Utah budget crisis solved!!!

OK, Jerry Pobanz called me up this morning about today’s column on bicycle/car safety and in the process of talking we came up with a way to solve Utah’s budget crisis.

Two words: Photo radar.

Here’s the deal. My column today is on how people in cars are trying to kill each other, and the rest of us. Seriously, they are. Don’t think so, you obviously don’t drive, or bicycle, or bike, or even walk. Heck, people sleeping in their bedrooms have been assaulted by cars several times this year alone. Nobody is safe.

Jerry wondered if people, who are polite about bumping into other folks in hallways, suddenly undergo a brainectomy when they turn their key on. My own theory is that people in cars think they’re safe, and as long as they’re safe all is right with the world.

One solution would be to have everyone drive around in cars made of papier mache’, sort of like those Trabants the East Germans used to make. When you drove one of those you were very, very safe because hitting a bird at speed could smash in the front of the car which, no kidding, was made of paper.

But paper cars won’t sell in America, tend to be a fire hazard, and they won’t solve our budget problems. Here’s what we do:

Set up photo radar, which photographs the license plate of every car breaking the speed limit, in a construction zone where the speed limit is 55 m.p.h. Turn it on, and send a traffic ticket with an $80 fine to everyone going by who exceedes the speed limit by more than 5 m.p.h.

Which, as you know, is everyone.

Seriously, there are 40,000 cars per hour using some sections of I-15 at peak hours. If you want to really piss off every single one of  them set your cruise control at 55 m.p.h., or whatever the posted limit is, settle down in the right hand lane and watch the middle fingers wag. That’s assuming they’re going slow enough for you to see. Usually they’re not.

In one hour under those conditions, photo radar would generate $3.2 million.

As a business model, I think this is pretty sound. There is the possibility that word could get out and people might actually slow down, but I doubt it.  

Utahns will pay, and they won’t slow down. Utahns didn’t slow down when gasoline hit $4 a gallon, making the price of a trip to Salt Lake and back something like $12 a day for the gasoline alone.

They bought a few fewer large gas guzzlers, but not a lot fewer. Utahns consider it their right to drive fast in big vehicles, and they’re not going to let anything stop them, not as long as they can boost their credit card limit.

If we only set up photo radar once a week at any given spot, the cost to people driving there would be about the same as gasoline, and there’s always the chance that the photo radar won’t see their license plate because the car behind them is tailgating. Drivers will get a pass on enough weeks to make it a sporting proposition.

So I think the Highway Patrol should get on this. Photo radar has been criticized for hitting the owner of the vehicle, not the driver, but that strikes me as a small point.  Other countries seem to do fine with zinging the licensed owner and letting him/her deal with whoever was actually driving.

If this doesn’t fly, I have other ideas, mostly centered around this apparent booming industry in Morgan growing marijuana. The revenue from taxes on that stuff would be enormous …..

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14 Responses to Utah budget crisis solved!!!

  1. Kyuule says:

    Could not agree with you more on this article(and your piece in the paper). I do not like driving my car when I can avoid doing so. When biking is not an option and I am forced to drive, I like to drive the speed limit(Better MPG/Slightly less environmental impact). Most of the time I kick on the cruise control when I get to the speed limit and proceed to be run off the road. It does not matter if I’m on the freeway in the city or on a rural road with nothing around. There is ALWAYS someone within a car length on me, pressuring me to go faster(which does nothing but the opposite). This in not just one type of drivers, but ALL drivers, including Highway Patrol!? If the law enforcement is not following the laws how are the laws upheld?

    People are always to busy to slow down, late for something, don’t have time to go the speed limit, ect…

  2. flatlander100 says:

    Grand idea. All for it. But you are wrong about this:

    “send a traffic ticket with an $80 fine to everyone going by who exceedes the speed limit by more than 5 m.p.h. Which, as you know, is everyone.”

    Nope. Not everyone. Not me. As KY above, I drive the speed limit on interstates, unless they’re over 65. Then I drive 65. People want to go faster, they can pass me in the left hand lanes. That’s what they’re for. The posted speed limit is a limit, not a minimum. Driving that way is one reason I got 48 MPG out of my Yaris [not a hybrid] on my last long trip. And I enjoyed the ride more.

    In the Gret Stet of Loosiana some years ago, the state police put two police cars on the cross-state interstate at the Texas border and had them drive, at the posted speed limit, all the way to Baton Rouge, side by side. It created such a stink, the knuckle-draggers who dominated the legislature — the Louisiana legislature could give the Utah legislature a run for its money any day of the week in that category — passed a law forbidding the State Police from ever doing it again.

    Camera tix for speeders to relive the state debt? I’m all for it. Especially since I won’t be paying any of them.

  3. Midwinter says:

    This is what they do in some places in Britain. If you speed or run a red light, you get a ticket in the mail.

    A couple of things, though:

    1) In Dallas, I believe, they tried an experiment like this at intersections. The result was that the city took a sizeable hit in revenues because people stopped breaking the law. Then the city was in the unusual position of needing to encourage people to break the law.

    2) Is it legal to get a fine like this when it is *not* given directly by an officer?

  4. flatlander100 says:


    You wrote: “In Dallas, I believe, they tried an experiment like this at intersections. The result was that the city took a sizable hit in revenues because people stopped breaking the law.”

