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Speed traps coming soon to a park near you!
October 11, 2013 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Speeding in Chicago? Your commute may become a lot more expensive as Chicago fires up and institutes a new speed camera policy.

Rahm Emanuel's new camera system was budgeted at generating $15 million a year, but it looks like the new system will actually do better than expected if the test run is to be believed. In 40 days the new cameras generated 204,743 people speeding and would have issued $20.4 million in fines. Viewed as a cash grab by some, the program is certainly not without it's detractors. The mayor claims that it's merely about safety of course, citing the red light program as it's potential example of increasing safety while also generating revenue for the city.

What the end effect will be is hard to say, but certainly remember to watch your speed around Chicago's parks!
posted by Carillon (151 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Speeding in Chicago? Your commute may become a lot more expensive

God, I hope so. Slow down, assholes.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


Just wait till they sell off the program to a private company in a few years!
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


One motorist was going 90 mph.

Only one? I'm disappointed in you guys.
posted by goethean at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


From the "cash grab" post:

Thank goodness my trips into Chicago are limited to doctor appointments

Yes OK thank you for your opinion.
posted by theodolite at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just wait till they sell off the program to a private company in a few years!

It is a private company running it.

It will be disabled or crippled in short order as it is effective, inexpensive and accidentally catches rich white people.
posted by srboisvert at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


increasing safety while also generating revenue for the city.

You mean " generating revenue for the city, while causing more accidents".
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Holy crap, why was the driver going 90mph (in an apparent 30mph zone) not hauled in? What an asshole.
posted by xedrik at 10:01 AM on October 11, 2013


Law-breaking by motorists (i.e., speeding, running reds, etc) is really normalized in this culture. Would be nice to actually let people KNOW when they're breaking the law.
posted by Archer25 at 10:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Did they give up on speed bumps?
posted by poe at 10:04 AM on October 11, 2013


No, Chicago still has a shitload of speed bumps.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:05 AM on October 11, 2013


I don't think the comparison to red light cameras really works, since with those there's a perverse incentive to shorten the yellow light part of the cycle to catch people, but the number of places where speeding in general (as opposed to just keeping up with traffic) makes things safer has to be very small--maybe two-lane roads where you are gearing up to pass someone?

It's pretty amazing how tolerant we are of speeding--it kills a hell of a lot of people every year--basically as many as drunk driving, but you get caught driving with a 0.081 BAC and people think you should be shunned from society, but drive 70 in a 45 and practically no one has that sort of reaction. Very strange to me.
posted by dsfan at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Speeding on the highway is very different from speeding through a pedestrian-and-bicycle-heavy urban area laden with traffic lights. I'm not familiar with Chicago roads, but it sounds like this is the latter.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Every year, out of the cases where a car hits a pedestrian or pedestrians in Chicago, some ridiculous proportion—usually in the 80-90% range—are hit-and-runs. It is worth keeping this in mind as you walk around Chicago: almost every driver you see is a sociopath who would happily leave you to die if he or she were to hit you. This is the case even though motorists here are almost never charged with anything beyond a citation in a collision with a pedestrian (even a fatal one) unless it is a hit-and-run or unless they are drunk.

This is what I think about when I hear people whining about how this law means they might actually have to cough up a few bucks once in a while for their routine flouting of basic safety laws.
posted by enn at 10:12 AM on October 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


No, Chicago still has a shitload of speed bumps.

You'd have thought they'd have been superfluous with all the pot holes.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:12 AM on October 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think that a lot of people see speeding and drunk driving the same way they see texting while driving.

Skillful, above-average drivers like me can handle it just fine--all those other idiots on the road? Not so much.
posted by box at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Every year, out of the cases where a car hits a pedestrian or pedestrians in Chicago, some ridiculous proportion—usually in the 80-90% range—are hit-and-runs. It is worth keeping this in mind as you walk around Chicago: almost every driver you see is a sociopath who would happily leave you to die if he or she were to hit you.

Well that's certainly airtight logic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I would assume these are being installed in single lane, one way or two way streets, right? Otherwise you're encountering situations where you won't know who the speeder is, unless I misunderstand how these speed cameras work.

So I would think major thoroughfares where the majority of speeding (and driving) takes place would be unaffected.

Also... too bad Illinois is a front plate state.

One good thing about FL is it's a back plate state. I accidentally found out that transporting my bike on my trunk rack makes me mostly immune to red light cameras. (Not that I habitually run lights, but I once cut it too close, saw the tell tale flash, but no ticket.)
posted by Debaser626 at 10:16 AM on October 11, 2013


I think most of the pedestrian-vehicle collisions are on right turns for the most part. That's at least what all the signs on the busses say.
posted by Carillon at 10:16 AM on October 11, 2013


My one problem with the story is we know how many warnings were issued, but we don't know how many not-warnings there were, so we don't have the full scope of the problem. But basic math tells us that with data from 4 cameras, there was an average of just over 1000 cars a day traveling faster than 10 mph over the limit. That's 41.6 an hour, or about one every 90 seconds.

But, over 40 days, they clocked 200 at 60+ (or 5 a day, at twice the speed limit!) and 10 at 80+ (one every 2 days) on Chicago City streets, which tend to be narrower than most. That's flat out insane.

I don't think the comparison to red light cameras really works, since with those there's a perverse incentive to shorten the yellow light part of the cycle to catch people

True, but not a factor in Chicago, which has had very short yellows for as long as I have been alive. Rule is 3 seconds unless speed limit is over 35mph, then 4 seconds. It drives me nuts to be out in the burbs with the 6-7 second yellows.

The amazing thing is red light cameras in Chicago are working. The number of people blowing through reds has dropped dramatically in the last four years. When they were first installed, I saw the flashes on the cameras firing all the time, nowadays, it's surprising to see them. Which, of course, is exactly the point.

It should be noted that the fine for a red-light camera ticket is Chicago is $100, not the $500+ that many municipalities charged.

You'd have thought they'd have been superfluous with all the pot holes.

A true work of art is Wellington between Sacramento and Kedzie, which is riddled with potholes. They just installed brand new speedbumps.
posted by eriko at 10:17 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're called "speed humps" in Chicago. Which always sounds like a euphemism for "quickies" to me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:17 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


To me this seems more like Worthwhile Midwestern Initiative rather than outrage fodder. Keeping people to the speed limit is a perfectly reasonable governmental goal.
posted by shothotbot at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Speeding even on the highway when it's a high-traffic area with a lot of entrances and exits makes it a lot harder for other people to safely enter the roadway, that sort of thing, but yeah, I don't see how well it'd work in heavier traffic.

I definitely used to be an 'I-can-handle-it' sort of person but have recently realized how much easier driving is when people are actually going predictably at the speed they're supposed to be going, and because of that, I have slowed down. As long as they're not ticketing people who just happen to slip a couple mph over the limit, I think this seems like a fine idea. It is impossible for cops to sit out and actually catch any significant proportion of the people who're making the roads more dangerous for everybody, and the limits should be the limits even when nobody's watching you.
posted by Sequence at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Becomes a game, who in the pack is the idiot that covers for everyone else by going too fast. Versus the other more brutish game, the most reckless and selfish gets ahead of everyone else.
posted by stbalbach at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


increasing safety while also generating revenue for the city.

You mean " generating revenue for the city, while causing more accidents".


Causing more accidents how?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2013


The big issue too is if they put them on Lakeshore Drive. That's a highway with the capacity easily for 55-60 but is marked as 35 or 40 mph. It's really quite easy to creep up to what should be the speed limit there without realizing it.
posted by Carillon at 10:22 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, I wish that they would set this up in my city. People fly down the streets here and the police totally ignore them.
posted by octothorpe at 10:24 AM on October 11, 2013


This looks like yet another move to a regressive tax scheme to help fund our starving infrastructure.
posted by scrowdid at 10:25 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


increasing safety while also generating revenue for the city.

You mean " generating revenue for the city, while causing more accidents".

Causing more accidents how?


The school of thought (such as it is) on that is that when anyone sees a traffic camera go off, they immediately hit their brakes to avoid getting caught, which causes accidents.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on October 11, 2013


This looks like yet another move to a regressive tax scheme to help fund our starving infrastructure.

Quite. There is just no way for low-income people to avoid speeding. Sad, really.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:26 AM on October 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


This looks like yet another move to a regressive tax scheme to help fund our starving infrastructure.

In what conceivable sense is a system of fines directed at drivers—who are wealthier than non-drivers—regressive?
posted by enn at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skillful, above-average drivers like me can handle it just fine--all those other idiots on the road? Not so much.

Yeah, I had a friend who was a notorious drunk driver who used to refrain from driving on the major drinking holidays because it was too unsafe and refered to them as "amateur nights".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Some sort of molasses trap would be effective but messy.
posted by elizardbits at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Traffic fines are regressive in that they fall equally on rich and poor drivers. It's moderately progressive in that very poor people can't afford cars, but plenty of non-rich people drive. It's not the most regressive tax, but it is slightly so.

A system like, I believe, Sweden uses where fines vary by income would be legitimately progressive.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I already pay the city about $300-400 a year in parking tickets, because I haven't figured out the street cleaning situation and there are a lot of streets that are permit-only but don't look that way. I'm not a crazy speeder (I'm usually very concerned about hidden bicyclists getting in front of me and so forth) but I'm guessing my fines are going to increase by about twice as much. Maybe it's best to ditch a car entirely.
posted by naju at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


One motorist was going 90 mph.
Were they driving a 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan?
posted by usonian at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


oooh! you could use oobleck! We could put vibrators in the road to make it reach up toward you when pedestrians are crossing.
posted by poe at 10:33 AM on October 11, 2013


Carillon referred to Lakeshore Drive as "...a highway with the capacity easily for 55-60 but is marked as 35 or 40 mph."

