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Risks and rewards of photo enforcement | Federal Way letters
Jacinda Howard’s front page article July 31 reported the city’s 2009 net from traffic cameras was a whopping $849,871. Holy Toledo! That’s a gusher! Keep it coming.
But there’s a risk, a big one. The risk is an upset citizenry that views traffic cameras as an injustice by those who make the law. An ancient philosopher is alleged to have said, “The absolute depth of injustice is not criminality, but ‘legal’ crimes committed by governments against their citizens.” Now, if the use of traffic cameras isn’t a “legal” crime, there ain't no such thing. Several communities around the country have come to this conclusion and abandoned their use.
If it’s about safety and not revenue, here’s a better solution: Implement engineering based standards. According to research done by the National Motorists Association, by implementing proven engineering based safety standards, infractions are diminished and cameras become unprofitable and are removed. Or, in their zeal for easy money, municipalities keep them and focus on other driver violations, such as not making a complete stop before making a right turn on red. "California stops," as they’re more commonly called, are traffic violations that barely register in accident statistics (2,000 crashes out of 6,000,000 violations). Yet in some communities, these tickets represent 80 to 90 percent of camera citations. What is the number in Federal Way? Let’s see: That 6,000,000 number converts to 125 accidents for 375,000 violations! And it’s not about revenue? At $100-plus per violation, that’s a lot of money. Here’s another gem I’ve learned: Increasing the yellow light by one second before turning red can reduce violations by 50 percent. Doing so seems like a good idea, but here’s the kicker: It reduces revenue too.
Has Federal Way considered the $10,000 challenge by the National Motorists Association that claims implementing engineering standards to reduce violations are superior to PhotoCop? If so, you didn’t report about it. In my opinion, here’s the reason Federal Way won’t accept the challenge: They’ll lose and be forced to give up their unethical revenue gusher. But challenge or no challenge, PhotoCop will soon be history… and so will the supporters. Thank God for elections.
Finally, if it’s not about revenue, then why doesn’t Federal Way offer community service as an alternative way to pay for violations? Other municipalities do. Times are tough and many people are out of work and would gladly work it off rather than dipping into their meager nest egg, if they have one, or their unemployment compensation in order to keep their driver's license.
Does the city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions preclude this option? Excuse me Mr. Shakespeare, but there’s something rotten in Federal Way too. Really rotten!
Robert E. Morgan, Federal Way