Letter, Opinion

Why cameras should replace humans in speed control

Dear Editor,

We’ve probably all have read about the use of cameras along some highways to measure the speed of vehicles, replacing the police stationed at various points with radar guns. Perhaps some of us have driven in the various states or foreign countries that utilize this technique. There seems to be an outcry in opposition to the cameras replacing the police. The main reasons behind this protest movement seem to center on three fundamentals: The right to privacy, the use of cameras for non-speed issues, and the excessive cost of equipment. Let’s examine the question of privacy. This is an interesting objection in that it seems to suggest that a police car, neatly hidden from a driver’s view, is not an invasion of privacy when the radar gun snaps.  Likewise, when a police vehicle stops a driver for speeding, their subsequent research of the driver’s police record and automobile’s license, or suspicion of illegal drug activity or driving impairment, do they not represent a form of privacy invasion? It would seem that the camera was, actually, less intrusive than the police stop.  The various legislation and regulations that established speed limits may, in and of itself, be construed to be an invasion of privacy. Yet, without such measures, chaos would result.  Perhaps an even more perplexing question is the speed limit itself. We have become a nation of drivers that automatically add five to 10 miles per hour to the posted speed. It also seems that the police have mentally done the same. Do you ever recall someone being stopped for speeding who was going 67 mph in a 65-mph zone? Maybe it’s time the state and localities set the limit at a number they deem the top acceptable speed and start enforcing it at that speed.  The use of cameras for non-speed related matters focuses on activities occurring in view of the scanning camera. If at a beach or lake, it may espy personal activities. A camera, unlike a human being, does not discern good or bad behavior. A speed control camera should not be subject to a man or woman viewing its results to decide whether the excess speed should be fined. It is certainly something that may easily be programmed to just determine speed. Thus, its use for non-speed related purposes would be null – so long as it was permitted just to measure speed. It is quite possible that, given the advances in technology, the camera could also be used to measure truck loads, thus eliminating the need for weight stations.  As for costs, like all improvements, it will cost money. However, if the system using it simply receives the plate number of the vehicle exceeding the speed limit with a time and date stamp, this information automatically can be transferred to a digital database, create a statement of the speed and fine, and produce a sealed envelope to the vehicle’s owner. The process is slightly more complex but is, nonetheless, totally automatic. This means that, after the cameras are installed, the on-going administrative cost is extremely cheap. As for the cost of installation, let’s remember the cost of the interstate highway system. Its return on investment has been well beyond anyone’s expectations.  But more importantly, it also means that the local police, sheriff, and state police will have been freed up to do the far more significant tasks of reducing crime and helping get cats down from trees.  As a heavy-footed driver, I still believe it is in our national interests to find ways to free the police to perform their primary functions while still enforcing speed limits. Let’s start using technology to our advantage. All a camera will do is catch you if you are speeding; it won’t peep into your bedroom.

Ralph Pace,

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