One of the now starting to be acknowledged problems in modern road design is that traffic engineers tried to solve what was directly causing accidents: Narrow lanes, curves, narrow shoulders, limited site lines. That would have been fine if people had kept driving the slower speeds on them, but instead they took wider lanes and longer sight lines as license to drive faster.

Which is why Hans Monderman's experiments were so interesting: If you really want to make roads safer, you narrow the lanes, reduce the sight lines, make it so that people feel uncomfortable driving fast.

Because you (and by "you" I mean me, and my neighbors, and almost all of y'all) really are driving too fast for conditions. You're driving for the 99.9(99?)% case that's every-day driving, and not the remaining little bit when things actually go wrong and people are killed.
posted by straw at 10:36 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Traffic fines are regressive in that they fall equally on rich and poor drivers. It's moderately progressive in that very poor people can't afford cars, but plenty of non-rich people drive. It's not the most regressive tax, but it is slightly so.

I consider it pretty disingenuous to refer to a fine as a tax. There is no legitimate economic activity going on here. You are not losing out on anything by not speeding.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:37 AM on October 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


You are dissecting and debating the ramblings of a white, middle-aged, suburban male blogger made on a political blog, about a subject outside of his expertise, comprehension and curiosity despite his love for its museums and other attractions held within.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:37 AM on October 11, 2013


Maybe it's best to ditch a car entirely

It probably is, actually.

I have a car, but I don't drive it enough to keep it in decent shape, and just spent $2K getting various underused components fixed. Everything I might possibly want is within walking distance or transit of my work and home, and yet I still can't quite let go of this stupid car.

Aaargh. I'm an idiot. Learn from my errors.
posted by aramaic at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The big issue too is if they put them on Lakeshore Drive. That's a highway with the capacity easily for 55-60 but is marked as 35 or 40 mph. It's really quite easy to creep up to what should be the speed limit there without realizing it.

You're a licensed operator of a deadly machine. Pay attention.

Look at the red light running stats for the intersections off the lakeshore. It isn't about incidental speed drift. It is about aggressive vehicular assholery in shocking numbers.
posted by srboisvert at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


The big issue too is if they put them on Lakeshore Drive. That's a highway with the capacity easily for 55-60 but is marked as 35 or 40 mph. It's really quite easy to creep up to what should be the speed limit there without realizing it.

LSD tends to change conditions super fast, in my experience, and not just at the infamous super dangerous turn near downtown.
posted by kmz at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Thanks, Bulgaroktonos, for making me think about speeding tickets in a way I never had before. Found this article about a Portlandian idea for progressive fines.)
posted by cubby at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2013


I got a warning from the cameras by Gompers Park (NB on Pulaski, just south of Foster). Not sure how fast I was going, but apparently it was over 36.

I'm okay with the park zones, the speed limit is always 30. I now know to keep an eye on 30. What's more concerning is the school zones. The speed limit drops to 20 when children are present. How does the camera know when children are present? Does that only include children visible from the street, or when you know that they're in the school?
posted by hwyengr at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2013


Traffic fines are regressive in that they fall equally on rich and poor drivers. It's moderately progressive in that very poor people can't afford cars, but plenty of non-rich people drive. It's not the most regressive tax, but it is slightly so.

It's not a tax at all. It's a penalty. Penalties certainly can be progressive or regressive, but they don't have to be one or the other, especially when the action that brings them is completely voluntary.
posted by Etrigan at 10:42 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's more concerning is the school zones. The speed limit drops to 20 when children are present. How does the camera know when children are present? Does that only include children visible from the street, or when you know that they're in the school?

I think it takes into account school hours, not if children are literally on the sidewalk right that moment. I have an idea, though - just slow down to 20mph for the block or two near a school, and you don't even have to worry about the letter of the law or how the cameras are calibrated.

One thing I found really interesting as a driver moving from Houston to Chicago was just how much better Houston drivers were about school zones. It was a weird juxtaposition, because they were a speeding, cutting-off, drunk driving lot but by golly they slowed down to 20mph near schools. Meanwhile in Chicago no one seems to give a shit.

In general for those not familiar with Chicago: these speed cameras are on streets near parks and schools, generally two to four lane (1-2 lanes in each direction) city streets with crosswalks and stop signs and intersections and such. No one should be going 40 on them, let alone 90.
posted by misskaz at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a tax on breaking the social contract you agreed to when you were licensed to drive. If it keeps speeds down where it matters (like, where people are?), go for it!
posted by tmt at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2013


It's not a tax at all. It's a penalty.

Haven't you heard? All monies which might possibly go to governments are taxes because they are bad and wrong and baby jesus hates governments.

Penalties only apply in sporting events, where they are admirable and important because seriously how did the ref not see that?
posted by aramaic at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's a highway with the capacity easily for 55-60 but is marked as 35 or 40 mph.

Parts are, but that's only on the south side. Parts are surface level street, near downtown. Parts have very sharp curves, esp. near the LSD bridge and Oak Street Beach. The north LSD stretch has very narrow lanes and almost no acceleration/deceleration lane space.

And, of course, you realize that for most of its length, LSD is traveling through parkland?

LSD tends to change conditions super fast, in my experience, and not just at the infamous super dangerous turn near downtown.

The super dangerous turn near downtown is *nothing* like the original super dangerous turn near downtown on LSD. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the original S Curve.

The Oak Street curve is a piece of cake compared to that monster.
posted by eriko at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


LSD tends to change conditions super fast, in my experience, and not just at the infamous super dangerous turn near downtown.

Well, it doesn't usually start until 30-45 minutes after you take it, so the timing is important.

It's better to just drop when you get to the event in case you get lost or something.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


While we're talking about things that should be enforced, is it just me or are there a lot of late left turners in Chicago? Situations where I guess the driver feels entitled to turn and enters the intersection to complete the turn even after the light is red. I seem to see that a lot, dunno if it's just me.
posted by Carillon at 10:49 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought red light cameras decreased safety.
posted by ckape at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2013


There should be no system of total enforced accountability and control of citizens by governments without an even more pervasive system for accountability, transparency, and control of governments by citizens.
posted by anemone of the state at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2013


While we're talking about things that should be enforced, is it just me or are there a lot of late left turners in Chicago? Situations where I guess the driver feels entitled to turn and enters the intersection to complete the turn even after the light is red. I seem to see that a lot, dunno if it's just me.

If you're trying to turn left and there's no signs specifically against it ("don't block intersection, etc"), you're entitled to enter the intersection while it's green and then if you don't get a break from the other direction, make the left once the light turns red. In theory, only the lead car turning left gets to do this, and only if they entered the intersection while the light was still green. In Chicago I would regularly see, oh, at least 4 or 5 cars do this per light.
posted by kmz at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with this. Speed as much as you want on the freeway, but city streets have people's homes and businesses and kids who don't know how to look both ways. If you're driving through my neighborhood, you'd better be respectful of the fact that it is a real neighborhood with tons of families, not a suburban arterial where no one cares.

Unfortunately cities like Chicago that have a grid system do tend to encourage speeding psychologically, but maybe speed cameras can help reverse that effect.
posted by miyabo at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2013


Lake Shore Drive's speeding problems were much different back when it actually took right angles. Glad they fixed that before I moved there.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2013


Call it a fine or penalty then. It's still regressive, and puts a larger burden on poor people than rich people for equal infractions. Even the most law-abiding driver can mess up once in a while and gets caught doing 5mph over - we all make mistakes. Under this system, 20 million infrastructure dollars that could have - and should have - been raised through sensible progressive taxation are instead being raised through these regressive penalties.

Think about all the times you've seen someone doing something like 120 through downtown. When I think of those people, it's always some jackoff in a shiny next year's model Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Acura, or whatever. They can afford to go that fast and they know it, because a $200 speeding ticket doesn't mean anything to them.

And they love that police stations increasingly have to get their funding from fines because they sure don't want to pay more in taxes to keep America's infrastructure afloat.
posted by scrowdid at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Haven't you heard? All monies which might possibly go to governments are taxes because they are bad and wrong and baby jesus hates governments.

That's a weird response to me advocating a progressive traffic fine regime like they have in Sweden. It barely makes any sense at all.

I have no problem with traffic fines, but they are mildly regressive (whether you think of them as a tax or not). A system that fines everyone the same punishes the poor more than the rich and that's clearly regressive. Especially given that we're (generally speaking) hesitant to increase tax levels and funding more and more of our infrastructure off fines, I think that's a legitimate problem.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]



While we're talking about things that should be enforced, is it just me or are there a lot of late left turners in Chicago? Situations where I guess the driver feels entitled to turn and enters the intersection to complete the turn even after the light is red. I seem to see that a lot, dunno if it's just me.

If you're trying to turn left and there's no signs specifically against it ("don't block intersection, etc"), you're entitled to enter the intersection while it's green and then if you don't get a break from the other direction, make the left once the light turns red. In theory, only the lead car turning left gets to do this, and only if they entered the intersection while the light was still green. In Chicago I would regularly see, oh, at least 4 or 5 cars do this per light.


I thought this was a Chicagoland tradition.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:56 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The late left turners are usually being nudged into the intersection by the honking, tailgating jerkwads behind them, who are SO MAD that someone won't drive into oncoming traffic so they can get to the next red light faster.

Chicago drivers are horrible.

I live near a school with multiple speed bumps and stop signs around it, and will typically watch 5 or 6 cars per day blast through at ~60mph without stopping at any signs. I hope they will soon be the disgruntled recipients of many a camera-based ticket.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:56 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I do public utility construction and have a fair amount of contact with our city's transportation department. I had to meet with them about some road closures during one of our projects and offhandedly asked about speed camera effectiveness vs. a traffic cop. Their project manager said he loved speed cameras because they produced immediate and permanent speed reductions wherever they put them and that in turn reduced accidents because you have fewer people trying to beat a changing light and blowing through an intersection or standing on the brakes to avoid running a light. Whereas you maybe get a traffic cop once a month at one location and that it tends to tie up traffic for a few hours, then driver behavior goes right back to normal.


