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Spitting Mad at Speed Cameras? Vote 'Em Out At The Ballot Box!

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Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

By now, every driver knows about traffic enforcement cameras. Found in more than 20 states, they photograph drivers committing traffic offenses, whether it's speeding or running a red light. The tickets simply arrive in the mail.

Found in more than 20 states, they're attractive to municipalities because they're run by private companies that install and maintain them, then split the take with the town. Free cash, out of the wallets of motorists.

But a recent article in the Washington Post pointed out a new way to fight automated traffic cameras: They can be banned through the citizen initiative process.

This past Tuesday, for example, voters in three Ohio and Texas towns passed ballot measures to remove their cameras. In Chillicothe, Ohio, the vote ran 72 percent against the cameras.

Around the U.S., the Post tells us, there have been at least 11 ballot referendums on speed cameras. Want to guess the score? Yep: 11 to 0 in favor of taking them down.

Average speed cameras planned for 20mph zones in UK

Average speed cameras planned for 20mph zones in UK

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Speeding cameras seem to evoke the most negative reaction, whereas red-light cameras enjoy support in at least some areas. New York state, for instance.

The difference may be that red-light runners are more easily connected to traffic accidents and danger to others than the guy who ran a few miles an hour over the limit.

Still, in June, Maine banned camera enforcement outright, the latest of a total of 5 states to boot them.

Fighting camera enforcement citiations in court is usually fruitless. In Montgomery County, Maryland, drivers were convicted 99.7 percent of the time.

Which has led to some unusual protest tactics. A Subaru driver in Phoenix wore a monkey mask while racking up dozens of automated speeding tickets.

The best strategy: Don't break the law. Failing that, avoid the cameras. Online databases and GPS-enabled smartphone apps with camera locations have proliferated, and there's even a traffic camera detector for your car.

In any case, if your local community has speed cameras, you may now have an alternative at the ballot box. Just ask the citizens of Chillicothe.

Or College Station, Texas.

Or Sulphur, Louisiana.

And the list looks likely to lengthen.

[Washington Post]

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Comments (2)
  1. I find it really hard to believe that 99.7 percent were convicted. In my experience in traffic court (these were people who showed up to contest -- and no, not in Maryland), around a third were thrown out because they could show that they weren't the person driving, while all but the most severe were reduced and a few minor ones thrown out. I know the points aren't as bad in many states for these types of tickets, but definitely show up and contest -- even for an automated ticket.

  2. UPDATE: The traffic-camera company gets the referendum tossed out on a technicality over erroneous wording:

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