Anybody living near Cincinnati knows about a town called Elmwood Place and the nightmare of it implementing speed cameras to catch drivers traveling over the speed limit.
Some of you may have been caught by the cameras. In fact, as the numbers indicate, you might be in the minority if you weren’t.
In the first month after being activated, an unbelievable 6,600 tickets were sent out at $105 apiece. In a 30-day month, that averages to more than nine tickets every hour!
Fortunately, Elmwood Place is an exception rather than the rule in Ohio, but the existence of red light and speed cameras is an issue that deserves serious attention.
A bill recently passed by the Ohio House would outlaw these cameras in the state. House Bill 69 prohibits municipalities, counties, townships and the State Highway Patrol from using photo-monitoring devices to determine violations of red lights and speed limits. The bill allows cameras to be used in 20 mph school zones, but only during their hours of operation and only if a local law enforcement officer is present.
The use of traffic cameras raises many concerns. For one thing, it completely reverses the procedure of our legal system that claims a person is innocent until proven guilty. When an officer pulls someone over, the driver at least has the opportunity to speak to a human being on the spot. A red-light or speed camera simply issues a ticket that a person eventually receives in the mail.
Second is the issue of civil liberties. Just because certain technology is available does not mean it should be used to make it easier for the government to take money out of people’s pockets.
Finally, there is conflicting evidence of the cameras’ effectiveness in keeping people safe. Some studies say they increase public safety, others claim that they lead to more accidents because people slam on their brakes suddenly to avoid being picked up by the camera.
Promoting public safety is an important responsibility of government, but I also believe that another important role of government is to preserve freedom. I do not believe putting sneaky cameras at intersections that snap pictures of people’s vehicles and license plates upholds that mission.
John Becker is the state representative serving the 65th House District.