They also asked me never to tell anyone they loved speed cameras.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Late left turns are all but mandatory when there's no left-turn light or alternating green and a constant flow of opposing traffic. I've been at lights where the choice is to jump the red light or sit at the head of the lane for half an hour.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:00 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The talk of speeding on LSD is interesting to me (although irrelevant to the post, since no one is putting in cameras on Lake Shore as far as I'm aware). Whenever I'm talking about how road design affects behavior I use it as an example. Lake Shore Drive is very much designed for faster speeds than 40mph. I drive it pretty regularly and always see cops out there too. But even with regular enforcement, those of us staying within 5-10mph of the posted speed limit are the minority, passed on all sides by other cars. If you want people to behave, you have to design roads so they slow the fuck down, and include enforcement (whether that's cops staking out dangerous areas or cameras or whatever).

They're going to rebuild LSD in the next 5 or so years, and there is already a lot of talk about how to change it. Does Chicago actually take this opportunity to connect its citizens to the wonderful lake front that is such an asset to our community? Or do we continue to prioritize private vehicle owners over all other infrastructure users and maintain what is essentially a highway in the middle of a park? It will be interesting to watch. I thought Chicago was getting pretty progressive, transportation-wise, but the backlash to the Ashland BRT system is showing me we may not be as far ahead as I'd hoped.
posted by misskaz at 11:01 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


A system that fines everyone the same punishes the poor more than the rich and that's clearly regressive.

A system that charges everyone the same for food punishes the poor more than the rich, and that's not so much "regressive" as it is "how money works." And the system doesn't fine everyone the same. It fines people who choose to break the law the same (in the case of speeding). Calling speeding penalties "regressive" is expanding the definition of the term so far that it's essentially meaningless.

Especially given that we're (generally speaking) hesitant to increase tax levels and funding more and more of our infrastructure off fines, I think that's a legitimate problem.

I agree.
posted by Etrigan at 11:03 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Photo radar and speed cameras don't work for the rich.

You know what cured my leadfoot? Maturity, and moving to an area with wildlife.

Relocate a dozen moose to Chicagoland and see the speeds drop.
posted by redtotal at 11:03 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Chicago I would regularly see, oh, at least 4 or 5 cars do this per light.

At Diversey and North Sheridan, not a red light camera intersection, this practice eats up the pedestrian crossing time, which is already only about 15 seconds, about half of the time. Basically cars all pile into the intersection two cars wide in order to file into a congested single lane well after the light has turned. It's a jerk move and the drivers know it which is why they pretend they can't see the pedestrians glowering at them.
posted by srboisvert at 11:04 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


While we're talking about things that should be enforced, is it just me or are there a lot of late left turners in Chicago? Situations where I guess the driver feels entitled to turn and enters the intersection to complete the turn even after the light is red. I seem to see that a lot, dunno if it's just me.
This is not specific to Chicago. Where I grew up, I was always told "three on red." I get mad at drivers who don't do this.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:05 AM on October 11, 2013


Would be nice to actually let people KNOW when they're breaking the law.

This is a high expectation. I am pretty sure that only 3-5% of RIslanders know that there are traffic laws, rather than quaint folk customs. I am pretty sure a higher percentage of Boston drivers know there are laws, but they just don't care enough to follow them. On the other hand, the streets of Boston (or Providence) cannot be mapped in 3 dimensions, so maybe that's for the best. If you really knew the laws, you would go shrieking toward the peace and safety of a new dark age.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2013


As much as I would love to see income-graduated fines, it's ridiculous to pretend that somehow these fines are the real problem as far as regressive taxes in Chicago. We have one of the highest sales taxes in the country—that's almost the canonical regressive tax. We have $6.67 of taxes on one pack of cigarettes—that's regressive. Red-light and speed cameras are a drop in the bucket.
posted by enn at 11:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skillful, above-average drivers like me can handle it just fine--all those other idiots on the road? Not so much.

"You ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" - George Carlin


Some sort of molasses trap would be effective but messy.

Too soon. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:11 AM on October 11, 2013


Late left turns are all but mandatory when there's no left-turn light or alternating green and a constant flow of opposing traffic.

This is absolutely true. There are just not enough left turn arrows in any high-traffic urban area I've ever been to.

As far as the progressive/regressive thing goes, I'm all for hitting assholes in the pocketbook, but man you are dreaming if you think it's just richies speeding. I have seen everyone do it in every type of vehicle imaginable. On the road, everyone's an asshole.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:14 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would assume these are being installed in single lane, one way or two way streets, right? Otherwise you're encountering situations where you won't know who the speeder is, unless I misunderstand how these speed cameras work.

I can't find it offhand - will look later - but I remember seeming a demonstration of a speed camera that was watching a section of expressway, and showed on the screen both the license plate # and current speed of every single vehicle that was visible.

I'm sure not all speed cameras work like that, so what's possible would depend on what kind of cameras they were putting in. It also makes it seem quite possible that we could see metro areas using multi-purpose cameras in the future - able to both view traffic/weather conditions, along with tracking vehicle speed in the process.
posted by evilangela at 11:14 AM on October 11, 2013


I am pretty sure that only 3-5% of RIslanders know that there are traffic laws, rather than quaint folk customs.

The scariest drives I take on a regular basis are when my in-laws pick me up at T.F. Green and drive me back into Providence. I know everywhere thinks their drivers (or the drivers in the neighboring city/state) are bad, but holy hell, I have no idea how you people aren't all dead.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:17 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with photo radar-type ticketing and frankly if you're going over the limit and get a ticket you have no one to blame but yourself and I have no sympathy for you. Pretty sure the studies have all shown they reduce crashes, too.
posted by Hoopo at 11:21 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think speeding through/around/near parks is particularly reprehensible, to be honest.
posted by Mister_A at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The progressive/regressive debate on this is curious to me because my initial thought was that it seemed like a pretty objective approach toward ticketing. You eliminate on the spot judgment calls from a police officer whether to issue a warning or ticket. Everyone gets equal treatment by the algorithm. My hunch is that more people of privilege will get fined in this scenario versus employing officers to enforce the rule.
posted by dgran at 11:31 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


As much as I would love to see income-graduated fines

We lived in town in Westchester where the fine for parking overnight on the street was $5 BUT it had to be paid with a money order so the real penalty was having to go out for 35 minutes during work and get your five dollar money order.
posted by shothotbot at 11:33 AM on October 11, 2013


My hunch is that more people of privilege will get fined in this scenario versus employing officers to enforce the rule.

Chris Huhne to the white courtesy telephone please.
posted by shothotbot at 11:37 AM on October 11, 2013


the real penalty was having to go out for 35 minutes during work and get your five dollar money order.

Isn't that what the help are for?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:39 AM on October 11, 2013


Call it a fine or penalty then. It's still regressive, and puts a larger burden on poor people than rich people for equal infractions.

Any system of law where you have a fixed penalty based on the infraction without reference to the personal circumstances of the offender is going to have this 'problem'. It's a legitimate criticism, but it certainly is a much bigger issue than speed cameras, because there are a huge number of offenses that have as penalties cash fines, which are less painful the more wealthy you are.

I think the fairness (or lack thereof) of fines is a separate discussion. But since that's how the law largely works in the US, it's not unreasonable that speed cameras would work the same way.

I would assume these are being installed in single lane, one way or two way streets, right?

Multi-lane speed cameras are pretty common. There are a couple of different systems, but at least one system that I'm aware of uses sensors buried in the pavement a fixed distance apart. The camera is only there to grab the plate number and image of the driver; it's not sensing speed using the camera or anything coupled to it. The other fun advantage of these systems is that they don't set off radar detectors.

There are systems in the UK that look similar to the high-speed EZPass toll barriers in the US; they run across the entire width of the road and have a camera and sensor system pointing down at each lane. I think in some places they do average speed over a long distance (basically what conspiracy theorists have always alleged that toll roads here in the US could do, but none actually do: look at your entry vs exit time and determine that you were speeding based on the net time over distance). That doesn't stop speeding per se -- you could still drive like a maniac and then like a geriatric for the last few minutes and average it out -- but it directly attacks the underlying motivation: not driving like an asshole for the sake of driving like an asshole, but driving fast because you are trying to minimize travel time. It basically says "you can't get from A to B faster than time T or you get fined, so don't bother trying." That's sort of a different approach to speed enforcement than is typical in the US, and I wonder if one is markedly more effective.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:49 AM on October 11, 2013


hwyengr: "The speed limit drops to 20 when children are present. How does the camera know when children are present? Does that only include children visible from the street, or when you know that they're in the school?"

When children are on the sidewalk, generally. (Or unfenced playground area, but nobody has those anymore!) 625 ILCS 5/11-605
"On a school day when school children are present and so close thereto that a potential hazard exists because of the close proximity of the motorized traffic, no person shall drive a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour while passing a school zone or while traveling on a roadway on public school property or upon any public thoroughfare where children pass going to and from school. "
I am like the world's calmest, safest driver until I get to Chicago and then I'm going 85 on 294 shouting out the window "SPEED UP, YOU FUCKING TOURISTS!!!! Jesus Christ, do you not understand how HIGHWAYS work?" And then I go downtown and get cut off by some jackass in an Audi and I'm a ball of incandescent rage. In my normal life, I'll drive behind farm equipment for 10 miles rather than bother with passing on a 2-lane highway and when people cut me off I'm like, "Oh, man, that guy probably has a really good reason for being in a hurry. We're near the hospital, I bet his wife's in labor." (Mr. McGee: "His wife is not in labor! Stop being so nice!") I get to Chicago and suddenly my family's afraid I'm going to wear out my horn.

