reduced violations and crashes.  The Virginia Transportation Research Council says they increase rear-end crashes.

Others argue cameras are more of a revenue trap for government, and they are used in bad faith; for example, citizens in Denver contend yellow lights were shortened to increase fines.

Photo radar tickets generated $1 billion in revenue between 2005 and 2008 for the District. In Maryland, Montgomery County’s cameras are expected to generate $29 million this fiscal year.

Anti-camera sentiment has led to lawsuits — motorists in Washington state are suing for being fined excessively for violations caught on traffic camera. And worse: a man in Glendale, Arizona took a pick axe to a speeding camera. He was fined $3,500.