Getting rid of tech trap a good idea

Published 9:34 am Monday, July 19, 2010

The idea of capturing speeders with radar and photographs, and then fining them by mail, must at one time have seemed brilliant to cash-strapped governments. As it turns out, the plan doesn’t actually work very well and, what’s more important, is an unwarranted, technology-driven intrusion into Americans’ privacy. Arizona recognized that and this week allowed its contract for radar-photo speed enforcement to lapse. It was the right decision.

Minnesotans have largely been spared the intrusion of remotely operated cameras into their vehicles. A few municipalities may still use camera systems to ticket drivers who violate stop lights, but the widespread photographing of alleged speeders, such as Arizona conducted, never gained a foothold in our state. It’s just as well. The presumption that a machine can detect, report and effectively prosecute minor crimes is abhorrent. Just because a technology exists does not mean it’s a good idea to put it to use. States or municipalities which employ those techniques are, for the most part, making a cynical grab for cash. But even that did not work in Arizona, where the majority of alleged speeders simply ignored their mail-delivered tickets.

Although some have claimed that robot speed enforcement improves safety, that argument lacks credibility. If states truly wanted safer roads, they would lower speed limits.

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Although Arizona is not, of late, known for its wise law-making, the decision to let radar-photograph speed traps fade away was a good one, not only for Arizona residents but because of the example it sets nationwide.