    If I understand it right, the result of the Dallas Effect here in Utah would be (a) we’d have the same level of debt we have now but (b) we’d have many fewer run stoplights, much less speeding, and so, many fewer accidents, injuries and traffic deaths.

    And that would be a bad thing…. why?

  5. Charles Trentelman says:

    As far as I know, it is legal to give someone a ticket electronically — photo-radar is in use in many places.

    I’m with flatlander however — if intense enforcement made people die less on the highway by forcing them to actually obey the law for a change, gee, hard to see a downside on that one. The cities would lose revenue, but we’d make up for it on by spending a lot less on medical bills, ambulance costs, hospital fees and funerals.

    I’ve encouraging people to force police to die of bordom for years, but nobody listens.

  6. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Senility and the decades have deprived me of the details, but I do recall that some law enforcement agencies in Utah did use photo radar extensively, Layton included, in the 1980s – maybe early ’90s.

    I remember an editor who worked for me once ranting about getting a photo radar ticket from Layton, and being so outraged. She said either she wasn’t speeding, or she hadn’t even been there and they ticketed the wrong car.

    So, Utah agencies junked photo radar once. I just wish I could remember why. It was one of those big-brotherish things that make you itch if you think too deeply about them.

  7. Michael Trujillo says:

    Sorry, you all. In my book, one should respect residential and city streets by obeying the posted speed limits. I remember actually throwing the football out in the street of my house in Layton as a teenager. Now, it’s like the Indy 500 there. Where there are lots of businesses with traffic pulling in and out and pedestrians crossing the street at most interesections, I stay mellow.

    But on the interstate where everyone’s going in the same direction? Anything goes. All I ask is that you lead, follow, or get out ot the way. My biggest irritation is drivers who don’t signal when they change lanes. Let me know what you’re doing and I’ll go around. My second biggest irritation? People who don’t maintain a constant speed, what ever it is. They drive fast for a mile, then slow down for a couple of miles. They see they’re getting passed, so they speed up, then they realize how fast they’re going and slow down.

    But speeders? Naw, they don’t bother me.

  8. Carl Kove says:

    No need for photo radar/traffic enforcement. Utah has some of the easier campaign contributions in the country. Governor Herbert is againt campaign finance and disclosure regulations. The solution is breathtakingly simple. Lets just auction all elective offices on e-bay. Since unregulated and unrestricted money rules lets use it to our advantage. At least on e-bay we can find out what each office is worth to someone. We would not need to hold expensive conventions or elections. Think of the savings right there. All of the money received for the winning bid would reduce or more likely eliminate state debt. This could be a constant renewing income stream. Mininum requirements would be agood credit report and a established line of credit. Eliminate the farce that money does not buy elections. Let the bidding begin.

  9. Neal Humphrey says:

    I once lived in a California neighborhood that generated a drug dealing operation out of a home. So, about six of us homeowners got into the habit of walking out onto the sidewalk with our SLR cameras with telephoto lenses and taking pictures of every unknown car that parked on our street. We had a few drivers, usually young fellas with a box of hair for brains, yell at us about wanting our film, etc. But customers quit showing up. The drug operation was gone in a month.

    Cameras work, almost as good as the ol’ “Book ‘em Danno!”

    Dr. Bob — I remember that Louisiana state trooper “caravan” stunt. ‘Wish our locals had the cajones to give it a try.

  10. Dave Thomas says:

    I seem to remember that the reason photo radar did not work in the past is that the person driving the car is not necessarily the person to whom the car is registered, and some who got a ticket for another’s driving fought it in court and won.

  11. Midwinter says:

    Dave: Perhaps that is what I remembered. I knew that there was some fairly significant legal issue with this kind of thing. I mean, seriously, if you get a ticket mailed to you, challenge it and say that someone else was driving your car. Clogs up the legal system and they have to go back to ticketing normally.

    Here’s the Dallas Morning News story from last year.

    Flatlander: Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for it. I just was pointing out that this can have unforeseen consequences.

  12. flatlander100 says:


    So do I… wish they had the stones to give it a try here, I mean. Man, the caterwalling would be heard all the way to Phoenix.

  13. Michael Trujillo says:

    They have photo ticketing here in California. Speeding, running red lights, and going through a Fast Trac toll booth without paying are three instances that will get you a ticket. The photos include your license plate and a shot of the person driving the car. I’m not aware of anyone challenging them unless they can prove that they don’t resemble the person driving the car.

    Photo radar works but, unfortunately, can’t nail people who drive like jerks.

  14. GodBlessAmerica says:

    There seems to be a lot of hyperbole in this blog. Traffic cams? What is this – LA? KEEP TRAFFIC MOVING!!!! Do it safely, but keep it moving. People who slow down traffic – including the whiney people wh want traffic cams installed – do not realizing that they are indirectly supporting a dependence on foreign oil, poor air quality, noise polution, and other symptoms. STOP WHINING, START MOVING.

    On a related note:
    1. It is legal to turn right at a red light in most places after a complete stop and when it is safe.
    2. The lane next to the HOV lane is the passing lane, if you’re not going to pass other vehicles, get out of the way.
    3. Red turn arrows are a contributing factor to our enery crisis, they should blinking yellow at most. Also, how about some super turn lanes when appropriate?


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