Monday, September 3, 2007

Speed Traps

I really, really dislike camera speed traps.This is especially the case when I have recently received a fine from a camera trap, but, even those usually quite long intervals between such fines, I maintain I high level of general dislike for them. Of course, it is the righteous indignation for the fine I received on Friday, for which I have no real extenuating circumstances, and am completely at fault, tat prompts this post.

A large part of my dislike is the total separation of the South African camera traps form any form of law enforcement. They are run purely as a money making scheme. The fact the most cities out-source the
whole process should surely ring alarm bells at several levels of government, but apparently is viewed as good business.

The objections to running camera traps as a business should be reasonably self evident. There is o incentive for the company placing the cameras to place them in points where speed reduction is an actively good thing, since, many people being semi-sensible, the number of people speeding will be comparatively low. Likewise, at points where exceeding the speed limit is less of an issue, it's in the company's interest to place cameras to maximise revenue. That this is completely the reverse of the desired behaviour, is the problem.

Similarly, to increase revenue, cameras are disguised. This allows several bites at the cherry before people learn that the camera's there, and allows maximum exploitation of out of town people, who have the added advantage of not being well placed to contest the fine.

this also creates the aspect that annoys me most - the long delay between offense and punishment. Receiving the fine some weeks later means that a) one cannot argue against the fine based on traffic conditions or whatever, and b) the actual events are vague, and thus any defense is difficult. This is also in the interests of the company, as revenue suffers when people can successfully contest fines. Likewise, there is no incentive for applying the law flexibly, since a narrow, legalistic interpretation, is better for the bottom line.

My last objection is not against the cameras system specifically, but the way in which it is used to completely replace all other forms of traffic policing. The number of moving offenses that don't involve speeding on our roads is quite staggering, yet only the one is targeted. And since this is targeted, people adopt tactics to defeat it, such as using false plates, or mounting the plates in positions that are difficult for the camera to observe. Since no other policing is done, these tactics are completely safe. That the system fails to address such obvious gaming of the system is a sad inditement of the system's effectiveness.

So, to summarise: Camera Traps BAD, especially when they nab me.

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