Thursday, October 27, 2005

#1: Camera Combat

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
09 October, 2005, 18:18:46 BST.

#1: Camera Combat

As I observed the placement of speed revenue – sorry, safety enforcement – cameras on a piece of road I regularly use yet again the other night, it occurred to me that this is becoming a like a form of combat between motorists and the agencies that endorse the use of them. What’s worse, I’m beginning to think that “they” are cheating. Let me explain.

The increasing, insistent focus on excessive speed as the be-all and end-all of road safety issues (ok, so I’m exaggerating, but it that’s the way it feels) is pushing to the fore the detection methods used to point out our degeneracy. They want us to focus on speed cameras, so we do – to the point that I spend so much time worrying about how fast I’m going I think it risks having a negative impact upon my driving. I mean, seriously, what’s more dangerous here, straying a few miles an hour over the speed limit, or maintaining close observation of the road conditions that surround you? Particularly when the cameras in question are SPECS, and they measure your average speed over a section of, say, motorway…meaning that if you have even a single transgression within their jurisdiction you risk prosecution. They’re infra-red, use no film, and record your number-plate even if you’re not exceeding the limit – that’s got to be cheating, hasn’t it?

And obviously there’s a tactic behind the growing numbers of cameras that are out there – and it’s not just an effort to make me emigrate. As the amount of camera-free roads diminishes, so motorists will seek out the few unobserved areas of tarmac that are left, in an attempt to escape their lens-equipped assailants. The increased traffic level over these stretches will likely push the accident rate skywards, thereby justifying the placement of more these “safety devices”…and so it goes on. Slowly (ha ha) we’ll all be reduced to pootling along in constant fear of sneezing and inadvertently tapping the accelerator, or find ourselves buying whatever’s the contemporary equivalent of the Toyota Prius. I fear the day when the general public accepts the logic of GPS based speed restrictors and insurance mandated data-logging black boxes – though I can’t see that happening too soon, as it will probably have a negative impact on the cameras’ revenue raising potential. Did I say it was combat? I think I meant it was like a fox hunt – only the fox is already stuffed.

I appreciate that I’m standing on the sloping, mud slick edge of the moral high ground here. Indisputably, if you are exceeding the speed limit you are breaking the law. There isn’t really any defence against that…except that in certain circumstances I can imagine the use of accelerator sense might require you to speed up to avoid a hazard, causing you to momentarily cross into the realms of illegal activity. What if the guy coming up behind you has mis-judged the differential between your speed and his, and is locked up and about to slam into the back of you? If there is no-where to go but forward, wouldn’t putting your foot down be justifiable? Cameras are indiscriminate, which is good, yes, but they are also unable to make judgements about mitigating circumstances. I would like to see traffic policed by proper, experienced traffic police – in a highly visible marked car with a blue light on the top; this could even end the argument over radar detectors, as anyone stupid enough to get caught this way would deserve what they got. And it’s not as if people don’t just slow down and speed up for the cameras anyway – leading to the introduction of SPECS for one thing, and potentially causing more hazards for another, as the silly bugger in front of you who hasn’t been paying attention or doesn’t know the road stands on the anchors at the last minute, regardless of whether they were actually in excess of the limit.

But I can feel myself sliding further downwards even now. Any argument I can reasonably make either has its fingers trapped in the door of legal culpability, or is myopically squirming in the light of responsibility for hazard perception – even if that hazard is the result of somebody else’s short-sightedness. I can bicker all I want about better driver training (never gonna happen – costs too much money) and real traffic policing (more money issues, and the argument that it diverts resources away from “real” crimes), but in the end if I want to go fast on public roads, then it’s me that’s at fault, and I suppose I had better accept the consequences.

Damn, the battle’s obviously already over. But is that because I’m so reasonable, or because the propaganda won?

[Picture added 27 October, 2005 - free download from]


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