Traffic Cameras as a Budget Solution

At Wednesday’s county commissioner meeting in Port Orchard, commissioner Steve Bauer recalled the scars he bore in the Great Hansville Speed Table controversy and wondered aloud if traffic cameras might not be a better option.

He asked the county’s legislative lobbyist Tom McBride to toss the idea around with legislators.

Bauer’s thinking is that the county could avoid controversial and comparatively expensive options like speed tables in favor of the cameras. He said it could be a “sensible option.”

And given the threat of layoffs at the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, he said it might be a good way to get the officers that remain out of a lot of speed enforcement duties to focus on other crimes.

“The preferred answer for everyone is enforcement and we just don’t have the resources to do that,” Bauer said.

McBride said one reason the idea might receive some consideration in Olympia is that it could be argued as a budget issue. Counties could get permission to use the technology, raising revenues without having to dip from the state’s well.

In the past, said state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, the state has limited the authority to install these devices at intersections for red lights and in school zones and work zones for speeders. Those placements themselves were subject to some debate.

“Generally the state’s approach has been kind of conservative in approaching this,” Kilmer said.

Commissioner Josh Brown said the freeways around Phoenix have the cameras and the result has been people drive the speed limit. Anecdotally I had always heard that the Phoenix area was a difficult place to drive because everyone drove faster than the law allowed. If Brown is right, it represents a change that he specifically attributed to the cameras.

We plan to address the issue in the regular edition this weekend.

16 thoughts on “Traffic Cameras as a Budget Solution

  1. @Kathryn – Speed tables are the extra broad speed-bumps, flat on top.

    Traffic ticket issuing cameras? Seriously? The army of parking ticket nazis and assortment of stoplight cameras doesn’t bring in enough cash from the citizens already? Don’t be fraudulent and hide your pet project cash generation on “safety” or “it’s for the children” type campaigns. How about property taxes? Kitsap county officials who support this kind of lazy revenue generation don’t get my vote.

  2. I was also wondering what a “speed table” was. According to Wikipedia, a speed table “is a traffic calming device designed as a long speed hump with a flat section in the middle. …”. I don’t think I have ever seen one in the areas I drive here.

    Port Orchard

  3. Thank you, Emilie! I have seen something like that along Tracyton Beach Road. There are a series of very wide speed bumps. They are very annoying, especially when they aren’t painted and when they aren’t clearly visible when it is raining.

    Kathryn Simpson

  4. Turn law enforcement into tax collectors and you push us toward revolution. What’s that old line about “those who fail to learn the lessons of history…”?

  5. I was thinking the same thing, last night when I saw this article, Bluelight.

    I was caught in a speed trap last year on I-90 on a trip to Spokane. There were FIVE state patrol officers lined up along the freeway entry ramp waiting for an airplane officer to tag five vehicles for speeding. Yes, I was speeding. The speed limit was 70. Aircraft radar tagged me at 82,76, 75, 75, and 75. I was issued a ticket for 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. Eventually adjudicated for about $125 (including the deferral fee).

    I presented an argument in court (via testimony by mail) that I was speeding because I was passing trucks (that were supposed to be limited to 60, but were doing 70-75). The officer that issued me the ticket was following the instructions of the air officer, who was tracking several vehicles at once and neither had any clue or cared whether or not I was lawfully passing trucks that were unlawfully speeding and causing a public safety hazard.

    My point? This was a revenue activity tying up five law enforcement officers along a very small stretch of I-90. Had law enforcement been out for a safety activity, they would have been spread out and pulling over truckers who were doing 70-75 and are much more dangerous speeding than me doing 75 when the speedlimit is 70. Further, speeding is far less a factor in the occurance of accidents than negligent, impaired, or aggressive driving. Yes, I know speed is a factor in the severity of an accident, but negligence, intoxication, or aggresive driving usually initiates the accident.

    Law enforcement should be about public safety, not revenue! Speed traps and automated ticketing via cameras are about revenue. Not public safety.

    Kathryn Simpson

  6. Speed traps and automated camera ticketing most certainly aid in public safety.
    How many of us will speed right after paying a speeding fine? Most of us think twice before continuing a behavior that cost us money…NOT worth speeding.

    If speeding is unlawful, don’t speed and we won’t add to ‘their’ revenue.

    The petty theft criminal could well complain that law enforcement wastes their time on them when worse criminals are committing worse crimes elsewhere.
    Sharon O’Hara

  7. Goodness Sharon, those are pretty harsh words for you. I agree with Kathryn here. I believe that our law enforcement personnel are doing a significant bit of income generating. I have never seen so many people pulled over, nor pulled over for more petty offenses

    I was pulled over after making a left hand turn. I was sitting in a left turn lane and my blinker clicked off, as it does sometimes when the steering wheel is turned slightly. I was waiting because the car in the incoming lane appeared not to be stopping.

