Greater Greater Washington

Entitled Driving Journalist Syndrome reaches epidemic at WTOP

Public health researchers have been tracking a variant of "road rage" in the Washington region, surfacing as a recent outbreak of Entitled Driving Journalist Syndrome (EJDS), a close cousin of Entitled Driver Syndrome. The latest reporter to fall victim to this nasty bug is WTOP's Adam Tuss.


Photo by PDXdj.

Those of you who drive have probably caught a mild version of EDS. You're in the car. You want to get somewhere. There are all these other cars in your way. There are people walking slowly in front of you, and bicycles taking up the lane. You just want them to MOVE! And worst of all, all these governmental rules are stopping you from going faster!

According to Tom Vanderbilt, this is a natural reaction. "We are how we move," he writes in Traffic:

When I walk, ... I view cars as loud, polluting annoyances driven by out-of-town drunks distracted by their cell phones. When I drive, I find that pedestrians are suddenly the menace, whacked-out iPod drones blithely meandering across the street without looking. When I ride a bike, I get the worst of both worlds, buffeted by speeding cars whose drivers resent my superior health and fuel economy, and hounded by oblivious pedestrians who seem to think it's safe to cross against the light if "only a bike" is coming but are then startled and indignant as I whisk past at twenty-five miles an hour.
Governments, tasked with protecting all users of the road and mediating the disputes, tend to draw a healthy share of this ire. Speeding laws, for example, keep pedestrians and cyclists safe, as a pedestrian is almost twice as likely to die if hit by a driver going 40 mph versus 30, not to mention that the driver is more likely to stop or swerve in time to avoid hitting the pedestrian entirely at the lower speed. Yet to a driver, 30 often feels unbearably slow, and people naturally blame the governments that pass these laws and the police who enforce them.

Yes, these attitudes are perfectly natural. Unfortunately, Entitled Driver Syndrome (unlike its sister strains Oblivious Pedestrian Syndrome and Crazy Biker Syndrome) germinates and spreads more quickly through carrier journalists. These folks feel some of the same impulses while driving, then egg on their fellow motorists with columns that point the finger at others for the frustrations everyone feels.

This week, epidemiologists discovered a particularly virulent case of EDJS in WTOP's Adam Tuss, who penned a series of columns which hit he double whammy of capitalizing on motorist frustration and financial insecurity at the same time. Each starts out by saying, "Money is something everyone is trying to hold onto right now, so why does it seem like local governments are trying to pick your pocket? This week WTOP takes a look at some of the tricky ways drivers are falling victim to revenue generators around the region."

These poor victimized drivers have to contend with such "tricky" things as being ticketed for parking illegally or paying something slightly closer to a market rate for parking. The parking meter column, for example, exposes the absolute outrage that, as DC raises parking meter fares, some of the blocks still have the old rate, and sometimes the rates on a block change from the old rate to the new in a single day when DDOT gets the chance to update them. What a travesty. Government can't move fast enough, so they're moving too fast.

So far, none of Tuss's columns have cited "swiping your SmarTrip on the Metro" as one of the ways government "picks your pocket." One of the symptoms of EDJS is "transit blindness": the afflicted individual seems to see anything that hinders the unrestricted, cost-free movement of automobiles (tolls, gas taxes, parking fees, buildings that are in the way of more lanes, sidewalks, rivers, etc.) as an unwarranted government intrusion, but that costs such as transit fares are just "paying your share." There's still tomorrow's column, however, so we must reserve judgment at least until then.

Tuss's EDJS fever reached its peak on Tuesday, however, with his article on speed cameras. That piece reached a slanted phrase to paragraph ratio exceeding 1:1, as he ironically referred to Maryland's nickname, the "Free State," quoted AAA's EDJS-spreader Lon Anderson but no supporters of cameras, and even brought out the Norquistian big guns by concluding, "Some D.C. Council memebers have gone as far as to call the expansion of the program a "tax" on drivers."

Tuss claims that "Questions remain about whether Connecticut Avenuea six lane commuter routeis the proper place to have these cameras in place." Questions also remain about in whose minds those questions remain, other than Tuss's. Since he didn't see fit to quote any supporters of cameras, here we go. Chevy Chase DC resident Kevin defended the speed cameras on Connecticut in Maryland on the neighborhood listserv, writing,

[The camera] has transformed the road to a safe zone for both drivers and pedestrians. This had not been the case in the past. A few years ago, my daughter and I tried to ride our bikes from our house on the east side to her friend's house on the west side of the Avenue from upper Chevy Chase DC. It was a terrifying experience to get across the street at one of the corners below the Country Club. Cars would not allow it, even if we started when they were relatively distant. Now, cars move at a reasonable speed through that area (and even above Bradley) all because of the speed camera (and occasional squad cars from the Village police).
Resident Jane wrote, "A recent article in the Washington Post noted that since the speed cameras on the stretch by Chevy Chase Club were installed that accidents were down from 14 a month to 3." These comments followed a question from a driver who had received a speeding ticket for going 37 in a 25, and was asking how to appeal. Most residents reacted with little sympathy, pointing out that the driver had been exceeding the posted speed limit by almost 50%, and citing the statistics on how pedestrian survival rates plummet as speed increases.

