Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Speed trap poll a reminder that work needs to be done

A nationwide poll reveals the top speed traps in the U.S. and Canada. The results show that Ontario is on drivers’ radars for having ramped up enforcement efforts.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchang
The National Motorist Association released the revealing numbers in recent days from its own online polling conducted at The driver’s rights group used feedback from the past five years about chronic speed traps in Ontario and 52 other states and provinces.

What they found is that travelers in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Washington D.C. were more likely to report what they believed to be overexuberant enforcement of traffic rules. In fact, responses from drivers in Ontario were nearly double the next two highest locations.

In contrast, the locations deemed most favorable for travel without fear of overeager enforcement are New Hampshire, Quebec and Minnesota.

Speed traps are nothing new to truckers and others who spend time traveling. It’s safe to say that far too many cash-strapped communities rely on the revenue enhancer to bolster local coffers.

In recent years some state legislatures have taken steps to discourage such activities in cities and towns that are known as trouble spots for travelers.

Idaho is one of a half-dozen states not included in NMA’s rankings, but lawmakers there addressed speed trap concerns this spring. They approved a rule to remove the authority from towns to set speed limits on state highways.

A three-year-old law in Missouri is also intended to rein in speed traps. The rule reduced from 45 percent to 35 percent the amount of total revenue small towns can receive from traffic violation fines. Anything more goes to the state.

The Show-Me State ranks 44th on the speed trap exchange poll.

Louisiana (No. 13) also has taken steps to put a stop to speed traps. A 2009 law requires that in areas where tickets are issued for driving less than 10 mph over the speed limit, revenues from tickets must go to the state.

States that have moved in the wrong direction on the issue in recent years include Oklahoma (No. 20) and California (No. 36).

Spurred by concerned truckers, a newspaper investigation nearly 10 years ago found excessive ticketing in certain towns. Oklahoma lawmakers soon thereafter barred towns such as Caney, Big Cabin and Stringtown from enforcing speed limits on highways within their city limits.

Citing a desire to remove the speed trap label from communities affected by the law, the state eventually reversed course, thus allowing small town police departments to get their ticket books back out.

A new rule that took effect the first of this year in California gives communities leeway on setting speed limits and, as a result, reduces yellow light intervals.

NMA says that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety.”

It is a safety issue that requires more attention at statehouses across the country. Protections are needed to dissuade towns from relying on traffic tickets to bolster coffers. In addition to safety concerns, such activities discourage travel and commerce.