    The officer insisted that I did not have my turn signal on. You would think that being in a left turn lane would have been an obvious sign that I was preparing to make a left turn. I didn’t get a ticket, but a warning.

  8. I am against more government intrusion, especially when it is so poorly thought out. I’m sure the plan is missing other details that should outrage citizens; like where does the money go from the tickets. Bremerton is currently sending $44,000 a month in fees from red light cameras to Redflex somewhere in the midwest. Likely the lobbyist doesn’t live in the community either and probably makes at least 4 or 5 times the median income of a county resident, our own stimulus plan I guess.
    I also believe our current speed limits need to be re-evaluated. I see little problem with driving 5-10 miles over the speed limit at 5:30 am on my way to work when there are very few cars on the road. I have no desire to pay taxes for police officers to catch speeders on the freeway doing 10 mphs over the limit, I’d rather they were in the school zones. A ticket in the mail (from a camera) for the speeder in a school zone will be little consolation for a parent and the fact is a sign stating monitored by camera does not have the same effect as a cruiser. I’m not sure when we started believing speed traps, hiding on overpasses, etc became one of the things the public wanted our police departments to do; my guess is some budget minded politician felt it necessary. I’d much rather they were catching thieves, muggers, car prowlers, taggers, etc.

  9. Mary, thanks for your kind words…you were gentle in disagreement.

    If signaling for turns is unimportant, let’s change the law, not make the value judgment that a person gets stopped only because the officer was focused on revenue making.

    I’ve learned over years of driving to disbelieve a turn signal because I’ve found that drivers often change their mind about the turn they had signaled to make and didn’t turn. OR they slowed to turn without brake lights or taking the time to turn on the turn signal.
    Why would anyone assume someone is turning because they drive in the passing or turning lane?

    If a driving law is on the books, the officer is obligated to uphold it… aren’t they?

    The point of being ticketed and fined for driving infractions is to make the driver aware that breaking driving laws will cost them money most of us can ill aford to pay and not make that mistake again.

    Other than giving folks fines that hit them in the pocketbook, what do you suggest the ‘punishment’ be?
    Sharon O’Hara

  10. Traffic cameras are nothing more than dangerous wastes of money. Drivers spend more time looking at the traffic light and their speedometer than they do at the road in front of them and the cars around them.

    It might be different if the fines collected were going back into maintaining the transport infrastructure, or funding public transport such as bus lines or light rail, but these traffic cameras are purely a revenue generating initiative that are trying to make up for the shortfall in the county’s budget.

  11. I’m a driver and I’ watch for the traffic lights to turn. How else can we know when to move to and from the stop? Wait for the car behind to honk?

    Why wouldn’t the revenue go back into roads and road related expenses?
    Where – exactly = does it go?
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. Sharon,

    The only reason it is “speeding’ is because the law defines it as ‘speeding’ by setting a specific limit (which is artificially low on the freeway, btw). If the legislature really wants to make some money, they could set the freeway speed to 50 mph and let the state patrol spend all their time writing speeding tickets.

    But the laws are supposed to be about safety and if Germany (which allows a lot faster speeds on their freeways) has a lower accident record than the United States, I find the argument that speeding is a safety issue to be a bit bogus.

    If I am driving badly, negligently, or dangerously, I deserve to be pulled over and given a ticket. But if I’m doing 80 in the middle of summer on the stretch between Ritzville and Moses Lake because there is absolutely no other traffic on the road and my car is maintained safely, what is the harm?

    I’d rather have the state patrol and local law enforcement focusing their attention on impaired drivers, dangerous drivers, and drivers that are literally on the freeway with their tail end falling off (saw that a month ago near Lacey) or driving without lights at 11:00pm.

    Kathryn Simpson

  13. Kathryn, What is the harm if you chose to speed on an open road, no traffic?
    What is the harm if you break into and enter a empty house and take nothing?

    Each action is illegal. but the choice to disobey the law is yours.

    What is the point of having laws if they are not enforced?
    If you think traffic limits on speeding is valueless, work to change them…not advocate disobeying them.

    Show your children how a citizen of this great country can change useless laws by legislation – not disobeying them. Which action do you want your children to copy?
    Sharon O’Hara

  14. Sharon,

    You missed my point entirely. Laws should be relevant to what they are trying to accomplish. Are current speeding laws on the freeway relevant to public safety or to revenue streams?

    And last time I checked, I do a pretty good job of modelling good citizenship to my children. But thanks for your concern.

    You are comparing apples to oranges when comparing the unwarranted emphasis on ticketing speeders to obeying the law to not break into homes. The former has no causal link to protecting citizens. The latter is one of public safety and private property rights.

    By the way, one form of advocasy is civil disobedience. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to be civilly disobedient too much on the freeways because it is costly. 😉 Please note this paragraph was pretty much tongue in cheek. I’ve had a grand total of two tickets in the past 10 years.

    Kathryn Simpson

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