Unfortunately, Tuss's infectious EDJS did hit some of his fellow journalists, like Marc Fisher, whose recent column calls speed cameras a "recession-proof biz" and dubs them "gotcha cams." Let's just remember: these cameras only "gotcha" you if you not only break the law, but break it by more than 12 miles per hour (raised from 10 with the recently-passed Maryland law). Fisher, to his credit, has a stronger immune system than Tuss, and partially recovers from his brief EDJS affliction toward the end of the column:

Surely more of us speed (guilty as charged, your honor) than commit many other violations, so speed cams hit a broader swath of society than some other such taxes masquerading as disincentives. But it's also true that speeding kills, and this just happens to be one of those nice little coincidences in which cash-strapped governments get to do the right thing even as they soak the offenders.
Katherine Hill, immune to EDJS, writes about drivers who are protesting the law, blurring their license plates, and even assaulting police officers. She suggests,
Why don't you just...not speed? I wonder if these same motorists fought the legislation before it was [passed], which is probably the most efficient way of preventing and stopping the installation of red light and speed cameras. Where was the call to arms then? The protests failed, and the cameras were installed. Maybe you could just drive safely instead?
One "family friend" of Hill's even discovered she could avoid getting a ticket by stopping dead at the center of the camera's zone. If she's going from 50 to zero and back again, then she's probably averaging less than 30 over the camera's range. In other words, she'd get through the area faster by just driving the speed limit. This friend is clearly a chronic EDS sufferer, showing other symptoms like "lectur[ing] any one she sees jaywalking, standing top close to the edge on the sidewalk, or crossing against the sidewalk."

Maybe scientists can take some blood samples from Fisher and Hill, with hopes of isolating the antibodies to create a vaccine for EDJS. Some of our more established reporters, like Tuss, Eric Weiss, and the Washington Post editorial staff really need it. They've lived with EDJS so long that they probably hardly notice the symptoms.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Most of WTOP listens/readers are usually found stuck in traffic between the hours of 6:30-8:30am and 4:30-6:00pm. It makes perfect sense to gear your news to what your audience wants to hear. The Fox News market model is very profitable.

by RJ on Apr 23, 2009 3:21 pm • linkreport

I have zero sympathy for the street-sweeper ticketed. How hard is it not to park there for 24 hours? For that matter, how hard is it not to park in the no-parking-in-rush-hour lanes? let's use the ticket revenue to buy a bunch of tow trucks to impound those cars.

by ah on Apr 23, 2009 3:23 pm • linkreport

What an obviously unresearched viewpoint. What makes you think that speed cameras save lives? Because you think going slower = safer? According to the Arizona DOT, this is a common misconception: Speed limit signs [and enforcement] will decrease the accident rate and increase safety. The truth is, at least in Arizona, cameras have cost the state 28 lives. How many lives does Washington need to lose?

Of course the article includes some of the typcial responses... "don't speed and you won't have a problem" Tell that to the guy on our local news last night who is facing a criminal speeding charge for 88/65 when the video shows he clearly isn't going that fast. The time and money he has lost fighting this erroneous ticket is astounding and apalling. But I guess you're feeling "entitled" if you're concerned about the reliability and accuracy of these machines.

My favorite line, is of course the tired line "speeding kills." Speed does NOT KILL. Exceeding posted speed limit causes less than 5% of all accidents. Not paying attention kills. DWI Kills. Overzealous speed enforcement Kills. Cameras Kill. Proper 85%ile speed limits save lives.

http://PhotoRadarScam.com

by photoradarscam on Apr 23, 2009 3:59 pm • linkreport

Putting aside the spamalicious nature of the previous post, the "report" about deaths relates to red light cameras, not speeding cameras. Whether accurate or not, it has zero relevance to the safety benefits of speed cameras.

by ah on Apr 23, 2009 4:05 pm • linkreport

photoradarscam,

While I have a few questions about your reply, not the least of which is for you to cite your sources, I would first like to ask what you would consider "proper" speed enforcement?

I ask because in your response to the article you state that both "... limit signs [and enforcement] will decrease ..." and "Overzealous speed enforcement Kills.", without a specific definition of what you consider "proper" speed enforcement I feel that your response lacks important information, and feel that perhaps a follow-up response that is more thought out might lend credibility to your initial response.

by Art on Apr 23, 2009 4:36 pm • linkreport

Mr. Photo Radar Scam gives away his hand in the "report". I quote "There is no such things as a 'speeding problem', only speed limit problems. Speed limits are supposed to reflect the speed of traffic, not the other way around."

This is the heart of the anti-camera brigade: they don't really have a problem with the cameras, they have a problem with the law in first place. If you were to ask them about using technology to more efficiently enforce a law they like (I don't know, maybe illegal immigration) they'd be all for it. Full body scans and FBI/ICE background checks whenever someone named Rodriguez applies for food stamps? Hell yeah! SLR camera in a box taking a photo of me running a red light? Go to hell, you fascist!

They think the speed limits are illegitimate so it follows that they think enforcement of the laws is unjust.

