Monday, December 20, 2010

County's First Speed Cameras Will Make People Drive Slower

Newly installed speed cameras on the B/W Parkway will be the county's first examples of the devices, although my extensive dealings in P.G. County have familiarized me with their implementation.  (I try to stay out of Montgomery County, where the use and consequently the avoidance of speed cameras have been perfected.)

So, do speed cameras really work?  Yes!  Of course they freekin' work.  There is a speed camera on one particular road I take to work every day, and when I'm on that part of the road, I'm very careful not to exceed the speed limit.  And I know that this speed camera is in a good spot, because I lost control of my Isuzu Rodeo one rainy day 7 years ago on that exact portion of the road, probably because I was going too fast.

The next question is are they safe.  My pre-research hypothesis was that while the cameras might be successful at reducing speed, they might likely cause more accidents because paranoid drivers like myself would be staring at the speedometer instead of the road.  In fact, a criticism like this stands on strong ground for red light cameras, which have been showed to be a revenue-generator at the expense of driver safety.  To my moderate surprise, speed cameras have been found to decrease not only speeding but also accidents and fatalities.

So, the only downside apparently to speed cameras is that people want to go places fast and now will have to  budget like an extra 200 seconds in their morning for when they have to decrease their speed from 73 mph to 65 mph on 295.  After all, the cameras don't give tickets unless you're a certain amount over the limit.  This is not something that the government should care about, unless they are particularly concerned that the increasing scope of 'big brother' will anger voters and cause them to not get re-elected, which isn't really that good of an argument anyway considering public safety in involved.

But, motorists do have a valid gripe here.  Speed limits are somewhat arbitrary.  I imagine that speed limits are set by politicians who follow the recommendations of traffic engineers who take into account how much the road curves, how wide it is, if kids are playing nearby, and if people usually drink coffee in the car and therefore can only have 1 hand on the wheel.  But do the limits know what time of day it is?  Do they know the weather conditions?  Do they know if you have a vehicle that handles well like my beautiful Ferrari does?  (Note: I do not have a Ferrari).  No, the limits don't know squat--they just sit there posted on signs telling you what you can't do.  How rude.  In fact, you can get a speeding ticket if you are going under the speed limit, if the officer determines that you are driving too fast for the conditions.  If discretion can be applied to determine when a safe speed is less than the posted limit, why can't I put the cruise control on my 7-Series to 71 mph when leaving work from the restaurant at midnight?  (Note: I do not own a BMW 7 series and I also do not work at a restaurant.)

Anyway, it strikes me that speed cameras are one of the most effective ways of reducing speeding and improving safety.

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