And then everyone says, in the most typically Chicago response I can imagine, "Why are you honking at people? You're going to get shot! OH MY GOD DON'T HONK AT THE TAXI!" I have never heard of a serious instance of retaliatory rage for honking in Chicago, whereas when I lived in North Carolina people used to throw trash out their car window at you all the time if you honked at them, and legitimately might have been packing heat. But Midwesterners can hardly imagine a worse social faux pas than publicly informing someone else they're breaking social norms by honking at them for being a bad driver.

Try it. Tell a driving story to Chicagoans and say, "And then he honked at the guy ..." and SOMEONE will respond, "Why is he honking at people? He's gonna get shot!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:51 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


If people truly got shot for overhonking in Chicago, there would be no one to drive the cabs.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:56 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I consider it pretty disingenuous to refer to a fine as a tax. There is no legitimate economic activity going on here. You are not losing out on anything by not speeding.

You need to drive more. Speed limits are inaccurately posted, or not posted at all, or obscured accidentally or deliberately or shift from a very high speed to a very low speed without any obvious reason. We call these speed traps. They are there simply to get revenue - now, in Chicago, the speed traps will be automated. One benefit is, the cops can't just chose to ignore the Beemers and only target the rustbuckets - but on the other hand, I would seriously doubt the company issuing the tickets is all that automated. To avoid legal and collections hassle, they will... ignore the beemers and target the rustbuckets.

This is a regressive tax with a teeny little fig-leaf labeled "Safety!" over its junk.

A better solution would be to close down more streets to private passenger cars entirely, but that don't put money in the coffers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:02 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


When motor vehicle strikes a pedestrian:

* At 20 mph 5% will die
* At 30 mph 40% will die
* At 40 mph 80% will die
* At 50 mph, nearly 100% will die

Source: Literature Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries

The key here is that there is a steep rise in fatality rates--eight-fold--between 20 & 30 mph. The rise in serious injuries is similar, with most pedestrians having minor or no injuries in a 15 mph collision, but nearly all suffering major injuries or fatality at 30mph.

From the motorist perspective, "I'm only going a little faster!"

From the pedestrian perspective, "You just became 10X more dangerous to me!"

The difference in these two perspectives is why we need programs like the speed cameras that can really change behavior. The motorist is simply never going to share the pedestrian's perspective of how much danger that 'little bit' of extra speed really adds. Some kind of external reinforcement is necessary to change that motorist behavior, and our civic discussion on this issue ought to be around how to do this most fairly and effectively.

Just for example, low fines are a great idea--not every traffic fine needs to be $500 plus. How about $10 fine for driving 5 mph over--if that's enough to change behavior? And for crying out loud, use some or most of the money raise to improve the pedestrian environment and safety in those areas.
posted by flug at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2013 [35 favorites]


I get honked at for hesitating for a fraction of a second when the light turns green. If I hesitate for another fraction of a second after that, the car behind me will break all traffic laws to speed around me and onward, screeching tires and all. Driving in Chicago can suck sometimes (and suck even more if you're a pedestrian or bicyclist).
posted by naju at 12:05 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also fun is the motorists who ignore zebra stripes or crosswalks of any kind and then honk at you if you make them stop.

Apparently that's also a problem. Chicago drivers rock.
posted by Carillon at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2013


In addition to the dramatic reduction in injuries and deaths--which ought to be more than enough alone to justify programs like this one in Chicago--there are other extremely important benefits to neighborhoods that come with keeping traffic speeds at 20mph or slower. All those are the reasons 20 mph/30 km/h zones are becoming more common worldwide.
posted by flug at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


You need to drive more. Speed limits are inaccurately posted, or not posted at all, or obscured accidentally or deliberately or shift from a very high speed to a very low speed without any obvious reason. We call these speed traps. They are there simply to get revenue - now, in Chicago, the speed traps will be automated.

The vast, vast, vast majority of speed limits are well-posted, clear of obstruction and sensible to the road and the conditions of the surrounding area. Speed traps in major cities are so rare as to be nonexistent for the purpose of this discussion.

To avoid legal and collections hassle, they will... ignore the beemers and target the rustbuckets.

Which would you rather try to collect from: a guy with the money to buy a BMW or a guy who drives a rustbucket because he has to choose between a car payment and rent?

This is a regressive tax with a teeny little fig-leaf labeled "Safety!" over its junk.

In your own words, you need to walk more. Anyone who doesn't think that drivers in virtually all major cities collectively need to slow the fuck down is delusional.
posted by Etrigan at 12:10 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


To avoid legal and collections hassle, they will... ignore the beemers and target the rustbuckets.

This is the opposite of logical.

If I hesitate for another fraction of a second after that, the car behind me will break all traffic laws to speed around me and onward, screeching tires and all. Driving in Chicago can suck sometimes (and suck even more if you're a pedestrian or bicyclist).

Ah, that just reminds me of driving up Sheridan and everybody doing the two-lane weave of avoiding the bus in the right lane and the left turners in the left lane. And then you get to a red light where there might be two or three cars waiting and some impatient jackass will decide that the right-turn only lane is instead a passing lane.

(The worst though was when a bobbing and weaving BMW decided to use the left-turn only lane as a passing lane. Oy.)
posted by kmz at 12:19 PM on October 11, 2013


Which would you rather try to collect from: a guy with the money to buy a BMW or a guy who drives a rustbucket because he has to choose between a car payment and rent?

The rust bucket! Because she'll default on the fine after taking too long to pay it - which means her license and/or registration is suspended! Then she has to go to court, pay the fine plus late fee, pay the court fee, and pay the re-instatement fee for her license and/or registration. If she tried to drive on a suspended license/registration, she also has to pay the impound fee!

The guy in the beemer will either pay it straight away, or fight it in court, requiring you to pay someone to be there to answer to the challenge.

You seriously haven't caught onto the way this works? It's called the poverty trap.

I was an urban bike commuter. I get the need for reigning in traffic. Draconian law enforcement is not a good traffic calming scheme.

Anyone who doesn't think that drivers in virtually all major cities collectively need to slow the fuck down is delusional.

There's better ways than stealing some poor kid's christmas presents because someone parked a delivery van in front of the speed limit change. (or, more likely, that the city conveniently forgot to post.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


They're doing this all wrong! Each car just gets a cheap GPS chip. All the mapping services already have speed limit data. All you have to do is cross-reference the GPS data to known speed limits (the Garmin iPhone app already does this) and upload the data every few weeks.

Then once a month we all get our Speeding Bill in the mail. They may even be able to auto-debit it for you. I suggest a private company handle it for efficiency. Easy-peasy.
posted by sourwookie at 12:25 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which would you rather try to collect from: a guy with the money to buy a BMW or a guy who drives a rustbucket because he has to choose between a car payment and rent?

The rust bucket! Because she'll default on the fine after taking too long to pay it - which means her license and/or registration is suspended! Then she has to go to court, pay the fine plus late fee, pay the court fee, and pay the re-instatement fee for her license and/or registration. If she tried to drive on a suspended license/registration, she also has to pay the impound fee!


None of which goes to the company running the cameras.

The guy in the beemer will either pay it straight away

Which is what the company wants, so they win.

or fight it in court, requiring you to pay someone to be there to answer to the challenge.

The city will be fighting it. At worst, the company is out the $100 that guy would have otherwise paid, which there's very little marginal cost to the company to charge once they've set up the cameras.
posted by Etrigan at 12:29 PM on October 11, 2013


Just for example, low fines are a great idea--not every traffic fine needs to be $500 plus.

Agreed. High fines seem to be based around a severity-of-punishment model while almost everything I've ever read says that increasing the odds of getting caught is a much more effective way to modify behavior than just making the punishment more severe.

You do a lot better modifying behavior by making the chances of getting caught really high, even if the punishment is mostly annoyance and embarrassment, rather than making the punishment severe but only catching people very occasionally. In the latter situation, the few people who do get caught generally complain that it's unfair, and everyone else just figures that they're "stupid enough to get caught" and keeps doing the behavior themselves anyway. But if you know for a certainty or near-certainty that doing X is going to result in you getting a ticket for $Y, it takes away that sense of gambling in favor of a straightforward if-then relationship.

Speed cameras coupled with low fines seem to be, if not exactly optimal, at least a lot better than the traditional (and judging just by results, laughably ineffective) methods.

The only real issue with speed cameras and red-light cameras is the perverse incentive it creates for municipalities to mess with the speed limits and yellow-light timings in order to increase revenue, and perhaps even over the long run to not engage in other forms of traffic calming (lane narrowing, cobblestones, rumble strips, slaloms, speed bumps, etc.; basically the rest of the traffic engineer's toolkit) because they would negatively impact revenue. I'd support laws at the state or even Federal level to require all revenue derived from cameras to flow upwards to a higher level of government than the one responsible for the installation of the camera, in order to break the feedback loop and possible long-term dependency on poor driving for revenue. E.g., if all City of Chicago camera revenues went to the State of Illinois General Fund for distribution, all Illinois Highway Department cameras went to the US Treasury, etc.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:40 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy, do you have any evidence to support your allegations that poorer people will be preferentially targeted for fines?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:42 PM on October 11, 2013


One thing I found really interesting as a driver moving from Houston to Chicago was just how much better Houston drivers were about school zones. It was a weird juxtaposition, because they were a speeding, cutting-off, drunk driving lot but by golly they slowed down to 20mph near schools. Meanwhile in Chicago no one seems to give a shit.