You all take such joy out of knocking down the "it's not about revenue" strawman (who says its not about revenue except anti-camera people who think they're brilliant for figuring that out?), well I take joy in pointing out that it's not really about liberty or safety, it's about your desire to be a scofflaw without repercussion.

Your website is entirely consistent with "EDS": You feel entitled to drive as fast as you think you can. That EDS represents another disorder not inconsistent with that attitude is serendipitous.

by Reid on Apr 23, 2009 4:42 pm • linkreport

Speed doesn't kill? When speeding, a motorist has less time to react to a brewing problem. Also, the faster a multi-ton piece of heavy machinery goes, the more momentum it possesses. The more momentum the car has, the more force acts on the bones and internal organs of a pedestrian.

It would appear that going 88 in a 65 (that is what you meant by "88/65," right?) would imply highway conditions. Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase is not a highway. It is an arterial that goes through the middle of an affluent residential district that is adjacent to a transit-rich walkable town. The speed limit there is 30 miles per hour. There are no shoulders and there are pedestrians everywhere. Even if your assertions are correct, you're arguing about a completely different context.

by Cavan on Apr 23, 2009 4:45 pm • linkreport

I hope photoradarscam gets hit by someone doing 40 in a 25.

by CP on Apr 23, 2009 4:47 pm • linkreport

I can't wait for the day when the start speed camers for bicycles on certain trails. Great little revenue source. I suspect the tone will change then. Or what about ticketing jaywalkers?

It is painfully obvious to anyone besides the Reid's of the world that most of this is about revenue. Unjust laws aren't respected. Unjust laws that are not uniformly enforced are hated.

A long time ago, that pissed people off enough that they fought a war for it. I don't see that happening over speed cameras, but I am sure the Reid's of the 1770s were saying the British weren't that bad either...

by charlie on Apr 23, 2009 4:50 pm • linkreport

OMG! charlie's really comparing a $50 fine for getting caught speeding to the abuses and excesses of the 18th c. British Empire! Hahahahahhhaa!

by Bianchi on Apr 23, 2009 5:01 pm • linkreport

Charlie--what trails? Are they bike trails? Granted--bike/pedestrian trails pose a problem for both, but is there a specific trail you're concerned about?

by ah on Apr 23, 2009 5:10 pm • linkreport

I actually think photoradarscam is onto something... let's take out a lane on each side of Connecticut and curve the roadway a little so people have to go at 85% of the safe roadway speed of local road. Then we'll put in a bike trail on one side and a guided PUMA/Segway route on the other.

In a related matter, I think DC should reinstate the weregild/blood revenge system, and let the government tax guilt payments 20% of the guilt payment. Since they only care about revenue, I suspect that the returns will be excellent.

by цarьchitect on Apr 23, 2009 5:20 pm • linkreport

BURTONSVILLE, Md. - A pedestrian was struck and killed early Thursday in a hit-and-run collision near Burtonsville. Police say it's possible the man was struck multiple times.

Michael Aschenbrenner, 44, of Ellicott City, was found dead at 4:40 a.m. near northbound Columbia Pike and Sandy Spring Road. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say Aschenbrenner was struck in the travel portion of northbound Columbia Pike. It's believed he had been struck by more than one vehicle.

Aschenbrenner's vehicle, a 2008 silver Dodge Ram pickup truck with Maryland tags, was found nearby in the grassy area off of the right-hand shoulder with the driver's door open, the ignition on, and the engine in neutral.

Police are asking anyone with information to call (301) 840-2435.

by Jazzy on Apr 23, 2009 7:30 pm • linkreport

I recall reading in the Post a few years ago an article about the (in)effectiveness of red-light cameras:
The District's red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.

But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices.

I wonder if there has been any follow-up analysis regarding speed cameras.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the city should sacrifice the quality of life of residents just so suburbanites can speed in and out of the city as fast as they please. However, for the city to couch a tax so insincerely in moral terms is a bit condescending.

by Capitol Dome on Apr 23, 2009 7:42 pm • linkreport

Capitol Dome -- red light cameras and speed cameras have different cost/benefits. The studies with red light cameras show that they increase rear end collisions but decrease t-bone/cross collisions. It's ambiguous as to whether there are net benefits as a result.

Speed cameras don't seem to have any adverse effect in regard to causing accidents--the best I think one could posit is that if only some people know their location, they may slow down and others may rear end them, but that's because of excessive speed and inattentiveness.

by ah on Apr 23, 2009 8:18 pm • linkreport

Generally I tend to agree with much of what transportation journalists such as Adam Tuss or Michael Dressler write about. While I may not fully agree with Adam Tuss' more recent articles, I'm not quite sure it justifies the over-the-top phrasing used in this GGW post.

As for automated photo enforcement, I can't say I'm inherently against it, but I do have several items that have really irked me (law #'s are of the MD Code):

1) § 21-809(b)(1)(i)2 requires that for speed cameras placed in residential areas, the speed limits must be "established using generally accepted traffic engineering practices." It should be required that agencies receive this confirmation and authorisation from the applicable transportation agencies *before* the cameras go in, as afterward the data will clearly be skewed.

2) § 21-809(b)(1)(ii) permits installation of speed cameras within school zones, but does not explicitly state that the speed limits must be established using generally accepted traffic engineering practices.

