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Rack up enough license points, and you lose your ability to legally operate a motor vehicle. Accumulate enough insurance points, and your car insurance becomes prohibitively expensive or gets cancelled. That’s all the incentive most of us need to drive within a reasonable approximation of the posted speed limit.
Some, however, drive with utter disregard for speed limits, despite the risk of penalties. Police aren’t omnipresent, and you can (usually) drive like a madman for quite a long time without getting caught. Sadly, this is why speed cameras (and their revenue-based brethren, red light cameras) remain popular worldwide.
Unlike police, speed cameras and red light cameras can be omnipresent, working a particular stretch of road (or intersection) 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. Exceed the maximum speed limit programmed into the camera or run a red light, and you receive a summons in the mail a week or so later.
With camera-based systems, there is no way to argue extenuating circumstances and no way to negotiate your way out of a ticket. As opponents point out, these systems really can’t prove who was driving a vehicle, which is one reason why camera-based systems aren’t legal in all jurisdictions.
One place where speed cameras remain illegal, for now anyway, is New York City. As The New York Times explains, the cameras are already in place, but legislators in New York’s state capital of Albany haven’t given the city permission to begin using them to enforce New York City’s 30 mph speed limit.
Now, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg thinks he has a better idea: while the cameras can’t be used to fine drivers and issue points, they could be used to shame drivers into compliance.
In the mayor’s words, “We’ll put up their names and pictures someplace. Maybe we can shame them, and we should look at that, because if Albany is not going to let us do this stuff, we’ve got to save lives.”
Public humiliation may have been a deterrent for our Puritan ancestors, but we seriously doubt the notion of posting names and pictures to a “Most Wanted Speeders” board will have any effect on slowing down traffic.
In fact, the opposite may be true: without fear of penalty, we’d expect drivers to compete for the title of “New York’s Fastest Speeder.” After all, isn’t life just another reality show?