Is there a sensible argument against speed cameras or speed traps?

A major problem with speed cameras is the impersonal, delayed, heavy-handed way in which motorists are fined. Earlier this month I received a “NOTICE OF VIOLATION” in the mail, with the typical photos, claiming that my car had driven through a red light. There was a link where I could watch the video. I watched the video, and it was clear that the car had shot straight through a red light.

Problem was, it wasn’t my car. It wasn’t even the same model as my car. It wasn’t my license plate, although the number was very similar. Furthermore, the location was 5-6 hours away from where I live and work, and the incident would have occurred while I was at work or just getting off work.

On the form, there were options to contest the charge. I could check boxes to claim (1) someone else was driving my car, (2) someone had stolen it and the theft and been reported, … and maybe another option that didn’t apply to me.

But there was no checkbox on the form to say, “This is not my car,” or “This is not my license plate.” It seemed evident that the law enforcement authorities behind the system had such confidence in the system, that they could not admit of the possibility of failure. Even though apparently the officer signing a report can’t tell the difference between a Corolla and a Prius in broad daylight.

According to the back of the notice, if I wanted to contest the charge, I would need toappear in person at a review process. That would be a 5-6 hour drive, one way. Because the fee was $50.00, you can imagine that by the time you factor in the driving time, fuel cost, lost work, pain and inconvenience, uncertainty of a favorable resolution, etc., some people would pay just to get out of it. That’s easy money for the enforcing agency, and the “due process” explained in the notice could be a major problem for some drivers—especially out of state drivers.

However, I called and was given instructions for how to submit my evidence by e-mail, and thankfully in a few days the notice of violation was dropped.

If there had been no speed camera, an officer might have stopped the car that ran the red light. He or she would have talked to the actual driver. The correct person would have been fined. But instead, someone else (me) living hours away gets a notice in the mail, which does not specify any reasonable options to contest the notice. Instead, it was only by my determination and, in this case, the reasonableness of the enforcement staff, that allowed me to get out of paying an illegitimate fine.