3) Any speed cameras located within approximately 500' of a speed reduction of 10+ MPH should be required to have to-standard advance warning of the speed reduction.

4) Revenue generated should be tied specifically to improving the conditions of the specific device. Red light camera revenue will go toward hiring staff to maintain signal timings, resurfacing the road, etc... Speed camera revenue would go toward either modifying the roadway's design speed to match a desired lower speed; or toward removing hazards such that a higher speed can be properly attained (though I assume the former would be the more likely route).

5) Closing the revenue allotment loophole, which still enables contractors to indirectly receive funding on a per-ticket basis. (though I forget... this may have been addressed with the statewide legislation?)

6) Roads need to be designed for the speeds we actually *want*, with consistent design speeds; not a tangent that can be driven at 200 MPH with a couple 30 MPH curves thrown in; and ped crossings better fit for 25 MPH or shared spaces designed for 15. We need to pick one. Speed doesn't kill; speed differentials kill.

7) Schools need to be better-placed such that they're not on mobility-focused arterials, but rather on more community-oriented collectors. This ties in with my #6, whereby a school moves onto a 55 MPH road and then spawns a 30 MPH school zone speed limit complete with camera, despite the 55 MPH cross-section being maintained.

As for other issues such as Big Brother or robbing my wallet, I could care less. If I do nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide; and if I get ticketed for driving at an excessive speed, so be it: I deserve it. My sole concern is to ensure that speeds deemed excessive are indeed *excessive* and not just the typical flow.

by Bossi on Apr 23, 2009 9:16 pm • linkreport

the death statistic in this post made me want to try to calculate, if possible, how much more likely, as a percentage, it is to die when getting hit by a car versus getting hit by a bicycle. we'll just throw all speeds in there.

if the number is anywhere near what i (we?) suspect, then it'll make a good concrete argument for idaho rolling stops -- something like:

"A pedestrian is 900,000 times more likely to die when hit by a car than when hit by a bicycle. 9 hundred thousand. Not providing for rolling stop signs and red lights for bicycles is an absurdity."

by Peter on Apr 24, 2009 4:49 am • linkreport

(This spam comment has been removed.)

by (spammer) on Apr 24, 2009 7:13 am • linkreport

Wow. It sure got spammy in here. WTF?

"Monkeyrotica.com is your one-stop-shop for all your monkeyrotic needs!®"

by monkeyrotica on Apr 24, 2009 7:20 am • linkreport

As a one time recipient of a speed camera violation in DC I understand that they might be a bit annoying. Nevertheless, I'd rather live in a society that makes our streets livable.

I do object to the connection between revenue goals and tickets in all forms. We could do a lot to learn from the UK on almost all things traffic and automobile related. There, a speed camera is rarely set up without a posting informing you it's there. The actual goal is to get you to slow down vice here where the goal is to get you to pay a ticket for the government's coffers. Additionally, all ticket revenue merely returns to the central government's coffers, so there is no incentive for some local clown to ticket in order to fund his village.

by Huck Finne on Apr 24, 2009 7:32 am • linkreport

Remember that if it weren't for cars and drivers, radio as a viable broadcast medium would be dead. Who listens to radio anymore outside of NPR maybe, when they aren't in a car? Since I don't drive that much, I barely listen to radio at all. Hence, as the first poster pointed out, radio journalists are more likely to be catering to their audience on this issue.

by Richard Layman on Apr 24, 2009 7:33 am • linkreport

I have no problem paying market rates for parking meters. The problem is that almost all the ones I've used downtown don't work properly: put in a quarter, nothing happens. Another quarter, nothing happens. A third quarter, you get 7 minutes. The printout-receipt parking machines seem to work fine, though. Except, on a couple occasions, I've almost got a ticket WALKING BACK TO MY CAR TO PUT THE RECEIPT ON THE DASHBOARD.

I have to wonder, at what point are there diminishing revenue returns on traffic cameras? They seem to project revenues based on people always speeding at the same pre-camera rate, but when drivers realize where the ticket cameras are, they tend to slow down. Kinda like how local jurisdictions projected massive revenue windfalls based on tobacco taxes, but people started quitting smoking.

Anyway, you gotta admit, the wtop.com comment threads are your best entertainment value. When they're not blaming everything (including the weather) on Marion Barry, it's the illegal immigrants that are at fault. One clown even blamed the low crab population in the Chesapeake on, that's right, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. HIGH-larious! And they keep up their anti-immigrant rants even though their precious outer suburbs like Prince William County implode from all the immigrants leaving the tax base.

by monkeyrotica on Apr 24, 2009 7:44 am • linkreport

The first part of your post reminds me of a passage in "On a Pale Horse", by Piers Anthony, in which the main character travels to a place in a motorized vehicle, in a self-propelled vehicle, and outside of a vehicle under his own power. In each of these parts of the journey, he encounters somebody "in his way", "overtaking him without caution", etc. The trippy part was at the end when he realized that the other person being a jerk was really a duplicate of himself. The author hid the exact duplication by presenting the three encounters in three different contexts.

