Burton on the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 7

February 14 - 20, 2002

Current Issue
Black History — Pass It on Down
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Earth Journal
Not Just for Kids
Eight Days a Week
What's Playing Where
Between the Covers
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us
Officer Camera Is Our Friend

The only person who is punished is the one who breaks the law.
—Virginia General Assembly Delegate Jeannemarie Devolities in opposing a push to curtail red-light cameras

Little things mean a lot. In both Maryland and Virginia, where governmental budgetary problems are akin to the Titanic in the North Atlantic, Peter is being robbed to pay Paul. Taxpayers are once again doomed to get the shaft — and the citizenry is more agitated about little things such as cameras ‘patrolling’ the highways and byways than about the financial shenanigans of the governors and legislators of those said states.

Then again, maybe there’s a method to this madness. The money that drivers save in fines for being caught on film for going through red lights and speeding can be used to pay the impending increased taxes, hidden or apparent, as their chief executives finagle budgets to make ends meet.

Yet, considering today’s selfish and careless motorists, the treasuries of both states could be enriched handsomely if more cameras were installed to monitor traffic. Also, more lives would be saved — and probably more money spared in insurance costs.

Lotteries can’t compare with the flow of moola into state coffers if all those who speed or run red lights were required to ante up 50 or 100 bucks when a camera caught them red handed. Why, State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer would have to buy cash registers by the truckload to handle the greenback traffic.

Play It Again, Sam
But seriously, the bottom line is that Del. Jeannemarie Devolities, the Republican legislator from Fairfax, Va., has hit the nail on the head. The only person who is punished is the one who breaks the law. So what’s all the fuss about?

Should enforcement of the laws on the highway be like a game of tag, or perhaps cat and mouse? You know: The police try to catch me fairly; if you can’t, tough luck. Try again tomorrow.

Curiously, the suggestion that the patrol of highways should include cameras is considered by many motorists to be associated with a Police State. ‘Fair is fair, and cameras are not fair,’ they cry. ‘That’s sneaking up on us.’

Play it again, Sam, for we’ve heard that song before. We first heard it about a half century ago when police agencies started to put unmarked patrol cars on the roads. That wasn’t fair because they caught unawares violators — who often drove with one eye on the rear-view mirror to make sure a vehicle with a bubble-gum machine on the top wasn’t tailing them.

The protesters claimed the presence of marked patrol cars was more of a deterrent because they made police visible, thus discouraging lawbreakers. Eventually such arguments were justifiably swept away.

Next it was radar. ‘Not fair,’ came the cries anew. ‘If you want to catch us speeding, give us a chance. Get behind us and clock us.’ A chance for what? To keep on speeding and kill and maim yourself — or worse still, kill and maim innocent motorists obliged to share the road with you?

Then came radar detectors, and, in some states, laws that banned their use. Speeders considered the detectors fair, not the laws that prohibited their use. We heard the curious claims that radar detectors were safety devices, though I’ve never been able to figure out the basis for such contentions.

The only time I’ve ever seen a radar detector turned on was to make the driver aware if somewhere down the road there were a radar gun being manned by an officer with a book of tickets and a pen at the ready. The only safety aspect of the detector mounted on the windshield was safety for the pocketbook. So radar has come to be pretty much accepted, at least in the courts.

Candid Cameras
More recently came the cameras, first to play Candid Camera with those who run red lights. Gotcha! Seeing’s believing. Cameras don’t lie, and what better proof than a photo of your auto plate number?

This, of course, isn’t considered fair, either. It’s consider the zenith of a Police State to trap poor unaware motorists who don’t want to bother stopping at a red light seeing as they have to make up lost time because they might have to drive more slowly due to the possibility of being clocked by unmarked patrol cars or radar.

And, to top it all there is now the move to install radar cameras to catch speeders. No nmarked cars, nor plain old hand-held radar guns needed. How unfair can a Police State get?

Legislators in Maryland are currently considering this, the latest in sophisticated weaponry to force motorists to slow down, maybe even to save a few lives. And the rallying cry among the protesters is that once they’re caught, they have to prove their innocence.

Hey, when a cop writes a ticket after catching a driver in the old fashioned tailing-and-clocking method, isn’t the bottom line proving your innocence in court? The officer has the evidence — as does the speed-catching camera.

All these cameras accomplish something motorists demand when they’re caught by a traditional radar gun or unmarked patrol car. The irate driver berates the man with the badge for catching poor drivers like them when the officers could be catching crooks.

I say, let’s put up more cameras to replace patrol cars, the drivers of which can then be deterring or investigating more traditional crimes. Camera evidence is virtually foolproof, so most violators have no choice but to pay up. Thus judges can spend more time on cops and robbers cases. Bad drivers are taken off the road; lives, damages and injuries are saved; there’s less cause for road rage — and the money keeps rolling in, hopefully some of it to buy more cameras. It’s a win-win situation.

Realistically, has not the time come to cease viewing speeding, running red lights, passing in a no-passing zone and such as a chase of foxes by hounds and horses? Even the fox gets more of a break than law-abiding motorists threatened by their errant counterparts.

Quote of the Week
Sometimes money talks louder than words.

Occasionally I don’t mind whipping a dead horse — especially when the dead horse is the one that replaced the horses of Baltimore, better known as the Colts of yore.

So guess who said that about money — and I’ll give you a hint. A football team owner in expressing dismay that defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was leaving his team for a better paying job with the Washington Redskins.

Yes, you guessed it. Griping about money talking louder than words was none other than Art Modell, who recently missed out on a Pro Football Hall of Fame bid because money talked louder than words when not so long ago he moved his Cleveland Browns out of that city where fans were loyal enough to fill all the seats. He moved because Baltimore offered him a new stadium and all the associated perks, which meant more money.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Methinks Cleveland’s loss was Cleveland’s win. Enough said …

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly