The Speed Camara Conundrum

Speed cameras are once again in the news as State Senator Jim Brochin wants to curtail their use in inactive construction zones, probably after having read a story in the Baltimore Sun that credited 8,800 tickets to the cameras over a six-week period on three stretches of highway marked as work zones.

As a driver who often struggles to stay within the posted limits, I have no love for devices that promise to surreptitiously expose and punish my bad driving habits. However, as someone who believes in the principle of a society based on the rule of law, I have a difficult time defending my right to evade detection.

Yes, I realize that they’re probably just cash cows for local governments, disguised as traffic safety devices, but if they’re generating a lot of money, that means that there are a lot of scofflaws out there, myself included. If I accept the argument that the ability to evade the law is not a right, if I accept the premise that law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to enforce the law, then I must also find my distaste for the cameras problematic, especially in light of the 12mph “grace zone” granted by the devices.

At the end of the day, to argue against speed cameras is to argue for speeding. Speeding causes accidents by reducing the amount of time a driver has to react to changing situations; speeding makes accidents worse by increasing the velocity of the collision. Therefore, it would be lunacy to be consciously supportive of a behavior that can only be viewed as potentially destructive.

There are positive aspects to speed cameras as well. Speed cameras allow police officers to be somewhere else, doing something more important that hiding in the bushes alongside a highway. It would also stand to reason that they’re also probably conditioning drivers to obey the posted speed limits.

Some call the cameras an unreasonable invasion of privacy, but I don’t buy that. If I’m operating as a government-licensed driver, in my government-licensed vehicle on a government-maintained road, where can be my expectation of privacy? Did I not surrender that when I agreed to be subject to government oversight in exchange for the privilege to operate a motor vehicle publicly?

And what about police cameras aimed at street corners where drug-trafficking is known to exist? If those are a good idea, why not speed cameras?

Conservatives contend that the devices are just a sneaky way for tax-and-spend liberals to take and spend more of our money. Perhaps, but bear in mind that those contributing their money have at their disposal an easy way to opt-out: stop speeding.

Does all this logic make me feel better about speed cameras? No. Do I now welcome a proliferation of cameras everywhere, as a low-cost, convenient way to promote law abidance? Unequivocally not. Am I left feeling more comfortable with an increasingly intrusive government? Quite the contrary.

What I’m left with is that uneasy “Big Brother Is Watching You” feeling, but without any way to protest rationally. I know there’s something in all this that’s not right, but I don’t know what.

And it’s that intellectual impotence that bothers me the most.

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Woman Goes to Jail For Movie Piracy After Taping “Twilight: New Moon” at Sister’s Birthday Party

Samantha Tumpach, pirate

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a 22-year-old Chicago woman spent two nights in jail after taping three minutes of “Twilight: New Moon” while at her sister’s birthday party. Samantha Tumpach brought her new digital camera to the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Illinois in suburban Chicago, where the party was being hosted. According to Tumpach, ushers said nothing as she snapped photos and recorded partygoers singing “Happy Birthday,” but rushed to report her to management when they noticed her camera pointed at the movie screen.

Police were called, and theater management demanded that Samantha be arrested. Because it was a Saturday, she could not be arraigned until Monday – after having spent two nights in a Rosemont jail. The police who handcuffed the young woman and led her away seemed very sympathetic, according to Tumpach, but since the theater manager insisted on pressing charges, they had no choice but to haul her off to a cell. Charged with felony criminal use of a motion picture exhibition, she was released Monday morning on her personal recognizance. If convicted, Samantha faces up to three years in prison.

As far as I know, however, her legal troubles are unrelated to her decision to host a birthday party at a showing of “Twilight: New Moon.”