Monday, March 23, 2015

Speed or Safety?

My Comments on the Speed Safety Cameras in Dayton.

I have always supported the use of safety cameras in Dayton. I always called them Safety Cameras. The former City Manager would look at me and say “They are speed cameras.” My reply was "In the City they are Safety Cameras. In the country they are speed cameras."  Here is why I supported their use. First, watch this video of what happens at red lights.


Then realize that the average cost to society for an accident at an intersection where the cameras are placed is about $850. This includes ambulance and police costs as well as clean up. Nobody thinks of these costs whenever they receive a citation for their bad driving habits. They only think about the fact that they are being patrolled and not protected by our police department. The problem with the speed cameras and the red light cameras is that they were never marketed properly. They were put in place at the request of the police department to catch speeders and people who go through red lights so that they could be ticketed for violating traffic laws. The citations were sent out and you were presumed guilty and asked to pay a fine for wrong doing. You could fight the citation after paying the “fine” and the right to due process in this country is denied even though the penalty is considered a civil one and not a criminal one. No points are placed on your drivers license and no criminal penalty is imposed regardless how many citations you may get. Despite this, these cameras had a positive impact around the city. Accidents at dangerous intersections went down and the number of citations decreased over time as well. Their primary purpose is to actually change driving habits, not catch violators. So these cameras were never marketed as safety cameras but more like “Gotcha cameras.”

I have never received a "ticket" from these cameras but when I saw this article in the local paper I laughed. Instead of suing the state of Ohio to get our way, which is how most bureaucracies think when they don't get their way in the courts and brute force and tons of other people's money can be used, how about we change our marketing plan? What if we changed perceptions in this town. Let's leave the cameras up and use them as a public service to notify people that they should consider changing their driving habits while in Dayton. Let's set the speed cameras at 15 mph over the legal speed limit in the immediate area and announce that SAFETY cameras are in force. I believe that in Dayton they are currently set at 12 mph over the posted limit. I could be wrong but that is way higher than the 3 mph in some jurisdictions. Here is a picture of a sign used in England. It says it all though the words "SAFETY CAMERA" would help.

So, how about this concept? We (the City of Dayton) provide a notification/public safety service. If you “use” the service then you are expected to pay for that service. So, if you drive through an intersection where the cameras are in place and you trigger the camera, you get a nice polite letter in the mail indicating that you may wish to drive at a slower speed in future or not drive through a red light. The fee for the service is $30 and failure to pay will result in this being turned over to a collection agency. If you wish to unsubscribe from this service then you must drive within the 15 mph buffer zone and stop at red lights.

So, what does something like this do? It no longer shouts “Hey, we gotcha! Pay a fine.” It doesn't tell you how fast you were going. It doesn't say you are guilty of any violation. It says “We care about public safety including yours and we provide a notification service in an effort to change bad driving habits in Dayton.” It says that we know you or someone you lent your vehicle to were traveling at least 15 mph over the posted limit for that area and that is not acceptable for safety purposes. We aren't going to fine you but you are expected to pay for this billing notice and that fee is less than a fine if a police officer witnessed the incident. Thank you. I think more people would pay the "fee" than would pay a fine.

I would also like to add that if you receive numerous notifications and are then recorded causing an accident that requires police and EMS, you should be billed $850 for those services.

Why can't our civic leaders think beyond the box and solve problems versus wasting public money to sue in court?

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