Editorial: Do speed cams owned by small towns belong on federal highways?

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Getting a speed camera ticket in the mail stinks, but is it always about keeping people safe? That's the question.

Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins argues speed cameras are all about safety, and the research we've found backs him up. Studies from around the world conclude that speed cameras slow traffic, which reduces accidents and fatalities.

They also make money.

Elkins admits Newburgh Heights writes about 600 tickets a month, at $150 a pop. That's $90,000. Most of those come from one camera on an I-77 overpass. That's not exactly a main street in that town.

That's where state representative Thomas Patton comes in.

He's introduced legislation that, among other things, would ban cameras in cities with fewer than 200 people and prevent cities from collecting more than 30 percent of their total revenue just from cameras. That second restriction would impact Newburgh Heights.

Patton said he's all for traffic safety -- have a policeman pull speeders over. While they are there, they can also check for drug or alcohol use instead of just letting them speed on and get a ticket in their mailbox.

The mayor says his city doesn't have enough officers for that, so it makes me think a little less about safety, and a little more about cashing checks.

Look, do we hate getting speed camera tickets? Heck yeah. Should we all slow down a bit? Probably so.

But does that justify speed trap towns paying their own bills off the backs of people just passing through? No.

Maybe Patton should amend his bill to let small communities use cameras to keep their streets safe, but keep them from turning federal highways into cash cows. That's a compromise we could live with.

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