I think the three contexts were on the road (he was driving and encountered a bicyclist and pedestrian), in the water (he was a swimmer and encountered a canoe and a motorboat) and some other context that I don't recall at the moment (might have been hanggliding and he encountered a propeller plane or skydiver?).

by Michael Perkins on Apr 24, 2009 9:28 am • linkreport

photoradarscam alleges this post is unresearched. That is not true. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, among others, has studied the speed camera program in Montgomery County and found it reduced speeding and associated problems.
In 2007 the Institute conducted an evaluation of the Montgomery County program using speed cameras to enforce limits on residential roads with speed limits of 35 mph or lower and in school zones. The study indicates that the program is helping to reduce speeding. Researchers measured traffic speeds approximately 6 months before and 6 months after camera enforcement began in May 2007. The proportion of vehicles traveling more than 10 mph above posted limits fell by 70 percent on roads where cameras were operational and by 39 percent on roads with signs warning of enforcement but where cameras were not yet in place.
The link will take you to IIHS testimony delivered this year to the Maryland General Assembly, and includes nearly a page of end notes. I would also echo ah's point that the Arixona report photoradarscam cites looked only at red light cameras.

I would also remind people the speed camera on Connecticut Avenue largely replaces a speed trap Chevy Chase Village has operated there for many years. The real difference is the speed camera enforces the speed limit much more consistently than a lone officer ever could. Yes, this camera has generated a lot of revenue for the Village (and under the new State law, the State will take a big cut of it), but is that the Village's fault? If a town found an effective way to fine rapists and had windfall revenue from it, would anyone complain about the revenue the town got? I would hope people would complain about the amount of rape in the town.

As the result of installing a speed camera on Watkins Mill Run, the City of Gaithersburg realized that the speed limit there was lower than it needed to be. The speed limit was increased by 10 MPH.

by Stanton Park on Apr 24, 2009 10:15 am • linkreport

Exactly what is the problem with using speed and red light cameras to generate revenue? I'd rather have the government collect money through fines than through taxes.

by Jasper on Apr 24, 2009 10:54 am • linkreport

Exactly what is the problem with using speed and red light cameras to generate revenue? I'd rather have the government collect money through fines than through taxes.

Because often times the cameras become too effective. As the price of speeding/running red lights go up, people do it less (simple law of supply). Ergo, revenue from that goes down.

Imagine a Laffer Curve.

by MPC on Apr 24, 2009 11:03 am • linkreport

Agree that the problem is not the speed cameras per se, but the inappropriately low speed limits. For example, I know that one speed camera is (or was) on Michigan Ave NE near North Capitol. That stretch of roadway is fronted by Trinity College's large lawns on one side, and apartment complexes set very far back from the road behind lawns and plantings on the other side. In other words, it is not a "residential" area with children playing close to the street, etc. Yet the speed limit is that of a residential area (25 or 30 mph). That makes no sense! And it's no coincidence that it's in just these areas, where the limit is far lower than it needs to be, and far lower than any visual cues would indicate, that the city puts its "gotcha" cameras. As Huck Finne says, if DC really wanted to slow down cars they would install large signs, provide warning when coming off North Capitol, etc. Instead they keep the tiny signs announcing an inappropriately low speed limit and watch the bucks roll in.

I do 90% of my travel by bike, but that doesn't prevent me from understanding that this is about revenue generation first and foremost.

by Erica on Apr 24, 2009 12:02 pm • linkreport

Yeah I agree, the problem with all these rape cameras isn't that they're there, it's that the definition of rape is too big. I mean come on! She was hot, wearing a halter top, and she was drunk! Of course most people would rape her! Now you got big brother in here giving out tickets for rapes (over a month after the fact, I'll add) and you just know it has nothing to do with preventing rape! It's all about revenue! If they really,/i> wanted to prevent rape, they'd put a sign on every at every bar they've got cameras telling you "watch out, if you drag home a drunk chick from this bar, you might get a ticket."

And seriously, these rape cameras should only be in family areas. The government puts these rape cameras just where they know they'll catch some rapists! There are three at Smith Point alone! Any woman who goes there has to know she'll probably get raped! The government is just out to screw some innocent rapist who just gets caught up with all the rest of the raping that goes on. He probably didn't even realize what he was doing! You take your eyes off the bar TV for one second, you start raping someone, and then BAM there's a flash of light and you know you just got a ticket.

This is why DC isn't a state!

by Reid on Apr 24, 2009 2:50 pm • linkreport

Oops, sorry about the italics...

by Reid on Apr 24, 2009 2:51 pm • linkreport

Here is how he could make sure that red light and speed cameras are about SAFETY, not just the money:

Make the fine for rolling right turns, or left turns, or small excesses of speed, much lower than for a straight thru violation or a great excess of speed. $20 is enuf to drive home the point about the relatively much-less-dangerous turning offenses or a couple miles over the limit. If, instead, the fine is the same (substantial) amount all the time, then it's about money.

On red light cameras, have a grace period, that is, no ticket unless you're more than 1/2 sec. late. If no grace, it's about money.

When the cameras are first started up, have a 90-day period during which only warning tickets are issued. If the warning period is shorter or absent, it's about money.

