March 31, 2005

Watch it in highway work zones

Seen in the Trib:
Two camera-equipped vans will begin patrolling highway work zones in July, snapping images of drivers violating the posted speed limit of 45 m.p.h., state transportation officials announced Wednesday.

The vans will patrol expressway and tollway construction and maintenance zones.

Signs will warn drivers of the photo radar system, which will take a picture of the offending driver, his or her vehicle and record the vehicle's speed, officials of the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority said. Drivers captured on camera will be sent a ticket in the mail.

Work zone speeding fines increased last year to a $375 penalty on the first offense, almost double the previous $200 fine. A second ticket can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a 90-day driver's license suspension.

Motorists who strike a highway worker can be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison, officials said.

The mobile photo radar system represents yet another use of technology by the authorities to crack down on traffic scofflaws.

Chicago has been installing stationary cameras at busy intersections to catch and ticket red-light runners. During approximately the first year of the program, cameras at 10 locations had generated 67,400 citations, city officials said last fall.
Slowing down in work zones is certainly the thing to do. But aside from that, with the huge and growing sums of money being collected from traffic tickets, just how far will officials go in coming up with more and more ways to balance their budgets this way? It's a quick fix and doesn't have a natural consituency to fight back.
Once again, the path of least resistance is proving irresistible to legislators and city officials. They've come to regard traffic tickets as a cash cow, and are constantly inventing new and more invasive tactics and methods to snare ever larger number of motorists.

They certainly don't want everyone to stop speeding, as that would dry up the cash cow. Are high tech surveilance methods going too far? And where will it end?


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