Boys and girls, gather ’round, because you seldom see such a perfect illustration of everything that is wrong with the South Carolina Legislature.
Did you see this?
State lawmakers said Wednesday that they think the Jasper County town of Ridgeland has broken state law by using automated cameras to issue more than 8,000 tickets to speeders on Interstate 95 since August.
A state Senate subcommittee gave its approval to a bill to ban the cameras, technology that town officials say has cut down on highway deaths and reduced the risk to police officers. But senators argued the cameras could violate the rights of drivers.
The hearing was at times tense, with lawmakers raising their voices in disagreement as Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges defended his town’s use of the cameras.
In that one thing — lawmakers’ rush to stop this local government from doing something perfectly sensible (local governments doing sensible things just absolutely sets SC lawmakers’ teeth on edge; it’s like fingernails scraping on a blackboard to them) — you see the following fundamental dysfunctions on display:
- Their penchant for advancing ideology over all, especially when it trumps common sense.
- Their preference for spending time and energy on these obsessions rather than on anything having to do with the betterment of our state.
- Their utter hypocrisy — seeing as how this is just the kind of money-saving efficiency in governmental function that they say they value.
- Their allergy to anything that might actually reduce shortfalls in state revenue, especially if it would do so painlessly and without hurting our economy. (Look how long it took them to pass that halfway measure of a cigarette-tax increase.)
- Their utter hatred of local governments, especially when they take the initiative to better serve their communities. If the State House were on fire, lawmakers would refuse to evacuate if it meant missing a chance to take action to further oppress and frustrate local governments. They see it as their highest purpose, apparently.
Oh, but you’ll say, they were standing up for “freedom.” Really? The freedom to do what, precisely? Speed on the highway? (And note, this system doesn’t do anything unless they’re going at least 81 mph.) This invocation of freedom is even less persuasive than when they kept rejecting a seatbelt law because of our God-given right to fly through a windshield. One could almost make an argument for that, but there is no way anyone can mount a credible argument that we have a right to break speeding laws.
I did appreciate that they made an effort to mount a justification. And maybe there were others that didn’t make it into this story. But this one did make it: “Those ticketed may not have a chance to gather evidence — GPS data showing their speed, for instance — to defend themselves if they do not learn of the ticket until it arrives in the mail.” That sounds very… lawyerly. Which is familiar. We often see lawmakers carrying water for those who defend folks who break the law (which in some cases means they are carrying water for themselves.
There was also mention of the “problem” that “tickets are issued only if a speeding vehicle is registered to one owner,” which “exempts commercial, state and fleet vehicles from enforcement.” Perhaps there was more to it than that. I hope so, because that is NOT an objection to this method. I don’t see what stops the cop from stopping the commercial vehicles the old-fashioned way. And yes, there’s a cop present. This camera deal just enables him to enforce the law without the wasteful (and often dangerous) ritual of physically chasing the speeder down.
Yes, I know about how some of y’all object to CCTV and the like. But I ask you, exactly what do you think is private, what do you think is outside the legitimate public interest, about driving down the public highway in a hurtling piece of machinery? It’s hard to imagine a more public activity or venue, or one less entitled to privacy protection — even if you do believe in the unlikely SCOTUS proposition that there is a “right to privacy” in the Constitution? This isn’t a camera in your bathroom, folks. It’s on the road — a place where, if you’re doing something you don’t want others to see, you’re definitely in the wrong place.
Now, personally, I can think of an objection to this system that makes some sense: If the speeder is unaware that he’s being caught, he’s unlikely to slow down. At least, that day. So some of the deterrent effect of enforcement is undermined. But I didn’t see that reason cited in the coverage. Maybe they made that argument. If they didn’t make that one, or one equally relevant, then this was exactly what I thought it was when I read about it this morning: Another example of the S.C. Legislature’s cultural aversion to common sense and good government.