UPDATE: Today is the day. Governor Northam has until midnight tonight (Tuesday March 26th) to either enact the bill or to let it die by not signing it into law.
We have not gotten any indication of what Northam’s intentions are. Please contact him today ASAP — even if you did so after this original alert was sent to you in mid February — to let him know that you, as a voting constituent, do not want to see speed cameras introduced to the Commonwealth. Reasons for opposing SB 1521 are provided below.
Now is the time to act to kill this latest attempt to bring ticket cameras to Virginia.
In an alert I sent to Virginia members this past Friday, I asked those interested in killing the handheld speed camera bill to coordinate with Dr. Chris Unger, a DC physician who practices in Northern Virginia and who is lobbying directly with the governor’s office to kill SB 1521.
I spoke to Dr. Unger over the weekend and he reports that many of you did reach out to him. Thank you. The bottom line is that we need as many voices in Governor Northam’s ear as possible to dissuade him from enacting the bill.
I will be interviewed by John Reid tomorrow morning (February 19, 2019) at 7:35a ET on Richmond NewsRadio WRVA (1140 AM, 96.1 FM) about SB 1521. The scheduled segment is very short — 5 minutes — so I’ll have limited time to make some key points unless the interview is extended.
I hope you tune in, but more important is that you reach out to the governor’s office to let him know how you feel about the introduction of speed cameras to the Commonwealth. Northam doesn’t publish a direct email address but you can send him a message via this online portal. Be sure to include your name and address so that he and his staff recognize that you are a voting Virginian with concerns.
Here are a few talking points to supplement the NMA’s main objections to the use of speed cameras. Pick two or three that resonate with you and reframe them in your own words and experiences to create a powerful message from a constituent.
- Why was SB 1521 fast-tracked to full Senate and House votes — from introduction on January 8th to sitting on the governor’s desk barely a month later — without so much as a committee hearing to allow the public to weigh in? It would seem precisely to prevent debate and opposition.
- Photo enforcement cameras rarely, if ever, positively identify the driver. The violation is automatically assessed to the registered owner of the vehicle who may not have been the driver or even in the car at the time of the alleged incident. The ticket is received a few weeks after the fact, and that’s presuming it is addressed and delivered correctly, The automated system is designed to collect fines rather than to seek justice.
- Speed cameras notoriously have significant error rates. In a recent audit just this past December, the city comptroller of Baltimore, Maryland issued a report noting that the city’s speed camera program issued inaccurate photo citations at a 2.9% rate. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that for the 10-month period of the audit, that meant over 24,000 erroneous photo tickets were mailed out.
- SB 1521 would channel the speed camera ticket revenue to the income side of the Virginia State Police budget. Regardless of intention, that sews the seeds for a direct conflict of interest.
- Virginia is one of only two states that requires photo tickets (for existing red-light cameras) to be served in-person to be considered valid. That is a protection built in to prevent serious penalties from being levied against someone who may never have received the summons or had a chance to defend him/herself. SB 1521 breaks that precedent by allowing authorities to turn over instances of out-of-state nonresponders to collection agencies where credit histories can be affected. That seems like the first step to negate the current personal service requirement for all.
- Traffic safety in highway work zones is best achieved by ensuring smooth, constant-speed driving patterns, keeping lane shifting/merging to a minimum and keeping drivers’ attention on the road. SB 1521 requires that police using the handheld speed cameras signal their presence with flashing blue lights. Of course the natural reaction of motorists to enforcement activity is to hit their brakes, some more abruptly than others. That’s why intersections with red-light cameras historically create higher rates of rear-end collisions. Combining new, temporary lane patterns of a work zone with often unexpected braking of others is a formula for worse, not better, work zone safety.
- Allowing handheld speed cameras in work zones is likely the for-profit ticket camera industry’s way of easing the way for the introduction of the technology for broader use, not just for highway construction areas.
To learn more about the history and actual content of SB 1521, visit here. Keep in mind that if you plan to contact Gov. Northam about the bill, time is of the essence because he may sign it at any time, making speed cameras a reality in the Commonwealth.