Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Who's Watching?

So, here we are again. Fast Eddie, as he's sometimes known, has only about six months left in his term as Pennsylvania's governor. Whoever comes in after him is going to have some tough decisions to make, not the least of which is how to fund Act 44.

You remember Act 44, right? That's the transportation fantasy funding law that state lawmakers passed a while back in order to balance a budget. Act 44 was supposed to generate millions of dollars to fund road repairs and public transportation by leasing the Turnpike and/or turning Interstate 80 into a toll road. Well, neither of those things has happened (though tolls on the Turnpike are now rising on a consistent basis), so now the governor and the legislature have to find some other way to pay for road repairs.

Well, a couple weeks ago, Gov. Rendell, who really has nothing to lose, proposed a plan to generate revenue by raising various fees on drivers (who didn't see that coming?) and by raising the gas tax (again, who didn't see that coming?). The governor also pitched an idea to get money from uninsured drivers by using a network of traffic cameras to catch them. You can find a pretty good summary of his proposals HERE.

As I understand it, the camera system would work something like this: A network of traffic cameras would be installed around the state. These cameras would take pictures of license plates. If whoever is monitoring these license plates comes across one that belongs to an uninsured driver (remember, you're not supposed to be driving in Pennsylvania unless you have insurance), a ticket will be mailed to that driver with, I assume, the expectation that this person will pay the fine.

My reaction to this idea is, basically, who in the world thinks that this is going to work? I mean, consider who your target is. Your target is people who already have a general disregard for the driving laws in Pennsylvania. Do you really think that people who willfully drive without insurance are suddenly going to be willing to pay a fine when they get caught? Come on. The vast majority of these people are going to throw these citations right in the trash. And then what is the state going to do? Send the cops to their house to arrest them? Hire a collection agency to harass them with phone calls until they pay up? The whole thing sounds like it will cost a lot more money than it will ever generate.

Others have also expressed doubts that such a system would be workable. Their bases for opposition range from the practical to the ethical. You can read a little bit about it in THIS article.

I guess my solution for cracking down on uninsured drivers would be to have people show proof of insurance when they get or renew a license. No insurance, no license. I doubt that such a system will keep all uninsured drivers off the road. But, when one of them gets caught, they'll also have to pay the price for driving without a license. Double the risk for the driver, double the reward for the state.

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