HARD-CORE speedcam haters -- those who believe that being caught on camera breaking the legal limit is somehow not fair -- may take some convoluted comfort in a bill proposed by D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large). The legislation would limit the use of these cameras to areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. As reported in the Washington Times, the effect of the legislation would be to bar the cameras from highways or other roads where pedestrian walkways are separated from the thoroughfare by a structural barrier, such as a fence or Jersey wall. The irrationale, if you will, is that too many cameras are catching too many people speeding in pedestrian-free zones and that the devices are there simply to raise revenue.
Like radar and on-the-spot sightings by police officers, the speed cameras do raise revenue at a good clip. But do the cameras lie? Even where pedestrians may not roam, is it not against the law, or a threat to other people on the road, to tromp on that accelerator and go beyond the posted limit? Police say that camera locations are changed periodically and that the devices are intended solely as public safety tools. To subvert public safety efforts, camera-shy speeders are buying sprays and other potions to foil the photo ops. These, like anti-radar devices, should be outlawed.
Concentrating on streets with heavy pedestrian traffic or residential streets near schools or other community centers makes sense. But other roads, too, need monitoring. If cameras at certain locations are raking in a bundle, that might well indicate that a whole lot of speeding is going on there.
The speed limits on some of the more open and less walked stretches in the District may well be too low, but that is not a question for individual motorists to decide as they breeze through. Ms. Schwartz's bill deserves to be rejected by the council, and the police should continue to review the placement of the cameras to achieve maximum impact. If that results in maximum revenue, so be it.