On red light cameras, set the yellow lights for left turns at 4.0 sec. If they're left at 3.0 (the "default" setting) that triples the # of violations & it's about money. (This "tripling" info comes from Mesa, AZ, where in Nov. 2000 they lengthened the left turn yellows to 4.0 and cut the violations by 2/3. And the # of violations stayed down - it did not rebound once drivers got used to the longer yellow.)

The contract with the vendor running the cameras must be flat-rate. If the vendor is paid so-much-a-ticket or a % of the fine revenue, it's about money.

Set a solid CONSTITUTIONAL cap on the max. fine, including all surcharges. Otherwise, as soon as the govt. needs more money, it will rise to $400+ like in California, & it's about money.

by Henry on Apr 24, 2009 2:57 pm • linkreport

I don't see how setting certain limits allows you to determine "it's not about the money".

5mph over is about the money, but 10mph over is not? Or is 10mph over about the money, but 20mph is not?

Any time the government collects money for anything, it could "be about the money" (that includes income taxes). Even if one dedicates the camera money to a "good" cause (be it road construction, road safety improvements, or toys for abused children) then the state will come to rely on the cameras to fund that program (whatever it is).

by ah on Apr 24, 2009 3:06 pm • linkreport

Before the Internet, did anyone dream they'd one day be writing sentences beginning with "Here is how speeding is not like rape"? I kinda doubt it.

Here is how speeding is not like rape: everybody, at some point, speeds. The system is designed that way and it would take a very deep overhaul for that to change. Prior to the speed camera era, police officers used their judgement to enforce the spirit of the law (reckless and dangerous driving) rather than the letter of the law (catching people at random who are following the flow of traffic and are simply unlucky.)

by Erica on Apr 24, 2009 4:49 pm • linkreport

If America is expected to sustaining its living standards, we must start to conserve our environment and address the use of oil, water and energy. In these current decades we have all observed the deterioration of our highways, infrastructure with clogged traffic lanes that never seem to abate? The continuous requisite for land to build homes, and stretching, concrete pavement that once was farmland. Border states where water supplies are being rationed, because of years of drought. The desperate need for refineries, because of constant production, cannot keep up with demand. Our ailing national electrical grid that is unable to keep up with requirements, owing to the millions of illegal people who slip across our uneasy border and need services. America is growing smaller each day, just like the Amazon rain forests. We are daily encroaching on the wild animals of our lands, who we now find foraging for food in community suburbs--that was once a wilderness. Our President should not be contemplating Amnesty for an unknown number of illegal immigrants. Such would be the forthcoming harbinger of Overpopulation for future generations. According to the Census Bureau with the current immigration level our population will touch close to a half a billion by 2050.

More than 65 percent of that growth can be attributed to our current immigration rate and irrational polices. Without changing the direction of our current immigration policies, our population by the year 2100 and 2120 will attain the one billion mark. Is this what we want for our own?

If President Obama introduces a new Immigration policy, this would be a disaster for the new generations of our children? We already settle over 1.5 million new legal immigrants each year in this nation. This is more people than any other country in the world? What we need is an amendment to the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act. This would allow highly professional and skilled people, who would contribute in Engineering, Computer and Science technologies. Giving Potential legal newcomers that has something special to offer the American workplace, including education and other layers of future industry. We already have millions of low skilled, many uneducated American workers who remain jobless in this economic morass. If our politicians will restore funding for E-Verify now before it terminates. We can revise it, modify and append to its function, in removing foreign workers from the workplace. As illegal immigrants start their movement from our nation, wages, benefits should slowly start to rise, as employers will have no choice but to hire American workers, instead of cheap labor from foreign lands.

by Brittanicus on Apr 24, 2009 10:06 pm • linkreport

Brittanicus

Say hi to Thomas Malthus for me. Ask him how his prediction worked bout back then.

by MPC on Apr 25, 2009 12:30 am • linkreport

Erica, There are 25 or so townhouses facing Mich Ave on that very block you cite, just east of N. Cap., plus > 100 apartment units you so blithely dismiss as having nothing to do with "residential". Within a quarter mile there must be 500 more single family homes. There are 5 buslines along Mich Ave that cross N. Cap. There is on-street parking, sidewalks and signaled intersections with crosswalks. There are 2 colleges and 3 hospitals within a half mile. Pedestrians Erica. Your attitude is exactly why there are speed limits and why communities have resorted to speed cameras. Your sense of entitlement is characteristic of what David Alpert wrote about in this post. You have the sense that you should be able to drive 50 mph through that neighborhood - why? Because people who live in apartments aren't residents? Because people living in the townhouses aren't residents? You don't live there, catch the bus there, walk to and from work there so you declare slower speeds aren't warranted, that safety precautions "Make no sense!" You didn't think about other people. You didn't consider the bus stops, didn't think about all the people walking to and from those busses to the 5 large places of employment or all the families visiting hospital patients by bus and you dismissed the people who live there. Speeding through an area with pedestrians is okay because "Everyone does it"? The system made you do it? All of these sentiments express the attitude of someone with a sense of entitlement.

by Bianchi on Apr 25, 2009 10:25 am • linkreport

"If our politicians will restore funding for E-Verify now before it terminates. We can revise it, modify and append to its function, in removing foreign workers from the workplace. As illegal immigrants start their movement from our nation, wages, benefits should slowly start to rise, as employers will have no choice but to hire American workers, instead of cheap labor from foreign lands."

