Posted by A Stoner on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 10:12:25 PM
There seem to be a large number of blog posts and news articles around the country that state communities are trying to bolster their reduced tax budgets with an increase in fees from policing motorists, primarily for speeding.
I have seen first hand different communities that do this, and most cannot be prevented from doing so. Any community near an interstate is perfectly happy to collect fees for their towns by taxing out of state travellers by pulling them over and fining them for speeding or any other infraction that they can make stick. Because these travellers are from out of state, there is almost no chance they will be willing to challenge the infraction in court, so it is very easy money. Other communities are willing to do this to their own citizens and frame it as a safety promotion issue. Other communities use traffic light cameras for this purpose as well.
Interestingly, studies find that increased speed limits do not translate into higher accident or death rates. When the double nickle was dropped and states were allowed to set speeds to what they desired, accidents and deaths went down, even in the state that actually got rid of interstate speed limits altogether. Studies show that stop light cameras actually lead to an increase in accidents, yet even when the accidents continue to pile up, the cameras do not go away. So, the idea that these are nothing more than stealth unfair taxation does not seem to be very far off.
My feelings on this issue is that speed limits are a distraction to drivers. When you speed, you are always on the look out for a cop, and thus not on the look out for other things. Speed recommendations should be implemented that give a reasonable speed for the area but are not directly enforced. Anyone one involved in an accident in that area would face very steep fines if they were driving higher than the speed limit and in cases of school zones and other pedestrian points I would recommend short jail stays. For those who do not get into accidents, what is the issue? The science of crash site investigations is good enough that evidence on the the scene can hit a pretty close marker as to what the speed of a vehicle was before the crash. If the issue is safety, the jail time and the very steep fines for speeding and getting into an accident will do far more than random and prejudicial enforcement.
Enforcement is prejudicial. If it is raining, a time when cops should be more inclined to stop motorists who are speeding (due to wet pavement making stopping in time harder and frequently visibility is impaired as well) many cops do not pull speeders over so they can remain dry and comfortable. Police officers are very fickle with who they hand out tickets to. I am a white male,when I get pulled over, I always get a ticket and usually one that has a speed higher than I saw on my speedometer. On the other hand, older people who happen to also be blinder and slower in reaction time who I have been in the passenger seat with have never been given anything more than a warning, which they promptly ignore as they accelerate to 20 mph or more over the speed limit within view of the police officer. A woman who has been drinking and was speeding at 40 mph over the speed limit in foggy conditions is pulled over and flirts her way into a ticket that says she was going 4 mph over the speed limit. How can a nation of laws exist when the laws are so malleable as to be either meaningless to some people or completely iron clad against others all at the discretion and prejudice of those who enforce it?
Then you also have the conflict of interest in the judicial process of traffic violations. The judge is an advocate of the state, county or city for which he sits and the plaintiff is the state, county or city in which you are tried.