Friendly Helpful Speed Camera To Ticket You, Then Text You Too?

August 6, 2010

We've written a lot about traffic enforcement cameras, both the ones that nail red-light runners and those that send automatic tickets to drivers who exceed the speed limit.

Now a new wrinkle in evolving technology has been proposed: Wouldn't it be nice if the camera system not only sent you an automatic ticket but also texted you to let you know it was on its way?

Pulled over by the police

Pulled over by the police

The goal is to provide an instant "rap on the knuckles," just as a ticket issued on the spot by a police officer would, to jolt drivers into driving at the legal limit.

Jason Deller, the spokesman for the Australian Institute of Public Works who discussed the idea, suggested it because in many countries, mobile phones are used to pay tolls, congestion charges, and other fees.

That practice isn't common in the U.S., and we suspect many drivers would be deeply averse to providing a mobile-phone number to the Department of Motor Vehicles or any other municipal or government agency to allow it to be used for that purpose.

Still, the idea points to our ever more interconnected world. If mobile-phone-based payment systems ever do take off, this may not seem so outlandish in years to come.

On the other hand, Arizona turned off its speed cameras last month, because they didn't generate anything like the revenue that was promised, because drivers didn't pay their tickets and many citizens found the cameras an invasion of privacy.

By the way, it turns out that states which reset their speed limits to the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic under good conditions--in other words, setting them not for revenue generation but for safety--see no increase in overall speeds.

In other words, drivers largely know what a safe speed is, and drive at that speed regardless of what the signs say.

But somehow we fear that fact will do little to stop the spread of speed cameras.


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