All tickets gained by speeding in Texas in school zones cannot be lessened by the taking of a defensive driving course. And most of the zones are 20, making it easy to over 20 miles an hour over the speed limit in a school zone, which is at least a $500 ticket. Cops also tend to, starting at the beginning of every school year, heavily enforce these fines. I use to live near an elementary school, in which the speed limit was 40, then 35 for 10 feet, then a stop sign, and then a school zone. Every fall, they would sit two police motorcycle cops there every morning, and for hours they would continuously pull people over.
posted by zabuni at 12:45 PM on October 11, 2013


The problem isn't speeding per se; it's that the Chicago traffic grid practically coerces drivers to speed (and make illegal lefts, and block crosswalks, etc). We have the exact same problem in DC, our transportation system practically guarantees speeding and box-blocking. Traffic cameras are just another instance of America's recent refusal to solve any real problems whatsoever.
posted by downing street memo at 12:45 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The rust bucket! Because she'll default on the fine after taking too long to pay it - which means her license and/or registration is suspended! Then she has to go to court, pay the fine plus late fee, pay the court fee, and pay the re-instatement fee for her license and/or registration. If she tried to drive on a suspended license/registration, she also has to pay the impound fee!

It's not this specifically, but rather the requirement for automobile ownership at all to fully participate in the U.S. economy, that is the actual poverty trap.

If you can't afford unexpected $500-$1500 bills a 2-3 times per year, you can't afford to have a car at all. If it's not fines, it's car repair, emissions repair, car replacement, new tires, or whatever. Or you can avoid some of those costs by paying even more on an annual basis for new car payments or leases.

THAT is the poverty trap, and traffic fines are but a small part of it--and one easily avoided, in large part, by just not driving like a jerk.

And by the time they've hauled you into court multiple times, impounded your vehicle, etc etc etc the city isn't making much if any profit on a few hundred in fines and penalties, either. Courts, law enforcement, impound lots, and all the rest cost plenty. Their max profit situation is certainly the one where they send you a letter and you send them the required money back.
posted by flug at 12:47 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's the second time someone said that the grid street network causes people to speed... Can someone explain this line of thought to me? I honestly don't understand.
posted by misskaz at 12:47 PM on October 11, 2013


Mister_A: I think speeding through/around/near parks is particularly reprehensible, to be honest.

Even at 3am?


dgran: The progressive/regressive debate on this is curious to me because my initial thought was that it seemed like a pretty objective approach toward ticketing. You eliminate on the spot judgment calls from a police officer whether to issue a warning or ticket. Everyone gets equal treatment by the algorithm. My hunch is that more people of privilege will get fined in this scenario versus employing officers to enforce the rule.

The indiscriminate nature of speed cameras compared to the discretion of a police officer is what most annoys me about speed cameras.

driving quickly != driving dangerously
driving dangerously = driving dangerously

Of course speed is one of many causes of accidents on roads the world over, but its the idiots driving the cars who are the problem. Not speed itself. I may sound like a junior Jeremy Clarkson, but I honestly believe its true.

Drive on a busy interstate at rush hour, weaving in and out of traffic, stamping on your brakes and generally having no respect for other motorists - but sticking to the speed limit is more dangerous than doing 85mph on a deserted interstate at 3am.

Having witnessed drivers in the USA, the UK and some other parts of Europe. I think more driver education, more traffic cops and higher fines for dangerous driving should be instituted. With less speed cameras and less emphasis on speed alone. I think being allowed to undertake as well as overtaking should be stopped, because undertaking means moving to your blind side and thats weird.

I do think that the motorist doing over 90 should have his license removed for life. And maybe should face some public shaming.
posted by 13twelve at 12:53 PM on October 11, 2013


I also slightly think that highway/interstate speed limits in the US should be raised from 55/65mph to 80mph but with much stricter police enforcement.
posted by 13twelve at 12:55 PM on October 11, 2013


They're called "speed humps" in Chicago.

Actually it's a standard term. A speed bump is the short type that's about 6"-12" across and feels like you just ran over a freestanding train rail. A speed hump is the long type that's about 12' across. The ITE called them the "kinder, gentler speed bump" in a 1993 paper, when they were pretty new.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 PM on October 11, 2013


Let me step into the confessional. I travel past the Gomper's park speed cameras 4-5 times a week, my wife 4-5 times too. We have gotten two notices that we have been clocked at 36 mph both times. I was going with traffic, not ahead of it, and not unsafe for conditions. However, the pop of the strobe light makes EVERYONE hit their brakes. "WHO GOT HIT WITH THE CAMERA? ME? THE GUY BEHIND ME? HOW FAST AM I GOING? I'M ONLY GOING 34. WAS I GOING FASTER?" I will admit to feeling dumb because I know the cameras are there.

I grew up in that area and feel that working class folks are being hit with a "non-tax, tax". If the city needs more money...let's hear about it and figure out some real numbers. I dunno. It feels like the wrong place to look for money. I think I could see it as one of a few revenue options but I'd want to see those other options too.

Finally, one other thing. It seems settled law that tickets can be given to cars and not people. These are tickets then, not moving violations because a person is not being given the ticket. A vehicle is receiving the ticket, right?
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:00 PM on October 11, 2013


Kadin2048: "I'd support laws at the state or even Federal level to require all revenue derived from cameras to flow upwards to a higher level of government than the one responsible for the installation of the camera, in order to break the feedback loop and possible long-term dependency on poor driving for revenue. E.g., if all City of Chicago camera revenues went to the State of Illinois General Fund for distribution, all Illinois Highway Department cameras went to the US Treasury, etc."

This is obviously the set-up for a political corruption plotline on The Good Wife.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:03 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's the second time someone said that the grid street network causes people to speed... Can someone explain this line of thought to me?

People drive faster on straight streets, because they can see whether the road is clear and they can't see the traffic coming at them perpendicularly. If all of the streets are curved or hilly, people will naturally slow down even if they have fewer intersections to go through.
posted by Etrigan at 1:21 PM on October 11, 2013


Every fixed-dollar fine is extremely unfair, whether or not you call it a regressive tax. It's somewhat analogous to charging different amounts depending on gender or race. The same nominal dollar amount has hugely different effects depending on your wealth, creating treatment that is just as unequal as charging different dollar amounts for different genders, races, or other factors largely determined by your birth. A punishment for doing X should penalize all parties who do X equally. If those parties suffer different amounts for the same penality, then the penalty should vary to equalize the punishment. This may not be the way it is usually done, but it is the way it should be done.

And when the fines are widespread and arguably instituted as a revenue-generating mechanism in lieu of progressive taxation, the injustice becomes quite analogous to regressive taxation, whether or not it officially counts as such.
posted by chortly at 1:24 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of the things i have noticed since my area has gotten red light cameras is that there are now a class of driver who refuse to make any right turns on a red light. it's usually not a big deal but sometimes annoying, especially when the crossroad is ridiculously clear.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:34 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy, do you have any evidence to support your allegations that poorer people will be preferentially targeted for fines?

The experience of having a crummy car, and then having a nice car. I've been pulled over exactly once in the decade since I started buying new cars instead of fixing up clunkers. I no longer give a crap when there's a cop behind me. I'm actually a less careful driver because of this - the one time I got popped, I really deserved it.

The city will be fighting it.

Not in my experience.

It's not this specifically, but rather the requirement for automobile ownership at all to fully participate in the U.S. economy, that is the actual poverty trap.

Yeah, they should stop being poor and move to a nice neighborhood near where they work, or is serviced by effective public transportation. That's a reasonable solution.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2013


It's not this specifically, but rather the requirement for automobile ownership at all to fully participate in the U.S. economy, that is the actual poverty trap.

Yeah, they should stop being poor and move to a nice neighborhood near where they work, or is serviced by effective public transportation. That's a reasonable solution.


I'm pretty sure this is the least charitable interpretation of that statement possible. The poster was not saying the requirement for automobile ownership is OKAY, they were saying it's a massive problem and a much larger problem than tickets having a fixed cost.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2013


Here's the President of the CT NAACP on the topic of automated traffic enforcement.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:46 PM on October 11, 2013


13twelve: "but sticking to the speed limit is more dangerous than doing 85mph on a deserted interstate at 3am."

This is true, as werewolves can only run at 65 MPH max.
posted by invitapriore at 1:50 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also slightly think that highway/interstate speed limits in the US should be raised from 55/65mph to 80mph but with much stricter police enforcement

Chicago is only putting cameras, for now, on surface streets with pedestrians, traffic lights and parallel parking. All situations that are very un-freeway like, so reduced speed limits do make sense.

I'll agree with your overall sentiment with one caveat, the design speed for most rural freeways is 70 or 75 mph. That doesn't mean that you're going to be flying off the curves if you drive faster than that, but you might not have the proper stopping sight distance if you drive faster.
posted by hwyengr at 2:00 PM on October 11, 2013


Yeah, they should stop being poor and move to a nice neighborhood near where they work, or is serviced by effective public transportation. That's a reasonable solution.

Creating communities where people can live affordably and move safely/efficiently from housing to work to school to shopping, etc, without being solely dependent on automobiles has worked in numerous developed countries the world over. I'm fully aware that few in the U.S. are interested in this because we value our "independence".

Meanwhile, if you're dirt poor and completely dependent on automobile travel to go everywhere you need to, the occasional traffic ticket is but one of your many worries.
posted by flug at 2:05 PM on October 11, 2013


we value our "independence"

"Independence" defined as, the ability to drive anywhere and anyhow I wish, everyone and everything else in the world be damned.

I wish I were making this up . . .

