Every Step You Take . . .

“On the wall outside his former residence – flat number 27B – where George Orwell [author of the novel 1984] lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move.”

Fawkes-Lee & Ryan strongly opposes the use of government-placed cameras on streets and street corners.  We’re also realistic.  We don’t believe the use of traffic cameras will be outlawed.  In the alternative, we believe making sense of their use is the next best option.  As it’s told, the horses are out of the corral.

Fawkes-Lee & Ryan believes that consistency is the primary purpose of legislation that attempts to regulate the use of Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems (ATES).  House Study Bill 93 is a House Transportation study bill that proposes to regulate the use of ATES.  As it is, the use of ATES is something used by cities in large metropolitan areas of the state.   It is not a sensible option for small rural communities and counties.  The potential use of these systems by smaller cities in Iowa is somewhat prohibitive based upon several factors.  Without a consistent basis with which to regulate the use of these systems, abuse is a potential reality.

Small rural counties and communities cannot realistically use these systems.  Whereas, a city such as Cedar Rapids can set a fine at $65, and keep a little over half of the proceeds of the fine for administrative costs and other variables, cities such as Carroll and Fairfield will not be able to justify the safety needs of these systems as it correlates to the costs of implementation and maintenance.   If a small community or county within Iowa should desire to install and utilize such a system, the monetary penalty for a violation would have to be considerably more than the $65 Cedar Rapids charges.  Therefore, the ceiling of $50 per penalty is an adequate amount to prevent any potential abuse.

ATES should not be used as cash cows for local authorities, as many citizens believe them to be, and HSB 93 strikes a balanced comprise.  A small due process consideration of having signs posted in a uniform manner throughout the state is not too much to ask.  The size of the sign, the distance of the sign from the ATES based upon the speed limit of a given road, the dimensions of the sign and what it says are all important facets of a consistent program that offers due process to motorists.

There are several problems with the use of ATES that require more attention from Iowa legislators.  First, if these ATES are installed truly for public safety purposes, than because there are civil penalties and not criminal penalties attached to the penalty phase, there can be no repercussions for motorists that accumulate a mass of speeding tickets.  For instance, if a law enforcement officer stops a person for speeding, the person violating the speed limit receives a criminal sanction and the offense is attached to the person’s driving record.  If that same person receives 3 of those personally presented citations in a year, that person is on the way to becoming a habitual offender.  On the other hand, if that same person speeds through a red light ten times in a month, which is part of an ATES, the only consequence is that that person is out a lot of money.  There is no threat to the privilege of possessing a driver’s license.  Unfortunately, far too many city officials fail to see that this is NOT an enhancement of public safety.

Likewise, as a city’s residents become familiar with where speed cameras are located, traffic will slow to a crawl in those stretches of the road because of the natural tendency to reduce speed as traffic comes within range of the cameras.  Already, any radio station in the area will provide a public service announcement (ahem, if that’s what we can call them) to inform residents of where the speed traps are located.  Bottlenecks will become more and more prevalent.  The likelihood of road rage will increase.  These unforeseen problems are going to have to be dealt with as ATES grow across the state.

The eeriness of Orwell’s prediction didn’t occur in a year, it took time.  Government in this country has not gone as far as England, but if we’re not vigilant, it will be a matter of time.

Copyright © 2011  Fawkes-Lee & Ryan.  All rights reserved.

Every breath you take
And every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
Ill be watching you

Sting – “I’ll be watching you.”

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