By ALLEN PRELL
Smile: You’re on camera.
It is no longer a matter of if, but when you get your next speeding citation. Red light cameras at intersections, laser/ radar guns in police vehicles and on motorcycles, and photo speed sensor cameras on special equipped vans. Even the most experienced and well meaning drivers are being tagged for what is called safety violations. But, are they really for safety or for producing revenue?
My colleague has not had a citation in 10 years. She was driving on the freeway in Portland and took an exit ramp to get off. The road forked: stay left and you re-enter the freeway again, stay right to exit. She continued turning right around the corner: “Got you!”A red light speed sensor camera on a van parked along the freeway exit flashed. She was traveling 35 mph in a 25 mph exit zone. The speed limit changed from 55 mph on the freeway, to 40 mph exiting the freeway, to 25 mph. She was slowing down. She paid a $200 fine.
I was driving north on I-5 toward Portland the other day, aware the posted speed sign said 65 mph. As I passed Wilsonville, the speed sign changed to 55 mph. As I entered the Terwilliger curves area, in Portland the sign changed again to 50 mph. The traffic flow was still traveling at 65 mph. The same speed as it was traveling five miles south of me before the Wilsonville city limits. I was aware of this, because two weeks ago I received a citation in the same area going 66 mph in a 50 mph area. Yes, a laser gun “got me” going 2 mph faster than the vehicle in front of me.
I was traveling down a road in a rural part of Wilsonville and approached a school zone with blinking yellow lights. I slowed down to 20 mph. I passed the school campus and continued through an intersection. There were no vehicles, buses, or children in sight. Everything around me is quiet. On my right were bushes and on my left I saw acres of open land and what appears to be a wild life preserve. I pick up speed to 40 mph. A police officer parked in the middle of the road holds up his hand and waves me over to the side. Apparently I picked up speed to 40 mph in a two block straight away area before passing the End School zone sign. I was still in the school zone when I picked up speed. As long as the yellow lights are flashing regardless of the activity and until you pass the End School zone sign you are required to stay at 20 mph. I paid a $400 fine. I have also witnessed the yellow school zone lights flashing on “off school days.” The lights are on a timer. Yes, that would still be a ticket if f you traveled over 20 mph on off days. I caution everyone to be alert to the red light sensor cameras at major, as well as minor, intersections in smaller communities being installed in increased numbers.
Are these really safety violations? From my understanding safety concerns include driving recklessly, creating a hazard that may impede others, DUI, texting, putting on make-up, shaving, eating…all while driving a vehicle.
Getting a citation can have a wide variety of impacts on a person far beyond the fine. If a person drives for a living, the citation can impact future possibilities of employment or promotions. Traffic citations can often affect insurance rates or the ability to get additional coverage or insurance at all. Several job applications ask if you have had a ticket in the past year, three years, or even five years filtering out high risk applicants. Yes, you are judged and scrutinized when you have a traffic violation on your record.
The new unmanned equipment and lasers take the emotion out of the violation. Plain and simple, you broke the law. When a laser or radar is used to determine excess speed, you will have your day in court. In most cases: you will lose!
As I decided if this was a valid and worthy article to share with the community, I saw a large lit advertisement board on I-5 as I was approaching the Keizer off ramp. It had a picture of a police officer pointing a speed detection gun at me: We are watching you. Then further down the road there was an officer on the side of the road, pointing a speed gun at oncoming traffic. The red brake lights are applied and everyone slows down to 50 mph in a 65 mph zone. Talking about safety concerns?
Allen Prell lives in Keizer.