/Victim of the citizen comment period of too many transportation planning meetings
posted by flug at 2:20 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I've learned as a public librarian who works in poor neighborhoods is that there are a lot of dirt-poor people driving with no insurance and, in many cases, non-driver IDs. I can see why these folks, if they do get in an accident, might decide in the heat of the moment to go the hit-and-run route, because I can only guess the alternative would pretty much ruin them.
posted by box at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember working in a restaurant with a woman who had bought a phony insurance card, in the hopes that it would fool cops if she was pulled over. (This was before they had laptops in the cars).
posted by thelonius at 2:34 PM on October 11, 2013


Flug, you are right, but in the short term most poor neighborhoods in Chicago are far from jobs and not well-served by transit. So it's not easy for people to go without cars.
posted by mai at 2:52 PM on October 11, 2013


The indiscriminate nature of speed cameras compared to the discretion of a police officer is what most annoys me about speed cameras.

driving quickly != driving dangerously
driving dangerously = driving dangerously

I think the more correct version is:
driving quickly driving dangerously.

Continuing from flug's post above: (using the Illinois road design manual [PDF])
* At 20 mph 5% will die and your stopping sight distance is 112 feet
* At 30 mph 40% will die and your stopping sight distance is 197 feet
* At 40 mph 80% will die and your stopping sight distance is 301 feet
* At 50 mph, nearly 100% will die and your stopping sight distance is 424 feet

So not only if you hit a pedestrian at a quick speed, they are radically more likely to die, but you also will take a much longer distance to stop if a hazard appears -- note that doubling your speed from 20 to 40 almost triples your stopping sight distance; tripling your speed from 20 to 60 results in a 5x increase in stopping sight distance. It is not possible to evaluate all hazards within the next 424 feet as well as you can evaluate all hazards in the next 112 feet.

I'm also more generally a little surprised at the opposition here to law enforcement techniques that catch all lawbreakers, regardless of their income level, race, ethnicity, gender and so on.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Slap*Happy, do you have any evidence to support your allegations that poorer people will be preferentially targeted for fines?

The experience of having a crummy car, and then having a nice car. I've been pulled over exactly once in the decade since I started buying new cars instead of fixing up clunkers. I no longer give a crap when there's a cop behind me. I'm actually a less careful driver because of this - the one time I got popped, I really deserved it.


Shouldn't you actually prefer automatic cameras, given your experience with how the human element of enforcing traffic laws varies widely based on evident wealth?
posted by Etrigan at 3:16 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone who doesn't think that drivers in virtually all major cities collectively need to slow the fuck down is delusional.

Just last week this happened when my wife was on the other side of the intersection with my daughter in her stroller. This intersection is right near a daycare, community center, school, parks, grocery stores etc and children and their parents are always around. Yet people drive like it's the fucking Indy 500 on Pacific and pull stupid manoeuvres like this where they decide yellow light means "guess I better hurry up!" I think for the sake of the person who drove off from the scene it is a very good thing her name was not released. Drivers downtown are a god damned menace sometimes.
posted by Hoopo at 3:32 PM on October 11, 2013


Slap*Happy, do you have any evidence to support your allegations that poorer people will be preferentially targeted for fines?

The experience of having a crummy car, and then having a nice car.


So...no, then.

Shouldn't you actually prefer automatic cameras, given your experience with how the human element of enforcing traffic laws varies widely based on evident wealth?

No, because Slap*Happy believes that people will review the camera captures and decide to persecute poor people rather than issue tickets to people who can actually pay them.

Also, 13twelve, this comment is about you.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2013


The school of thought (such as it is) on that is that when anyone sees a traffic camera go off, they immediately hit their brakes to avoid getting caught, which causes accidents
Someone else already dropped a link about this, but in my city within the past few years they've installed a TON of those red light cameras... and it's been an ongoing topic of discussion and source of articles in smaller local papers that this is absolutely the case. And i've seen it first hand, a few people accelerate at yellows REALLY aggressively which is dumb and dangerous, but tons of people will actually pound on the brakes to avoid rolling through a yellow that might be turning red as they roll through the crosswalk threshold. It is absolutely dangerous. I've almost rearended someone multiple times(and only didn't because i was keeping a proper distance, no need to beat me with the rolled up newspaper of YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN BACK FURTHER THEN) because of someone like full on screeching tires pounding on the brakes like they're being overly dramatic in a TV show because of the light cameras. The fact that it causes wrecks doesn't surprise me, especially since quite a few people slam on brakes at yellows now.
Think about all the times you've seen someone doing something like 120 through downtown. When I think of those people, it's always some jackoff in a shiny next year's model Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Acura, or whatever. They can afford to go that fast and they know it, because a $200 speeding ticket doesn't mean anything to them.
This is totally anecdotal and people may or may not care, but this reminded me of something i did a few years ago. See, i lived in a shitty house at the sketchier back end of a decent area. I was to the south, and north of me from west to east were basically {area full of hospitals and private medical practices}-{Decent area full of lots of businesses/bars/expensive apartments}-{another area full of hospitals and Dr offices}---20 blocks or so but directly east-----{lots of rich peoples fancy houses}. I lived just close enough that i could walk to work in about 20-25 minutes. Or bike in about 5-10 if the weather wasn't dreadful.

So on several main interconnecting roads there was a constant stream of brand new mercedes, BMW, lexus, etc. And mostly the SUV/wagon models somehow.

These were the most dangerous cars on the road by far. They would go 50 in a 25, rev up to the redline through yellow lights, and you'd see them either nearly leave the ground at the crests of hills or completely compress their suspensions in dips. Every day on the way to work i'd cross at marked/corner cutted but often not the lit crosswalks on my walk to work.

The rate at which while actively paying attention to traffic and trying not to die i would almost get run over by either oblivious or aggressive drivers was INSANE. Often times they'd be a block away and i'd start crossing because the other side of traffic had stopped or wasn't present, and they'd accelerate and honk at me. Probably twice a week i would narrowly avoid someone who blew through an intersection doing 50+ shooting through the crosswalk i was either in, or entering without even tapping the brakes. And this is right next to a school, and in a city with both "yield to peds!" signage and laws. I made a point of not being one of those assholes who just waltzed into the street without looking, but they were just way too fucking busy getting wherever the hell they were going to even look for much less stop for me.

It was easily the most dangerous stretch of road i've ever seen for a pedestrian, and partially because it masqueraded as a totally safe semi-residential area next to a school. Half the time it felt like people were testing the 0-60 times of their new luxury cars there.

The cops would show up sometimes and bust people and they obvious didn't even give 1/4 of a fuck. I didn't take picture with my phone to verify or anything, but i swear i'd see a lot of the same cars doing 50-60 through there consistently, and probably the same people who got tickets just... continuing to do it.

No other type of car or driver ever drove that way through there. Everyone else was normal, even the hot dogging frat boys and shit. It was just impatient rich doctors who thought their time was more valuable than anyone elses.
Slap*Happy, do you have any evidence to support your allegations that poorer people will be preferentially targeted for fines?
Have you like, never driven a really, properly shitty or sketchy looking older car?

I'm not talking about like, that 15+ year old corolla with slightly faded paint you drove in highschool or college or when you got your first job and bought it on craigslist or whatever. I mean like, a real sketchmobile.

Because the reality for the poor ass mofos out there driving like, 80s lumias/cavaliers/K cars or thrashed late 80s/early 90s japanese cars, early 90s astrovans/aerostars as their work vehicle or even weirder/worse stuff is very, very different. It's one thing to have a basic/"shitty" car thats a bit older. It's another thing to have like, a thrashed rust patched car that's actually a bit abnormally old to just see cruising around.

Now i'm like, the whole package for this you can be while still appearing to be mostly white. I've only owned old weird, shitty looking, "sketchy" cars. First an early 80s tercel painted this ugly phone cord color, with slight marks from where it used to have the bell phone logos on the doors and a piece of the rear bumper missing... and now a giant 60s plymouth battleship of a sedan with peeling paint("i'm gonna repaint it and restore it!" i said when i bought it... a long time ago. It's mechanically fine but costmetically... serial killer). In addition to that i have long hair and a beard, and dress kind of weird. I'm just a bit of a beardy rough looking guy.

My partner drives a barely 10 years old nissan in perfect shape. My parents have a subaru about the same age that i drive occasionally too.

The difference in how i'm treated basically everywhere if i'm driving my car or one of theirs is fucking intense and amazing. I can drive like an utter dickhead, park like an asshole, and basically do whatever i want without being bothered in either of the newer "nice looking" cars that just completely blend in as "generic thrifty middle class person getting the most out of their car" vehicles with basically everything else on the road in a lot of the neighborhoods in my town.

Whereas in my cars i'd constantly get weird tickets. Shit like "car overlaps sidewalk" in a parking lot in which every single car overlapped the sidewalk because that's how it was made. Or get ticketed in a businesses lot for not shopping at the business and abusing their parking. Even though i literally parked, ran in and bought something, and ran out and drove away in less than 5 minutes. Not to mention shit like a storm blowing construction cones all over the road and getting immediately pulled over for running one over("no normal driver would have hit that, i just wanted to make sure you weren't intoxicated"). I've basically just always received constant harassment everywhere i went driving a sketchy car. Everywhere i drive, everywhere i park. I've been followed for 20 minutes by a cop who never pulled me over multiple times. I could write paragraphs of stories of stupid harassment-y shit that's happened to me.

And none of it, ever, has ever happened to me driving a "normal" newer car. And this isn't just a sample size thing of me driving those cars less. The people who drive them constantly report the same level of not-harassment, often to the point of not believing i'm not exaggerating when i talk about how much harassment i get/have gotten.

So yes, this type of shit absolutely does target poor people in sketchy cars. I'd almost say the cameras and automatic traffic law controlling systems like that are almost more fair in general since they're equal opportunity.
posted by emptythought at 3:41 PM on October 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sorry, I guess I meant, like, statistical evidence, not anecdotes.

As far as the "they cause accidents" thing goes, has the accident rate gone up or down since the cameras were installed?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:09 PM on October 11, 2013


My city has changed.

Ah, Chicago - you never cease to amaze me. When the parking meters were sold, it was justified nine way of Sunday as being good for the long term financial security of the city.

Now we have the speed cameras. They're for the children. They're here to save lives.

I've lived here most of my life. In the old days there were cops who wrote speeding tickets. Some streets you knew were speed traps. Everyone knew where they were.

The cops knew who to ticket. There were no computers to run your plates. It was pure visual. For the most part, if you had a City of Chicago vehicle sticker in your window - you didn't get a ticket. Oak Lawn sticker? You got pulled over. Brookfield, hell yes. Any suburb was fair game. Out of state? Iowa plates? 2 tickets. Same applied to parking tickets. (downtown especially) It was a tax for not being "one of us". The suburbanites knew it and so did the city folk. This was real. This was the city making it a place where residents could feel like they were being treated on a different level than the casual visitor. We mattered.

This place has changed. Lincoln Park yuppies in the early 1980s were looked upon as a strange curiosity. They had money and acted like assholes. We thought they'd eventually die off like the dodo bird - but no, something else happened. They flourished, expanded and took the city. Any fun hip neighborhood became overrun by trust fund kids who didn't give a shit about the city or people around them. Entitled bastards. Neighborhoods where people watched out for each other fell apart. We became fractured.

The police department has been decimated. Our boys in blue are out played in almost every way. We have full time officers who now monitor social networks for potential shootings and retaliation. They're not on the streets. They are focused on saturation patrols in high crime areas.

I drive the streets of Chicago daily and rarely ever see any police checking for speeders. (LSD and other special locations are the exception). The police are understaffed, and trying to fight an epidemic of shootings and crime. I don't care what the stats say. I know city cops. They tell a different story than the "statistics".

The people of Chicago have been free to drive as fast as they want - and drive like complete dicks without consequence - for years. In the old days if some asshole sped by your kids school, you waited until the next day and threw a brick into his windshield. End of problem. Those days are gone.

These cameras are more a response to a lack of police allowed to do their basic jobs - and a force that is overwhelmed, understaffed and unappreciated. They have no time to deal with speeders - so in come the privately run cameras.

It's a consequence of the times. We try to blame the masses for something that was created by the politicians. If we had enough police writing tickets on a daily basis in these zones, there would be no problem. Instead, for years - there has been zero enforcement of the speed laws. (relatively). Now, we have a private company making a fortune from writing tickets in the name of safety. Everyone keeps blaming the drivers - you take a situation where there is no enforcement and people will take advantage of it. (Hello Wall Street)

Now instead of being "one of us", we're all being seen as "them". My city has changed

Just like the parking meter deal - what could possibly go wrong?
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2013


These are going swimmingly in Europe
http://english.controleradar.org/destroyed-speed-camera.php
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:17 PM on October 11, 2013


Now instead of being "one of us", we're all being seen as "them". My city has changed

Wait, did I just read a nostalgic paean to the good ol' days of biased law enforcement treating citizens (especially outsiders) unequally, and vigilantism?

It's just that normally, you see those originating from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:26 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, did I just read a nostalgic paean to the good ol' days of biased law enforcement treating citizens (especially outsiders) unequally, and vigilantism?

Statement of historical facts. More of a woeful tale regarding the lack of policing in a major city - and the consequences of technology.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:34 PM on October 11, 2013


Sorry, I guess I meant, like, statistical evidence, not anecdotes.

Funny, that. Because when you're talking about socioeconomic class, it's of course tied together with race because of the disproportionate number of poor minorities. Which is why the also-disproportionate numbers of minorities pulled over for traffic stops (e.g. DWB) has always been such a red flag. Something that police organizations denied vehemently, despite not having the data to back it up.

Same in Illinois as in the rest of the country which is why, back in 2003, a certain state senator decided to act. You can read a 2009 summary here: "Obama sponsored Illinois law to keep data on race, traffic stops"
The data, kept since 2004, have shown that black and Hispanic drivers are stopped and searched at a much higher rate than their shares of the overall population, a finding that to some suggests police may be targeting minority drivers. A Northwestern University study compiled from the data collected in 2007 concluded that black and Hispanic motorists were searched more often than white drivers even though drugs, weapons and other illegal contraband turned up more frequently among whites.

Those findings led civil rights groups to call on state police to end the practice of searching vehicles during routine traffic stops. A top state police official said such a step would be "drastic" and premature, given that the Obama-mandated study was ongoing.
Of course.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:42 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, yes, but the question was whether there was any evidence that the speed cameras would be skewed.
posted by Etrigan at 5:01 PM on October 11, 2013


The NAACP has evidence red light cameras are skewed to hurt minorities and the working poor. But these are speed cameras... totally different in their computerized egalitarianism. Bah, they've just mechanized another facet of the injustice machine "for the children."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:22 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Without having read this alleged evidence, I'm forced to guess that it's about placement of cameras. Which is definitely an issue, but here's the thing: if you put speed cameras disproportionately in places where poor people drive, you're putting them disproportionately in places that poor people live. If the effect is that poor people drive slower in places where kids are more likely to be out in the street, then I'm somewhat more okay with that than I would be with your imagined RoscoePColtraneOMatic racist automatic camera.
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the old days if some asshole sped by your kids school, you waited until the next day and threw a brick into his windshield. End of problem. Those days are gone.

I'm ok with those particular days being over.
posted by Fig at 5:28 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as the "they cause accidents" thing goes, has the accident rate gone up or down since the cameras were installed?

For some reason google is absolutely failing me on finding several similar stories from seattle itself, but this one in the seattle times about spokane notes they went up.

I swear i've seen 3-4 articles like this. Not to mention ones like this about other serious issues with them, but that's neither here nor there.

There's definitely evidence out there of them causing more accidents, and i get the feeling it's being suppressed* with how freaking hard it is to find any concrete data about this sort of thing. I must have done 30 searches just to get those two links. And it's not like they're fpp quality links either.

*Sorry if this is too big of a logical leap for you, but i remember reading an excellent post on the strangers site a while back about these that had tons of links in it. Now i can't find the damn thing even though i can pretty much remember exact phrasing from the title/intro text. I can't escape the feeling some chilling effects shit is going on here.
posted by emptythought at 5:40 PM on October 11, 2013


Wait, did I just read a nostalgic paean to the good ol' days of biased law enforcement treating citizens (especially outsiders) unequally, and vigilantism?

It's just that normally, you see those originating from south of the Mason-Dixon line.


Chicago is basically the Deep South but with cold weather instead of hot. and superior tacos
posted by like_a_friend at 5:48 PM on October 11, 2013


The Province of Ontario tried to instal photo-radar in Toronto back in the 1990's. Most tax-paying Voters hated it. The very day that the new Conservative Govt was elected, they dismantled the system. Traffic chaos ensued, with semi-permanent gridlock on the 401 ever since. Voters can be stupid.
posted by ovvl at 7:09 PM on October 11, 2013


Etrigan: "The school of thought (such as it is) on that is that when anyone sees a traffic camera go off, they immediately hit their brakes to avoid getting caught, which causes accidents."

It's actually the intersection of too-short yellow times and red light cameras that causes the increase in rear end crashes. Basically in municipalities that set their yellow times too short for the average speed of traffic on the road, it causes people to slam on their brakes as soon as the light turns yellow, even if they are very close to the intersection.

They do reduce the frequency of cross-traffic collisions, but so do increased yellow times (to a point, after which they become counterproductive). So in the end, they reduce deaths, but increase overall injury rates.

Regarding speed cameras, they're fine for what they are, but they're installed for the wrong reasons in many cases. They basically work like higher speed speed humps. If you want to slow down traffic next to a school, you'll be successful. If you want to actually reduce the speed people drive along the length of the road, you will not. If you actually want to reliably decrease the speed that drivers are willing to drive, you have to design the road in such a way as to make that the speed most people will drive. That is, narrow the road, reduce sightlines, install chicanes, plant trees, etc. If you build it like a superspeedway, people will treat it like one.

They make even less sense on freeways, except perhaps on urban freeways around particular hazards that make it actively dangerous to exceed a certain speed. This is because it's not speeding that kills, it's tailgating, weaving, inattentive driving, and other idiotic behaviors that precipitate crashes. Much like a drunk driving fatality is defined as a fatal crash in which anyone involved, not just the driver, was drunk any crash in which any involved vehicle was traveling above the speed limit is counted as a death as a result of speeding.

At some point speed itself becomes the major factor, but it has nothing to do with the speed limit and more to do with speed relative to traffic.
posted by wierdo at 7:43 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The mayor claims that it's merely about safety ... "

Oh it is, is it?

Then if you care about safety, get the cops up off of their lard-asses and get them out there cruising around at the posted speed limit. That will slow people down. A cop driving down the road acts as a natural pace car. If the cruiser is doing the speed limit, no one is going to pass them.

Of course, if you only say you want people to slow down because of safety, getting them to slow down without handing out a slew of tickets won't get you much money.

So which is it: Safety, or income.
posted by Relay at 8:12 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about both? It's certainly more economical than your "police should be driving on all roads at all times" solution. And the evidence seems to indicate speed cameras increase road safety. Since it's economical and effective, surely you are convinced now Relay?
posted by Hoopo at 8:40 PM on October 11, 2013


Without having read this alleged evidence, I'm forced to guess that it's about placement of cameras.

As other have mentioned, it's about the impact of the monetary penalty on the person receiving the ticket.

When I was younger, making ~$9/hr and with a new baby at home, I got pulled over for failure to wear my seatbelt after pulling out of a fast food drive-thru. That $99 ticket was more than a day's pay (pre-taxes) and was a huge burden to us. Not just to me but to the entire family. I didn't have sick days and my vacation had been sucked up by the arrival of the baby; taking a day off to contest the ticket was out of the question. We mailed in the check.

