Where Radar Cameras Fear To Tread: New at Reason

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Arizonans aren’t big fans of being nagged about the weight of their feet on their accelerators, writes J.D. Tuccille.

A few years ago, county officials set up a mobile radar speed sign along the road to my old house. It looked lonely out there amid the tumbleweeds with only coyotes and rattlesnakes for company. Sure enough, within a day, I was treated to the sight of sheriff’s deputies and county workers clustered sadly around the device, which had—apparently in despair over its isolated condition—leapt head-first into an arroyo.

Arizona residents were also unhappy when speed cameras sprouted along the roads with ticket books attached, notes Tuccille. In 2008, Arizona officials signed a deal with Redflex, an Australian photo-enforcement company, to pioneer the first statewide system for robotically extracting money from people’s wallets—oh, and “to modify driver behavior and make our roads safer,” as Redflex creepily puts it. It wasn’t particularly plausible that officials were chasing people down for their own good, but the appearance in the state budget of a line item for revenue from “Highway Photo Radar” was a bit of a giveaway about the real motivations for the contract.

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