Brittanicus, You haven't been following the news lately, have you? In addition to the off-shoring of tasks such as customer representation services (i.e., help desks) and blue-collar operations (e.g., automotive component construction), now companies are off-shoring our service-industry skills. Just last month IBM announced a layoff involving 5% of its US workforce. Some of these jobs went to places like India. Some US workers were actually offered the opportunity to keep their jobs ... provided they'd move to India at their own expense ... and accept local wages there ... i.e., take a 95% cut in salary. Your "let's pick on the immigrants" idea isn't going to help anyone. In today's borderless world for companies' "human resources", we're not going to gain anything by closing our borders.

by Lance on Apr 26, 2009 9:49 am • linkreport

Bianchi, I thought you'd said you'd lived in Europe? If you had, you'd know that one can indeed have faster speed limits than we have here AND have a safer environment for all. I remember seeing a study a while back that compared the US's emphasis on speed control to Europe's alternate emphasis on better enforcement of traffic laws and regs(including higher standards for getting a driver's license in the first place), and the result being that European streets and roads were safer than ours. That's not to say that an accident occuring at a higher speed isn't going to cause worse damage than one occuring at a lower speed. Just that we'd get more bang for our buck if we worked harder at precluding the accident from happening in the first place. And our over-emphasis on speed control has distracted us from doing so. How many cops do you see in the District stopping the many drivers not waiting their turn at a 4 way stop? ... or driving in a bike lane? ... or making a U turn in the middle of an intersection? ... or talking on their cell phones? ... the list could go on and on. A lot more emphasis on this, and little less on trying to slow traffic to a crawl would go a long ways farther toward making our streets safer AND more usable for all.

by Lance on Apr 26, 2009 10:01 am • linkreport

It's like this- most speed limits are not really enforced, so if you are going to have a road where you are really going to enforce them, you have to give people large, unmistakable warnings. Otherwise, you are just stealing their money.

The speed cameras (and speeding tickets in general) are awful because of the inconsistency of enforcement. Speeding every single day on a road, you may get one ticket every few years- less than a dollar per day. On a road where everyone is speeding, the police get to choose one person to pull over. "Driving while black" seems to be a common offense. A law which is irregularly enforced, and which almost all people break, becomes a mechanism to grant the power the police to stop anyone they want for doing what most people are doing.

If even a simple majority of the time, the speeding laws were enforced, the standard behavior would change. Until then, it's like a negative lottery. The speed cameras only make things more painful, but only until people learn where they are. If you are going to switch from not enforcing a law to enforcing it- you have to give people a warning.

The limits themselves are often absurd. There are sections of road where the speed limit drops from 35 to 25 in front of the homes of politically important people. It's a joke to think that there is any engineering behind these laws, it's mainly a function of who lives on that street.

Meanwhile, the limit on the very narrow street in front of my home is 15, with people routinely driving with their entire car on the wrong side of the road as a result of the "traffic calming" narrow corners. What's the point of having a limit? There hasn't been a single ticket issued on the street in five years, despite near universal violation and its status as a shortcut.

by matt mc on Apr 26, 2009 10:26 pm • linkreport

What precisely do you mean, "most speed limits are not enforced"? They aren't enforced at every single incident, yes, because the police can only dedicate so much manpower to traffic enforcement. Should speed cameras be everywhere? Should there be transponders in every car to monitor speed? Of course not - in a free society, citizens should have the respect and good sense to follow the laws, irrespective of potential punishment.

Otherwise, would you argue that we should not enforce the laws at all? Simply remove speed limits and make arrests the prerogative of a state trooper trained to see "unsafe driving"? As your race-baiting comment shows, this is much less desirable. For what it's worth, a Gatso doesn't see the color of your skin, or even the color of your car.

It's not stealing at all: it's actually less like stealing than taxation. If you or I wish to speed, we know it is wrong and know the risks of doing it.

by цarьchitect on Apr 26, 2009 11:24 pm • linkreport

Architect, You've actually reminded me of an idea I had a while back. I'm not sure if I'd personnally want to see it implemented, but I will say that it would definitely put to rest biased enforcement (and "lack of resources to enforce at all times). The idea is to make use of existing technology (i.e., car-based transponders, cell phone towers, the gps, and engine-governors) to automatically limit an automobile's speed to the posted speed limit. Given that the communications network is already in place (i.e., the gps and the cell phone towers) it wouldn't be that hard a system to implement. It would be kinda like the electric bumper cars that are in fairs and amusement parks. No matter how much you push that accelerator, the speed is capped ...

by Lance on Apr 27, 2009 12:45 am • linkreport

What are we-a bunch of toddlers who can't be trusted alone with the kitten b/c we might strangle it? People who drive are adults and know instinctively the inherent harm in a car crashing into a pedestrian, other car, or telephone pole. The problem is the sense of entitlement - that we don't have to monitor our own behavior and that we should not be required to help create a safe environment for all; that we are entitled to travel as fast as our engines will go and that we alone get to decide what's safe for us alone.

One of the reasons there are fewer fatal crashes in Eur. is the societal acceptance that pedestrians and bikers are ALSO entitled to use the road. Pedestrians cross streets. If Cars are using that street too, the car drivers MUST stop and/or slow down to allow safe passage. Where ever there are people, like everywhere in greater Washington, there are going to be pedestrians.

A sense of entitlement and a sense of responsibility are mutually exclusive. We expect children to be incapable of gauging the level of potential harm in their actions. We expect the kind of self-absorbtion and self-centeredness from children that leads to behavoir that can harm self or others; that doesn't consider how ones behavior may impact others; that can't forsee consequnces; that is defiant of known rules put in place intended to prevent harm. These same charcteristics are prerequisites for the sense of entitlement that prevents drivers from slowing down a bit and thinking about the safe or dangerous environment one is creating with ones behavior. If this sense of entitlement were not so prevalent there would be a lot fewer speeding tickets issued. Wouldn't it be great if there were a speed camera and no one got a ticket?

The reason we are not entitled to go as fast as our engines will take us in every and any situation is because it's not safe! Safety is not only applicable to the driver - it includes all users of the road; other drivers, pedestrians, bikers, the unpredictable behavior of children, the less nimble actions of many elderly (who need more then 23 seconds to cross a street).

Drivers have a responsibility to create a safe environment for all. If a driver does not have that sense of responsibility then s/he has a sense of entitlement and the maturity of a child who can't be trusted not to harm him/herself and others, and must be monitored and punished with speed cameras and fines. Responsibility and entitlement are mutually exclusive. Freedom and responsibility are inclusive. We have the freedom to drive and are expected to have the responsibility not to endanger others. The only way to achieve that is to think of others. So what if you think "I'm fine going 50 here", you're not alone you a-hole! There are other people all around and what you do affects the conditions for all.

by Bianchi on Apr 27, 2009 10:30 am • linkreport

Bianchi - Actually, I used to live in that very area (in one of the apartment complexes - well back from the road) which is why I know about the speed cameras. I was lucky enough never to get a ticket because my roommate warned me exactly where the gotcha cameras were when I moved in, but I know people who did not have such luck - not because they feel "entitled" but because the cameras are placed in a spot where all expected visual cues - wide streets, long distance visibility, lots of lawn separating buildings and sidewalks from the curb - signal "throughway." I walked - and, yes, caught the bus - in the area often and because the sidewalks are set so far back from the road, (you seem to be missing this point) never felt at all unsafe.

If the true concern was about safety, the city would do everything possible to SIGNAL IN ADVANCE that a decrease in speed is coming. They would post signs coming off North Capitol. They would install speed bumps with warning signs. They would create landscaping elements such as a traffic circle. Instead, they chose to install a speed camera and NOT warn people, because it is a guaranteed income stream from many of those hospital visitors coming to the area for the first time and assuming that the speed limits are similar to those in structurally similar places.

by Erica on Apr 27, 2009 11:34 am • linkreport

Erica we are in agreement about road design. Traditional (in the US since 1950 or so) road designs indeed create less safe conditions for pedestrians. This contributes to drivers' sense of entitlement (the road is there for me to go as fast as possible without concern for other people or varying conditions).

However that does not negate an indivuals responsibility. Surely someone can see the difference between N. Cap between Fort Dr. and Mich Ave and Mich Ave. immediately east of N. Cap. Some examples: sidewalks, painted crosswalks, on-street parking, driveways leading to/from The Cloisters, the townhouses on the south side of Mich Ave, busstops, the curve in the road, etc. There is a very noticeable visual diffence in the way Mich Ave looks compared to that short strip of N. Cap. Besides, in order to get to that strip of N. Cap a person had to drive through the city where the roads were all very much more similar to Mich Ave then to that part of N. Cap.

That part of N. Cap is an anomaly in DC. I don't think people are that stupid as to not notice the difference. i do think there is a prevailing sense of entitlement that keeps people from responding to their own observations and slowing down when conditions change.

Yes, we agree, road design can help give people visual cues and real physical barriers that force them to slow down. Yes a "reduced speed on residential streets ahead" sign is always a good idea. Are you sure there are no "photo enforced" signs? Additionally I'm somewhat certain (75%) the max posted speed limit on N. Cap is 35 mph anyway. It takes longer to stop at faster speeds. N. Cap is often crowded/congested. There are lights at Mich Ave and at Fort Dr. a half mile away. 35 isn't unreasobale. A sense of awareness of where you are and allowing yourself enough time and space to accommodate what others might be doing around you, i.e stopping for a yellow/red light, crossing a street on foot, slowing down to make a turn, stopping for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, etc. requires a sense of personal responsibility for the safe conditions of the road. Ultimately it's self-protective by helping prevent ones self from crashing into something or someone. That type of behavior is both self-protective and respectful of others and requires both independence of thought and, again, what we think of as the adult responsibility that accompanies freedom. Responsible adults don't require handholding to behave in a way that is self-protective and courteous to others. Thats the opposite of feeling entitled. This is the crux of the problem: Discourteous driving. What were the results of that recent AAA study in which the large majority admitted to committing the offenses of aggressive driving?

by Bianchi on Apr 27, 2009 1:51 pm • linkreport

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