A dozen years later I got pulled over while merging onto the freeway*. I removed my seatbelt before the officer came to the window (to reach into the glovebox) and was given another seatbelt ticket, $120 this time. We're in a much better situation now, thank god, and the ticket would have a minimal impact on my life. Still, I didn't want to pay the full amount so I used a vacation day, went to traffic court and had the fine reduced just for showing up. I spent the day walking the dog and thinking about how much money that $99 had been at the time. I don't even remember how much I ended up paying on the second ticket. $60 maybe? Whatever it was, my vacation pay covered it before I had lunch.

I will never forget the $99 ticket.



Regardless of the placement of these cameras, the fines are skewed to hurt minorities and the working poor. The value of the dollar makes sure of it.



* Don't try to merge into traffic in front of State Troopers, kids. Even if they leave a gap for you.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:35 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


A system like, I believe, Sweden uses where fines vary by income would be legitimately progressive.
As a progressive Chicagoan who has been struck by a car driving too fast (in a hit-and-run, as it were), I would prefer that people be charge in proportion to their assholery rather than in proportion to their income. Assholes are assholes, and they all deserve to pay the asshole tax.
posted by deathpanels at 10:09 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


like_a_friend: Oh, it's worse than that. I'm 4th-generation Chicagoan and all I
ever heard growing up is how much better things were under "street justice".
Chicago cops loved street justice, because not only could you arrest the victim of it
(because odds were that they probably did do something illegal), you could arrest
those who meted out said "justice". One incident, double the arrestees!

I sometimes think that, if the population of Los Angeles can be defined as "the
five hottest people from your hometown", then the population of Chicago was
derived from "the 5 most violence-prone, self-regarding peasants from your European village", - fully acknowledging, of course, them's my peeps.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:37 PM on October 11, 2013


FTA: "More than 200 motorists were clocked at more than 60 mph, twice the legal limit. Ten drivers were traveling at speeds exceeding 80 mph. One motorist was going 90 mph"

Free hint - If you can physically do 90MPH on a given road without death assured - That road damned well supports a speed limit higher than 30MPH. Likely at least 45, and probably 55.

Quit setting speed limits as though we all still drive Model As, and more people will respect them.
posted by pla at 6:24 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's a highway, I completely agree. If there are pedestrians and cyclists around, the speed limit exists for more reasons than just preventing cars from hitting other cars.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:36 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pedestriwhats? Cars are all important! The road can sustain speeeeeeeeed!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:31 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Likely at least 45, and probably 55.

Street View of the location of the speed camera

30 mph is sufficient for this street. 2 lanes, adjacent to a park, old and dim traffic lights, and its quasi-residential. Some people just drive like maniacs. The only reason you can go 90 on it at all is because it's straight as an arrow.
posted by hwyengr at 8:43 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fairness, four lanes in my area does effectively make it state-highway material... With the sole exception of "strip mall" roads, where you can barely even reach the speed limit for all the other cars on the road with you.

That said, I admit I didn't consider traffic lights - Given the density of them on that road, I have to at least partially take back my observation. Yes, you could safely go 45 on that road, but it would just waste gas as you alternately got up to speed then stopped, got up to speed then stopped, rinse wash repeat. It kinda surprises me people want to speed through there to any significant degree.
posted by pla at 11:12 AM on October 12, 2013


I'm pretty sure that road is only kinda-sorta four lanes, in that at least for certain times of day, street-side parking is allowed which eats up that right hand lane on both sides. (Chicago does this on certain roads, banning street parking during rush hour to add extra capacity but otherwise allowing it... I actually think that it's worse than just having a single lane in that no matter what time of day, drivers will switch to the right hand lane if there's no parked cars and then have to merge back in to get around a parked car. It's really stupid, and it's really unclear on which streets that's the intended use and on which ones are drivers just making their own extra lane out of nothing.)
posted by misskaz at 11:42 AM on October 12, 2013


We used to have trouble with people driving 50 in a 30 through a pedestrian-heavy neighborhood (at least for Tulsa, where most people consider walking 50 feet from their car to their destination too far), making it hard for people to cross the street and generally just making it less pleasant than it might be. Street parking in the right lane slowed people down a little but not much.

So they restriped it to two lanes, installed angled parking, and bumped out some of the sidewalks at intersections (street view; somewhere along 15th street it goes back to older imagery that shows how it was before, overhead imagery also has the previous configuration) and now nobody will drive more than 30mph and most people keep to the 25mph speed limit or below.

It's not a big change, but it was enough to make a huge difference in the way people use the road.
posted by wierdo at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Free hint - If you can physically do 90MPH on a given road without death assured - That road damned well supports a speed limit higher than 30MPH. Likely at least 45, and probably 55.

Quit setting speed limits as though we all still drive Model As, and more people will respect them.


As much as i want to agree with you on some kind of principal... i can't help but just go why?

Why does it need to be higher? It's not an actual divided highway with an inexplicably low limit(i'm looking at you, west seattle bridge. seriously, what the fuck, 35mph on an elevated divided highway?). It's a surface street with intersections and driveways and shit on it.

It's also worth noting that in a lot of cities there's actual laws on the books that are along the lines of "By default a residential street is limited to this speed, and an arterial is limited to this speed, and a two lane street is this speed". A lot of times only one type is given the "unless otherwise posted" exception.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Because if you make the speed limit 30, everyone will drive 35-40. If you make it 35 everyone, even the moms in minivans and the old duffers will be going a minimum of 40. Even the city buses often drive 40 in a 35.

And even as someone who drives pretty fast in general, i definitely feel like marking 30 and having everyone drive 30-40 is really the maximum safe speed for a normal street inside a neighborhood like that. 45-55 would just be a really unsafe street in that kind of situation. There's several roads like that in my town(not necessarily marked but big 4 laners where EVERYONE goes that speed) where it's like "Cars going 45-50, OH, and hey there's a park and houses with driveways with kids playing on the sidewalk and shit". It's sketchy, and just feels unsafe. It likely is demonstrably unsafe, especially if you see how people behave around yellow lights when they're already going borderline highway speeds like that.

It kinda surprises me people want to speed through there to any significant degree.

Which, as i hinted at with the yellow light thing, is kinda part of the problem. People blast through 3 greens in a row and then pound on the brakes for a sudden red. If there's a yellow, they just redline it and blast through it. It's really fucking dumb and annoying, and likely contributes to those ridiculously high speed people they pulled over accelerating as hard as they can just to not have to stop for a minute.

Chicago does this on certain roads, banning street parking during rush hour to add extra capacity but otherwise allowing it... I actually think that it's worse than just having a single lane in that no matter what time of day, drivers will switch to the right hand lane if there's no parked cars and then have to merge back in to get around a parked car. It's really stupid, and it's really unclear on which streets that's the intended use and on which ones are drivers just making their own extra lane out of nothing.

This actually strongly reminds me of one of the dumbest roads in my town. They do this exact thing, and part of the reason i'm convinced they do it is that they must make so much money off of towing people constantly.

The absolutely most amazingly dumb part of it though, is that it isn't no parking along the entire stretch of the road. There's sections that are, and sections that aren't. In addition to this the combination of people not being perfect at remembering to move their cars and the tow trucks not being some sort of flying vehicle means that you end up with a lot of the confusion over both what is and isn't a lane, and just people driving in what is a lane right then but getting stuck behind a parked car.

No one wants to let them back in then since they basically just "cut" up the line in the slow moving main lane, and it just creates an all around stupid as fuck situation.

That road also has some of the absolute worst non highway traffic in the entire city, from what i've seen. It really does just need to be all the lanes all the time 24/7, but as far as i remember the neighborhood council constantly fought it because it would make the street "too busy" and not residential enough... or... something. I really really hate that "parking is a sometimes food" idea, so very much.
posted by emptythought at 4:35 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, there's another example of calming traffic without constant enforcement here in Tulsa. There is a street named Delaware that runs along the western side of the University of Tulsa. It used to be four lanes (two in each direction) with no center turn lane. People drove 40, because that's what they do on roads like that. They still do on the half-mile-long segment south of TU that was not rebuilt.

In this case, they narrowed it to two lanes, added a center median with trees, put in marked on street bike lanes, and brick paved crosswalks. Almost nobody drives more than 25-30mph now, because that is the speed that feels safe. The point being that speed limits are pretty much irrelevant to the speed that most people drive. Road conditions are just about the only thing that slows most people down.

There will always be a few jackasses who don't get the message, but that's the price we pay for our lax licensing regime.

P.S. Don't think I'm trying to say Tulsa has this stuff figured out. We don't. The vast majority of our roads are built to be superspeedways like this.
posted by wierdo at 6:50 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chicago fires up

I see what you did there.
posted by snottydick at 7:39 AM on October 14, 2013


I realize this thread is dead, but I thought this was a great article about the speed cameras that clears up a lot of the things we talked about here:

- Any revenue generated by the speed cameras would be earmarked for traffic safety and violence prevention efforts such as crossing guards and police officers around schools, infrastructure like crosswalks and warning signs, plus after-school, anti-violence and job-training programs.

- While the number of speeders was surprisingly high, data indicates that the 30-day warning period for each camera, in which violators are mailed notices but not tickets, is changing drivers’ behavior. On the first day each of the nine cameras operated, the number of warnings totaled 11,884, but two weeks later that figure had dropped by 43 percent to only 6,724 (and they expect it to drop further).

- To further encourage compliance with the speed limit, CDOT is installing 20 speed indicator signs at speed camera locations this week.

- Once the ticketing phase begins at each location, drivers will receive a warning in the mail for their first violation and a fine for their second. Tickets are $35 for speeding by six-to-ten mph and $100 for vehicles going 11 mph or more over the speed limit.

Given this info, this sure seems like a very fair and reasonable way to do the speed camera thing.
posted by misskaz at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


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