The road to enlightenment

By Mike Steiner

The paranoia that resides in each and every one of us can be a powerful thing–and photo-radar taps right into it. Traditionally, you know when you are caught speeding: the red and blue lights in your rearview mirror make it painfully obvious. With photo-radar, you’re never sure. It could be lurking anywhere, ready to take a picture when you are least expecting it, announcing itself weeks later in a nondescript envelope. There could be one on its way right now.

I recently received my first photo-radar ticket in the mail (which was $72, by the way). Even before I became a victim myself, I had harbored a deep-seated hatred for those sneaky little devices. I smiled when I first heard that photo-radar would not be allowed on Deerfoot Trail any longer, and was upset when I found out that photo-radar is here to stay after all.

Like many, I felt photo-radar was simply an instrument the police used to generate revenue. The terms "cash cow" and "tax" are thrown around a lot to describe this particular method of speed control–and I can see why. First of all, they snap pictures of your license plate as you drive by in complete oblivion, like National Enquirer photographers stalking Madonna. You do not get pulled over, you are not reprimanded, and you are not embarrassed–it lacks all the crucial aspects of receiving a speeding ticket! Not only that, but you get the stupid thing in the mail, like a bill, weeks after the fact. No wonder misconceptions and frustration abound regarding photo-radar.

In 1998, 142,000 tickets mailed to Calgarians resulted in at least $8 million credited to the photo-radar fund. Multanova has definitely earned its reputation as a "cash cow," leaving many of us with clenched teeth as we make out our cheques to the Calgary Police.

It wasn’t until after I received my first ticket that I realized photo-radar may have another purpose. As I made my way down an all-too familiar stretch of road on my morning commute, I noticed I was not speeding. Photo-radar had subconsciously influenced me to curb my speed to the ever-so-slow maximum allowed. If it caused me to slow down without even realizing it, it might make others slow down as well. Although the fear of getting another ticket was the only motivation for reducing my speed, Multanova had nevertheless accomplished its objective.

Statistics show that since multanova was implemented on Deerfoot Trail, the average speed has dropped from 122 km/h to only
109 km/h. Too many people have felt the sting of getting their picture taken, and are starting to slow down in order to ease the burden on their pocket books. Photo-radar serves a purpose, and it does work.

However, instead of blaming ourselves for knowingly breaking the law, we try to place the blame on the device that catches us. Photo-radar’s sneakiness does not negate our responsibilities for our actions on the road–it’s only "tax" on stupidity and impatience. Let’s face it, as long as we have people (such as myself) who would rather drive like maniacs than arrive two minutes late and $72 richer, photo-radar will continue to bring in the bucks.

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